Here are some tips that will help you succeed in college. Scroll down to view this page, or use the links below to jump to a specific section:
Top 10 Survival Tips for First-Year Students
Time Management Strategies
Note Taking 101
Preparing for Taking Tests
Top 10 Survival Tips for First-Year Students
Tried and true, these simple 10 steps will help to make your adjustment from high school to college even easier than you might think.
- Print out your course schedule at MY RIV right before you start classes- classroom numbers may have changed. Take a dry-run with your schedule in hand and walk around campus to locate your classrooms before the first day of school.
- Familiarize yourself with the campus. Know where campus offices are, including Academic Advising, the Counseling Center, Regina Library, and the Writing and Resource Center.
- Read your Rivier e-mail every day and respond to e-mails promptly.
- Read your syllabus for each course and put due dates for assignments in your planner or electronic calendar. Don’t have a planner? Buy one at the bookstore!
- Know by name the following people and how to contact them by e-mail or phone: all of your current professors, your Academic and Faculty Advisors, your peer mentor, your Writing Tutor (if you are assigned one), and your RA (if you live on campus).
- Keep all levels of communication open with your professors. Participate in class discussions, read your assignments before class and turn in all assignments ON TIME! If you don’t understand an assignment or have questions, speak with your professor BEFORE the assignment is due (please note: “before” does not mean the day before it is due, before means at least a week or at the very least a few days before the assignment is due for class).
- Eat right, get plenty of sleep and get involved in a campus club or organization- emotional and social well-being is just as important as academic success.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed emotionally, having trouble sleeping or focusing, or are homesick, call or stop by the Counseling Center.
- Know where to locate the Academic Calendar, so you are aware of important dates such as when midterm grades are due, the last date to drop or add a class to your schedule, the last date to withdraw from a course and dates when you are able to register for your classes.
- GO TO CLASS- could this step be any easier?
The key to student success truly is time management and prioritization. Here are some general guidelines to follow to help minimize un-needed stress:
- Assess where your time goes. Try this technique. Keep track of everything that you do in a 2 day or 48 hour period and be honest with where your time goes. Include class and study time, screen time, work, sleep, eating, and social time. Once you do this and see on paper how you are spending your time, you will see what areas you might need to increase or decrease your time to. Students often find that they actually have ample time to study once they realize- “Wow, I actually spent a total of four hours playing Guitar Hero and text messaging yesterday?”
- Make a “To Do” list every day. Before you go to bed, write down the important tasks you need to do for the following day and prioritize these tasks on a scale of 1-3, 1 being the most important priorities of the day to 3 being least important or those priorities that could wait or put on hold until tomorrow or the next day.
- Use a monthly and daily planner. Everyone develops their own time management system based on their personal preferences and needs, but it is sometimes helpful to get an overall weekly or monthly view of the papers, tests and major assignments as well as keeping track of those tasks in a daily planner. tudents who learn best visually will especially find this technique helpful when managing time. Color coding your assignments on calendars and in your planners is also helpful.
- Learn to say NO. This is often hard to do, but it might very well be one of the most important skills you master as a student and in life. Know your limitations and don’t be afraid to put your academics first. It may be hard to say “I can’t go out tonight,” or “I can’t go to practice tonight because I need to study for my midterm.” School is your primary “job” right now and needs to be your first priority if you want to be a successful student.
- Remember to reward yourself and take time to have some fun. ou can still get all of your work done and save room for fun activities such as going to the movies, out to dinner, to a game, and screen time. You’ll enjoy your free time even more knowing that there is no work waiting for you, like that 10 page research paper that is due Monday morning!
Note Taking 101
College lectures and taking notes in class can be quite different than high school especially since you might only meet for classes two or three times a week versus going to class everyday in high school. Keeping up on reading assignments and remembering what you covered in class might not be easy if you don’t actively read and review your notes on a daily basis. Here are some basic studying techniques to help keep you on-track:
- Actively listen during lectures and take good notes. Listen to your professor and note key verbal cues such as “this is important because” or “you want to know this date,” etc. Also listen for reflections in speech to emphasize additional points of information.
- Record any formulas, dates, and notes the instructor puts up on the board, PowerPoint, projector, etc. Review these notes and the notes you took in class on a daily basis. Reviewing your notes everyday for 10-15 minutes will also help to develop your long-term memory skills and will help reduce the amount of time you’ll otherwise need to spend cramming before a big exam.
- Utilize the Cornell Note Taking System. This system was devised by Walter Pauk of Cornell University in his 1962 book How to Study in College. Since then, this method of note taking has been widely used at colleges nationwide. This method involves taking notes during lectures, then going back later and expanding on notes, looking for gaps or questions, and summarizing the information. More information on this method and helpful examples of this method can be found at these websites:
Preparing for Taking Tests
Most students experience some level of uneasiness or anxiety right before or even during a test. A little stress or anxiety is natural and can even help you do well on an exam- but if you find that your anxiety is impairing your ability to concentrate or is affecting your physical well-being before or during the exam, the following tips may help you cope or even overcome that level of tension.
- Prepare before the test- Preparation is the key. The more you prepare to take a test, the less anxiety you will feel because you know the material. Reviewing notes and text book readings on a daily or weekly basis can only help to develop your long term memory and retention of coursework if you make it a habit to incorporate review into your daily homework habits
- Organize a Study Group- Studying with a group of students from your courses weekly can only strengthen your understanding of course material. You can designate each member of your study group to focus on a particular concept or textbook chapter and then share with the group what they learned and notes they may have taken.
- Create Questions- When reading and studying your textbook for example, transform headings into questions and try to answer them by using different sources such as your notes, textbook, and study group discussions. Trying to anticipate the types of questions that might be on your test can only help to reduce an anxiety you might have.
- Use Flash Cards- A week before your test is scheduled, organize all of your course material by creating flash cards highlighting major concepts, theories, dates-if you’re studying for a history exam especially!, and key points or ideas regarding the course content that you can use for answering short-answer or essay questions. This method of studying will also help you to determine what material you know well, and what you might need to study more.
- Set Reasonable Goals and Expectations- Remember to take tests one at a time. Do not over-stress yourself by thinking about all of the tests you may have coming up in a one or two week period. Focus on one subject at a time. Also know that one test is not a complete indicator of how much material you may know. In addition to giving tests, professors also gauge how well a student is doing in their class by using other measurement tools such as research papers, homework assignments, and group projects.
- The Night Before the Exam… REST!! It is extremely important to make sure that you don’t cram all of your studying into a marathon where you are up all or part of the night. Study in 30 or 60 minute increments and make sure that you take breaks in-between to clear your mind and stay focused. Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep the night before a test. You’ll feel energized and a refreshed mind will help you do your best.
- The Day of the Exam- Make sure you eat a good, healthy breakfast and leave plenty of time to get to the classroom so you can get a seat that you feel comfortable in. If you find that others distract you while taking your test, try to find a seat closest to the front of the classroom so you have minimum distractions. When you first get the exam, make sure to take a few minutes to scan through the entire test. This will help you plan how you will spend your allocated testing time. For example, after looking at the entire test, you might want to first tackle the multiple choice questions and answer the ones you definitely know and skip to the essay question(s) as that may take more time to answer and take a few minutes to create an outline before you answer the essay question(s). Once you’re finished with the essay question(s) you could then go back to the multiple choice portion of the test and answer the other questions you were not sure about.
- After the Test- Reward yourself for all that you’ve accomplished- you survived the test and did your best! Remember that every test you take in college is a learning experience. If you did not know the material as well as you thought, think about your studying practices- what went well, what could have been better and make changes in your study habits for the next test.