13 Ways to Get Ahead From the First Day of School
The first day of school is an exciting time, but it can also be difficult if you haven’t gotten yourself in the right frame of mind. The further you go in your educational journey, the more you’ll need to be ready to work from day one. Luckily, there are things you can do, ideas that you can commit to, to ensure that you have the tools to succeed.
In the following article, we share the 13 tips that helped us get through that first day of school and have a successful year ahead. Read on, and good luck!
1. Include Homework in Your Daily Planner
It won’t take long after the first day of school for you to get a sense of regular homework assignments. In fact, most instructors will include this information in their syllabi. Even if they don’t, you might make a point of asking your professor, either in person or via email or chat, what regular assignments are due each week.
Once you know when things like homework, quizzes, and tests are, you should walk through your planner and make a note of those dates. This is quite easy if you are using an app or other form of digital monitor. You can set them to recur and even remind you a day or so ahead of time. Physical planners are great, too, because they force you to do the repetitive act of writing down the homework assignment on each day it’s due. By the time you’re done, you’ll have the major class milestones memorized.
2. Use Color Coding to Your Advantage
Color coding can make studying easier on your eyes. You use colors to trigger specific memories or pieces of information. They also help you turn right to whatever section you need in your book, school supplies, or homework materials. Use color post-it notes, color tabs, or color highlighters. They can all aid with a faster recall of information.
3. Create a Syllabus for the Course
Some instructors will do course syllabi. That’s great if they’re cooperative like that, but you can get out ahead of things by creating your own course syllabus based on discussions with your teacher, handouts, lectures, or any other materials that he or she provides you.
You might even consider writing out a provided syllabus by hand. Doing so will give you more time with the information. You see it, read it, write it, and check back over it to see if everything is correct. That’s four touch-points for everything that you write down.
4. Make Study Guides As You Go
Study guides pretty much got us through college, though we weren’t always the best about making them. You don’t want to find yourself like us, at the end of the semester, and having to copy everyone’s old tests by hand or read them from a picture you took on your smartphone.
Keep up with your tests as you go along. Make sure that anything wrong is corrected so you’ll have the right information during the home stretch of studying for finals. Use those tests as your final study guide along with any additional notes the teacher provides.
5. Have Reference Materials Handy
When you’re studying for something, make sure that you have everything you need within reach as you go. Nothing stops momentum faster than when you need your textbook or your notes to look up information and you have to stop what you’re doing to find the actual materials. Accessibility can greatly reduce the time it takes to study as well.
6. Keep Copies of Old Tests
We’ve already covered part of this in the make your own study guide portion, but it’s worth emphasizing the test factor. That’s because teachers can tend to get lazy as they try to develop comprehensive tests for the end of the year. In all likelihood, they will have different versions of the test to keep you on your toes, but you can be ready for almost any version if you save those old tests.
That’s because the instructor tends not to rephrase old questions as he or she hodge-podges together the midterm or final. If you’ve thoroughly covered the initial questions from your old tests, then it won’t be hard to recall what the right answer is during “game-time.”
7. Condense and Consolidate Materials
Throughout the course of the semester, you’re going to encounter a lot of repetition through your quizzes, tests, homework assignments, and special projects. As you end each unit, see if you can write down or recall everything that you learned over the previous time period. This will help you start to see how certain things are grouped together. From there, you can go over all those old materials and arrange them in files and subfiles so that they are easy to reference as you move further into the class. Otherwise, studying will feel chaotic and rushed.
8. Tab Your Textbooks
You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you buy a large package of tiny post-it strips and use them to tab your textbooks. This helps you easily find information if you run into a jam while studying. Best of all, it does it without adding any extra weight to those giant tomes of academic writing!
9. Set Aside One Deep Work Time Per Class Per Week
If you take 15 hours of school per semester, then make sure you’re using every last weekday (at minimum) to your advantage. Set aside a block of time every Monday through Friday to study for a few hours of deep work on each class. That’s one per day.
You might try to keep the subjects you focus on on the same days when you have class so everything is still fresh in your brain. If that doesn’t sound appealing, then alternate it. Going this route will give your brain a break from what you just heard and help you come back to deep work material with a fresh perspective.
10. Look Ahead
Got any free time in class, before a doctor’s appointment, while waiting in line at the DMV? (Do people still do that?) Take advantage of it by looking ahead to what is next in your chapter. Not only will this give you a solid base from which to understand the teacher’s future instruction but it will also help you see how what you’ve just studied fits together for the greater good.
Don’t worry if you fail to understand everything when you’re previewing the next section or chapter. It’s really just about acclimating yourself to some of the key terms and concepts so it won’t seem as foreign to you when your class begins covering those materials.
11. Keep a List of Questions
Question everything! Better yet, write those questions down as you go. Come back to them at the start of each new class to see if there’s anything you need clarification on. Make a point of getting clarification while you have access to your instructor or other students who are grasping the concepts faster than you.
12. Start With the Most Challenging
If you start each day with your most challenging assignment and do that from the first day of school onward, then you’ll always have time to tackle the less challenging stuff. There’s also the creative energy factor. You need it to be able to push through the steepest challenges. If you use it all up on the things that command less of your time and attention, then you’re not going to perform well on those, and it’s going to cause you to fall behind later in the semester.
13. Go Offline to Study
We’re big fans of apps that help you be more productive, but there’s something to be said for going analog. For one, it shuts out all the biggest distractions that can pull you away from your studies. Secondly, it makes you focus on concepts instead of information. Information is pretty readily available with a simple Google search. Now, you still have to vet the info, but you can find out anything with your phone. The phone isn’t quite as useful, however, in “connecting the dots” between your brain and critical thinking chores. For that, unplugging can certainly help!
The First Day of School Is a Time of Great Renewal
The first day of school is what you make it. It can be a time to establish bad habits, or it can be a time of renewal where you correct the missteps of years past. We hope it’s the latter for you. If you take the 13 tips above to heart, we think you’ll have a great year. Good luck!
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]