Do you find yourself scrambling to produce that five-page English literature paper? Are your grades not what they should be? Many young adults find themselves overstretched and overwhelmed by their educational pursuits!
Well, positive change requires effort. Numerous success experts cite the key, commonsense principle that you succeed by what you do —not by who you are or how you look. Let’s examine five traits that all successful students share—traits we should all strive to develop.
Sixteen years of teaching in public and private schools has taught me that many students struggle with being organized. Countless times I’ve witnessed students open lockers to reveal a stack of papers, lunch bags, gym shoes and mystery food items jumbled together in a compacted pile that would rival a local landfill. After offering my “cleaning” services to help tidy up the locker, we often found, in the very bottom of the pile, that science or other paper that had been due two weeks earlier! Situations like this can easily be avoided by simply setting up a folder for every class and taking unnecessary items home.
Setting up folders or binders for each class is a simple way to keep papers in order so that you can grab them at a moment’s notice. If you write papers on a computer, setting up a folder for each class helps in the same way. Maintaining a basic filing system not only helps you with your studies, but also develops useful skills that will serve you well when you enter the professional workforce. Additionally, a daily or weekly planner is a valuable tool for recording due dates for exams, projects or events.
2. Time Management
There are only so many hours in a day, and many students have to juggle their studies, extracurricular activities and even part-time jobs. To make the most of your study time, set aside some of it every day to go over your notes or readings from each class. Studying or reviewing class material a little each day helps you retain long-term the information needed for an upcoming exam or project.
Compare this to pulling an all-night cramming session in which the information only makes it tenuously into your short-term memory. Another good time-saving study habit is to develop short mnemonic devices or lists of phrases that will help you to remember important concepts from a particular subject.
3. Active Participation
I enjoy teaching most when my students take an active role in their learning process, and I can safely say that almost every other teacher feels the same. So don’t be afraid to ask questions! Good teachers welcome questions from their students and will want to provide the right answers.
By taking an active role you will help clear up any concerns you might have about the content or gaps in your understanding—and it will also help class time to fly by. This is also good time management! If the teacher’s answers still leave you without a clear understanding of a concept, then take the initiative to ask for extra tutoring from the teacher or another student.
4. Grit / Determination
There’s a poster in my classroom that says, “You are responsible for you!” This is absolutely true. If you the student are struggling to understand the material and the teacher isn’t aware of it, then the teacher can’t help you.
You have to have the grit or determination to dig in your heels and not wait till the last minute to ask for help. Talk to your professor or teacher privately during office hours to explain your situation. Then make a commitment to do extra work if necessary to master the material. Going the extra mile and making the effort to get help will show your instructor that you’re serious about the class. This may enable you to get extra tutoring from the teacher or from his or her assistant. Of course, extra help will only matter if you are making your own best effort. Put in the extra time and don’t give up!
Grit played a valuable role for me in my final semester of college. I was enrolled in a probability and statistics course and was not doing well at all. In fact, I had failed the first test! I wasn’t grasping the concepts, so I went to the professor, explained my problems and asked for help. I needed to pass this course at least with a “C” in order to graduate!
As a result of meeting privately with the professor, she offered to give me extra one-on-one tutoring sessions. I didn’t give up. I went to those sessions and studied daily, and finally I began to understand the content. Because I persevered—used grit—I began to improve my test scores and daily work, which finally resulted in a “B” on the final exam! And yes, I passed the course and received my education degree!
Finally, no amount of organization, time management, participation or grit will matter one bit if you don’t exercise the self-discipline to implement these strategies. As a student you will have to be dedicated and self-disciplined to reach your goals. You will simply have to make yourself do things that may not come naturally—and often it won’t be fun. Taking steps to be a successful student probably won’t come easy at first, but if you introduce just a little of the above strategies into your academic life one day at a time, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful student!