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Tips for Academic Success

Whether you were a stellar high school student or just barely skated through, when you begin your studies at the University of Portland, you start from ground zero. With organization, careful planning, diligence, and determination, anyone can be successful in college. Need a few ideas to get you started on the road to success? Follow these tips:

Get organized for each class.

Know what the reading assignments are, what kinds of tests the instructor will give, when they will occur, and what type of term project is required. Use a weekly planner, and pick up semester planner from the Freshman Center.

Set long-term goals for what you want out of class.

After you know what you want out of the class (in terms of learning and grades), then you need to decide what you need to put into the class. Keep in mind that grades don't grow on trees. If you expect an A, you will need to work much harder than if you expect a C. To earn an average grade, you should study at least two hours of each hour you spend in class. So if you have 15 credit hours, you should spend 30 hours per week studying for a total of 45 hours of schoolwork.

Set short-term goals to accomplish long-term goals.

  • Set realistic goals for yourself. For example: I will read the first section of the next chapter in my history book before going out for pizza with my friends.
  • Set academic and fun goals. Plan to budget your time for study and enjoyment. Make it a goal to study for a period of time and then make it your goal to have some fun.
  • Set daily goals. List six goals for today and rank-order them from most important to least important. Now start at the top of the list. Don't worry if you only make it through the first three or four. Tomorrow is a new day with a new list.
  • Modify your goals when necessary. Some days it is impossible to get past number one on the list. Other days you may make it through the list in a few hours. In time, you will get better at judging how much you can do in the time you have.

Plan the major events that are coming in the semester.

You might want to get a calendar and list the major events so that you will be sure to plan your work around them. You will want to list things such as concerts, your birthday, exams, paper due dates, club weekends, and other events you want to attend. Don't forget to change your calendar when dates change.

Be realistic in planning how long it will take to read a chapter in a book.

Schedule breaks for yourself during study periods. However, be sure the breaks don't run longer than the study periods. Plan your favorite activities for after you have completed harder tasks. Otherwise if you do them first, you might be tempted to continue them instead of returning to your studies.

Plan your major tasks for your most productive time and your most productive environment.

If you're a "night person," then plan your hardest activities for that period and in the location where you work best. If you work best in the early afternoon in a quiet place, then plan to do your most demanding task in that time and place. After identifying your most productive time and place, try to stick with them. Remember, though, that the work that most requires your "mental" energy should be done in the first twelve hours that you are awake - when your mind is most primed to retain it.

Notice what kinds of things distract you.

For some people, it is classical music; for others, soap operas; for others, rock music; and for most, a knock at the door. Try to eliminate distractions in your study environment. If you usually cannot study while watching a TV movie, don't try. Be honest with yourself and do one or the other. Choices are necessary and there should be time for both if you are setting your goals effectively.

Set deadlines for things you need to have done.

These deadlines help overcome procrastination. To many, a very human characteristic is to want to put things off. If you are going to meet your short-term and long-term goals, you should set deadlines. Meeting these deadlines will enable you to accomplish both your academic and fun goals.

Mix the subjects you study in any one-study period.

Study psychology for a while and then move on to literature and then to philosophy. If you study any one thing too long, you will probably find it boring. Try to study topics that require memorizing and recall before you take a nap or go to bed at night. You will learn the material better.

Look for "hidden" study time.

We waste a great deal of time each day that we could spend studying. Carry a text to read while waiting for the bus, riding downtown, waiting in the health center, or doing your laundry. Study between classes.

Schedule time for yourself.

Don't overextend yourself so that you have so many classes, club meetings, school activities, and job commitments that there is not time to reflect, relax, and think. Different people do these things in different ways. Some people meditate, others pray, others prefer to be alone to just let their mind wander. Make time for these activities.