How To Pass Any College Class, No Matter Your Skill Level
The difference between high school and college can be quite shocking, especially if you went to a secondary school where a lot of D’s were handed out and teachers were afraid to fail their students. (Unfortunately, this is becoming a more frequent phenomenon.) In college, no one cares. If you don’t do the work, you don’t get the credit. You’re paying for your education, and professors feel no obligation to hold your hand through the work. It falls on you to get the job done. While some subjects are harder than others, you can pass any college class by adhering to a certain set of principles. Let’s look at each one in more detail.
You have to go to class. Period. No one is making you go to class, and it’s well within your right as the tuition payer to go only when you deem it necessary, but you’ll go a lot further if you simply show up. Each professor has a different way of approaching his class. Some will stay textbook-focused while others will incorporate a bit of lecture and a bit of textbook. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re finding out the dynamic too late — as in test day!
2. Take notes.
Taking good notes is an art form in and of itself. While some feel like good notes mean writing down every single thing the professor says, this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not about straight dictation. It’s about capturing the main idea and major supporting details of what the instructor says. While some make it easy, writing down every single thing on the board and making sure that you know it’s important, others assume you know how to take good notes. We recommend doing less writing and more listening. This allows you to pare down the material into its most essential units. From there, your brain can fill in any remaining gaps.
3. Record everything your instructor says.
Consider taking a tape recorder with you and letting it do its work while you simply listen to what the instructor has to say while jotting down notes here and there. You can then listen to the recording on drives to and from work or home and even recopy the notes in a Word doc the next time you’re at your computer with a set of headphones nearby.
4. Turn in everything on time.
You will build up a tremendous amount of goodwill with your instructor if you make sure that you’ve turned in your best effort on the date it’s actually due instead of constantly putting yourself in a situation where you have to beg for leniency or more time. Professors have a tendency to give students, who are punctual and respectful of deadlines, the benefit of the doubt.
5. Participate in study groups.
If you’re a lone wolf, it can be difficult submitting to the will of a study group, but it can also be extremely beneficial in two regards: 1) You may not be the smartest person in the group, so whoever is might be able to teach you a lot of things; and 2) Teaching something is a great way of reinforcing it in your own mind. By imparting the information that you know to others, it will start to become second nature to you.
6. Make time to meet with your instructor outside of class.
Instructors don’t like to be bombarded with meaningless conversation, but they do respect someone with a legitimate concern for their grade, who wants to work as hard as they can to perform well on tests and in class. By respecting the office hours of your instructor, you can get one-on-one answers to the most pressing questions and further ingratiate yourself to the instructor as someone who cares about what they are being taught. If you have any grades on “the borderline,” this is a wonderful tactic for getting the go-ahead.
7. Have a clear handle on your strengths and weaknesses for each subject.
Knowing what you do well and what you do poorly will go a long way in helping you to focus your study time. While most students mistakenly try to start from the beginning and work their way through the good and the bad, those who are aware of their weaknesses ahead of time are the most ready to combat them.
8. Work to improve any issue your instructor singles out.
Listen to the notes that your instructor provides for returned tests or in-class feedback. Make a note of the things they notice and resolve yourself to get better at those things. You may still have some weak points that need to be addressed, but if you can demonstrate that you’re listening, then the chances that your instructor will judge you kindly in assessments are greater than if you were a begrudging participant in the class.
9. Realize failure is possible.
In many high schools, failure is never really a possibility. Teachers have to deal with a lot of red tape to fail a student, and there are so many other more important things to worry about in the profession that they may simply pass you along to avoid the paperwork when you’re not really ready. This is a disservice to you, but it happens every day. Don’t assume each class will be an automatic “pass.” There is a movement underway to actually judge students on their merit. As this takes hold and the workforce continues to become a global marketplace, failure is a distinct possibility, and it’s one that you’ll need to address in order to build a thriving business within the borders of your town.
Don’t fret if you find yourself in a college class that you don’t know much about. You can still go far with the knowledge that you have and by adhering to the tips listed above. What are some moves that you feel worked for you in helping you pass a particularly challenging course? Sound off in the comments section!