“New year, new me,”we always say. We promise to stick to our resolutions, even though they’re often vague and make success hard to define. “I’m going to eat better,” or “I’m going to spend less,” usually pop up as common resolutions, but what about “I’m going to be a better student”?
But what does “being a better student” mean? Better grades? A higher GPA? A happier, less stressful school life? No matter the result you’re looking for, success is built on creating effective habits. Here are some tips that should help you reach your goals:
Participate in Class More Often
Think about the last time that you raised your hand in class and asked your teacher a question. Was it “just to make sure” of something? Or was it a question that related to the material that wasn’t already covered by the teacher?
Teachers notice when you ask questions about the lesson, and when you ask about concepts directly related to the material, they can tell you’re engaged with the subject. Not only that, but the more you ask about the subject, the more you’ll get out of the class as a whole.
Try setting a goal of answering one or two questions in class per day or per week if you don’t already. If you do, think about the quality of your questions. Ask yourself if there’s a better way to communicate what you want to know.
Study More Effectively
There are a few ways you can go about this:
- Get organized: Make sure that you have a system that works for you. Maybe it’s one large binder with sections for each class, or maybe it’s a different folder for each. File your notes by date, and make sure you have your syllabus in order to look up the date certain topics were discussed.
- Study ahead: Look in the syllabus or find out from your teacher what the next topic will be and read ahead in the textbook. When you come to class, you can use this extra knowledge to ask better questions and participate more.
- Go for extra credit: When you can, look for opportunities for extra credit, not just because it’ll improve your grades, but because you’ll have a deeper understanding of the lesson.
Improve Your Reading Skills
The best way to improve your reading skills is to read. Read widely and read deeply. Read blogs (like this one), magazines, journals, and newspapers, but don’t neglect longer texts like novels and non-fiction books.
But don’t just read. After you finish every article or book, ask yourself what the writer’s intent was. If it was a longer, creative endeavor, try to pick apart symbols and images the author was trying for. If it was informative like a non-fiction book or an article, see if you can summarize the main points from the text.
Prepare Better for Tests
It’s one thing to go to class on the day of the exam after learning the material, but what about the test itself? The more you know about the test, the better you can prepare for it.
There’s a lot more to test taking than just answering questions. Knowing the format of the test and the chapters that are covered can help you focus on studying only the most relevant material and provide a structure for your reviews.
Write Better Essays
If you improve your reading skills, you’re already halfway to writing better essays. But there are a few tips that may be able to help you get even further:
- Write your first draft early: After writing your first draft, you can take a break and then come back to your essay, read through it, and find out what you need to change. You can also use the conclusion of your essay to strengthen the introduction after you’ve finished the first draft.
- Read your essay out loud: Find a private place where you can read aloud and you’ll find that you’ll catch sentences and phrases that are awkward or long more often. And once you change those, your whole essay should flow much better.
- Ask a friend to proofread: Once you’ve got a near-final draft, ask a friend to look over your essay and proofread it. You can ask them for more than just grammar corrections though! See if they could follow your line of thought through the essay, and if they were confused about anything, try going back to that paragraph and rewriting it to communicate your point better.
There’s a lot of uncertainty around “being a better student”, but it ultimately comes down to defining what that means for you, and making effective habits out of that.
If you’ve had any helpful tips work for you in the past, feel free to share in the comments!