Read these 34 Academics Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about College tips and hundreds of other topics.
Stay alert in your writing and do not plagiarize. Sometimes you may read something and then unintentionally include it almost verbatim in a written report. These kinds of things happen, but try to prevent this by always citing your sources. Your professor will usually tell you which citation style to use. Professors know the tricks, and should you be reported, you can kiss your college career goodbye.
This may sound elementary, but LISTEN to your professors. It may be very tempting to write a transcription of your professor's lecture, but what you may end up with is a bunch of unreadable scrawlings that rival a novel in length. Pay attention to what the professor says, and jot down key points.
As good as it is to remain totally dedicated to your college career, remember that having a little fun goes a long way in increasing your productivity. Giving yourself a reward to look forward to ("I'll go to this weekend's party if I study 50 hours.") makes the grind all the more bearable.
Just like having a aerobics buddy is good to keep you exercising, having a study buddy is good to have someone to quiz you past midnight at the local Denny's, or keeping on your butt to drop the beer and try to get back on the word processor. If you're not the disciplined type, at least make friends with one. The best thing that can happen is either that that person's good habits will rub off in some fashion, or you'll look at that person and feel so guilty about your laziness that you'll get something done.
Research the professor as well as the course. Many universities have a lot of flexibility when it comes to electives or when you can take a course. Take the time to find out who is teaching the course before you take it. Ask friends who know the professor and also go to the student union office where they can often give you the information you need. If you are already enrolled in a class with a professor who has a bad reputation, consider dropping the class and retaking it when it is taught by a professor whom you will enjoy.
If you are not a morning person and don't think you can make it through a morning calculus class, don't depend on caffeine to get you through. Know your limits and your abilities. Similarly, if you're afraid of walking to your car in a dark parking lot or get really sleepy after dinner, don't schedule a night class.
Knowing your limits involves knowing whether a class or a schedule is too overwhelming for you. If the class you are in is required, then try it again with a different professor. Different teaching styles work with different students. Don't overuse this option, but know that it is there for you. Remember to check with your advisor and/or financial aid department before you drop a class to make sure you are still within your scholarship or student loan requirements.
You will do much better in classes where you already have a strong interest or passion. Not only are you more likely to stay awake, but your interest will most likely make it easier for you to translate your skills (and yes, all classes will teach you, directly or indirectly, basic skills) into a career in the future.
Aside from the fact that you're paying for it, showing up for class will give you an immediate advantage in learning what your professors think are important, and what is most likely to show up on those final exams. Class is also where you get the chance to meet new people.
Take advantage of student resources that may be available at the university or college that you are attending. In addition to a general student union office, faculties may have their own student union office where you can get information on course content, past exams, or even tutors to help you with current classes. There is no charge for the information and the information can be extremely invaluable. Plus, you may be able to take advantage of scholarship opportunities as a student union member.
While they are a useful resource, academic advisors will sometimes communicate things that aren't accurate. My advisor, for instance, told me that it would be perfectly fine to take an Art History II class before an Art History I class, but on the first day I was completely lost. I asked my professor why my advisor would think it was fine for me to take this class. He said due to "miscommunications" between departments, advisors can make these mistakes. Just be a little wary of singular advice and don't be afraid to ask more than one person the same questions.
Every library has its little quirks and amazing traits that make it worth a visit. Some will provide you with Internet access, copy machines, laser jet printers, and even personal study carrels if you apply for them early enough. Learn about primary document sources on campus, as well as about the fun stuff in those hallowed buildings, like CD and video rentals and cool bestseller loan outs.
In most cases, tape-recording lectures only forces you to listen to the same lecture again, hence wasting time and not gaining anything more than if you had just paid attention and taken better quality notes during class. Instead of bringing a tape recorder, schedule enough time between classes to fill in those blanks you had to pass over in class.
**NOTE: In most cases you will need to seek your instructors permission before recording a lecture. This is standard procedure if you instructor is has a doctorate (PhD).
Get to know your professors BEFORE you fail an exam and want some kind of mercy. Drop by during their office hours, or e-mail them if they're technically-inclined. If you have a positive relationship with your professors, they may be more willing to work with you if you are in a difficult situation.
Believe it or not, ivy league institutions are not the only place to get a good college education. Although ivy league institutions are prestigious, and will look absolutely wonderful on future resumes, yet what you get out of the educators, the textbooks, and the lectures will boil down to one thing: your effort. Even if you go to the best school in the country, it won't make a difference if you don't work hard.
Once you find a professor who truly engages you, be sure to take classes by that professor in the future. The familiarity is a plus on both sides, and you are likely to learn even more and create a better rapport. Professors can become great resources for future scholarships, internships and jobs.
Professors are not always going to remind you of the test coming up next week or the fact that you must have something read by a certain date. Pay close attention to the syllabus given on the first day of class, visit your professor's website and/or office to get any ambiguities cleared up, and learn to discipline yourself and organize your time to keep track of things.
Use the terms the textbooks and professors give you, but make sure you are using them correctly. Throwing in those key words to make yourself sound impressive, or to prove that you've been paying attention, will only backfire if you are using the terms incorrectly.
In a lecture situation, it is often easy to just sit back, take notes, and stay silent. Still, if something is unclear to you, try raising your hand. If you're acknowledged, consider it a plus on recognition. If not, put your hand back down and then approach the professor with your question after class. Either way, you'll be showing the professor your interest as well as singling yourself out from the other students in your class.
Most professors are willing to give you some slack (unless they look and act militant or lack a sense of humor and basic facial expressions). While teacher assistants may not always be as compensating, most professors will hear you out since they will be more willing to read a late paper than an illegible one made from a printer with only two drops of ink. But as usual, don't abuse the privilege, and prove that you deserved that extenstion.
**Note: Always discuss a potentially late assignment with your instructor before it is late.
For you English majors and/or literature enthusiasts out there, do NOT take more than two literature classes in one semester (unless they are your only two classes). Literature classes are notorious for requiring a plethora of readings, usually several novels, poems and essays, not to mention any quizzes, papers, etc, all with a need for thorough knowledge and retention. Don't overdo it or you may overwhelm yourself.
You can't run away from your problems by transferring. Whatever happened at that other school, changing your environment will only make things worse if you don't change your behavior. Academic records follow you, as do those bad habits if you don't tackle them face to face.
Explore the world of student services. If you're having trouble in class, visit your professor in his/her office during office hours or make an appointment. If your professor gives you more pain than help, visit your academic advisor and let them know.
Most schools will have other services that will be of great assistance to you. Many institutions have career development centers, free counseling services, scholarship information, tutoring, and other services. Take advantage of all the resources you have, and get to know them well.