Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of what I like to consider “meta-thinking” – thinking about myself, and my life, and trying to figure out how to make it better. I went from being a B/B+ student in high school (granted, in the IB program) to a 4.0 in Spring semester. I went from scrambling to get homework done in the parking lot before school, to doing it several days in advance in the library, and doing it right. I studied for exams. Basically, I took school seriously.
Okay, so the fact that it is college and it is exciting certainly plays a role. There is more motivation for me to do well here in college, where I’m labeled as a computer science student and I know this is actually affecting my future. And college has more variety; high school felt like the same old drudgery every day (or every other day, rather; we were on an A-day/B-day schedule. it didn’t really contribute to added variety though). But really I think I’ve gotten better at figuring out what makes me tick.
You have to figure out what works for you. For me, when I need to get homework done, I work best alone with a textbook and some trance music. But I’m that kind of person that can sit down with a textbook and some problems, and figure them out. My brain is heavy on the problem solving, and not so much on the socialization. Whereas my friends, and my girlfriend especially, are more of the type that like to sit down with a couple other friends from the class and work through the homework together. When at first glance I can’t figure out a problem, I grab a book and scour it for similar example problems, discussions of the type of problem, etc. and grind through it until I get it right (then I usually practice a couple more times to make sure I got it right). My friends learn better from leaning over and asking the person next to them to explain it to them; and there’s no shame in that! Learning from others is what works for them, and it’s not cheating at all (as long as you’re learning to the point where you can do it yourself later, like on an exam).
I find that through it all, the best thing is to be honest with yourself and realize that when you’re studying or doing homework, you’re not just “getting it done” to move on to fun and games. This is the mindset that results in not learning anything. If you are doing a problem, and you arrive at the answer but you think to yourself “I don’t really know what happened,” don’t follow that up with “oh well, I’ll type it in and move on to the next problem!” Be honest with yourself, and realize that if you don’t know how to do it then you’re not going to know how to do it on a test; go back and try it again. Don’t just do it for the sake of a homework grade; LEARN it.
In the end, as long as you’re learning, that’s the most important thing. Maybe the first 12 years of school involved a lot of busywork, but college is not about busywork. It’s about learning. So be serious about it, and learn something.
Oh and after you’re done learning… Have fun! Your brain needs time to commit what you’ve learned to memory. Don’t overwork yourself.
I’d love to hear your tips in the comments. If you are headed into your first year of college, how do you feel? Did I help you think about it a little differently? Those of you that have spent a few years in college now, or maybe are long out, does this align with your thoughts? What other tips do you have? You don’t have to leave your name or sign up, so please give me your opinions, I’d love to hear them!