7 Tips to Ace Your College Courses

As a college instructor, I see students acing their courses every semester. I also see students struggling and feeling miserable. A lot of times students conclude that they are not “smart enough” to do well. The reality is that almost all students are equally smart; however, struggling students make some crucial mistakes that cost them their grades.

Below are my tips to excel in your college classes:

  1. Do not procrastinate!
    Procrastination is the root cause of all college woes! Start early and finish early. If you have to turn work in online it’s always a good idea to do it well ahead of the due date. Technology can smell fear!
    Review what was covered in class right after you leave the classroom. Just take 5-7 minutes to go over your notes and make sure you understand everything. If there is any confusion, either email your professor or ask in the next class.
  2. Form study groups.
    Sometimes students learn better from each other than from listening to a lecture. Study groups are great because you can quiz each other on material as well. And it’s always a good thing to have a partner in the class to share your joys and sorrows with.
    You can compare notes with your group members. Often times if you’ve missed something another student might be able to fill you in. If you’re not a good note-taker you can count on your peers to help you out in this department.
  3. Know your course.
    I am not saying know your course material- that you have to do anyway!- I am saying know how the course is set up. Sometimes professors allow multiple attempts on quizzes. Sometimes they offer practice exams, or skeleton notes, or study guides. Make sure you know what’s available so you can make full use of it. Psst! here’s a secret: practice exams are very close to actual exams so never miss out on doing those.
    The syllabus usually has a breakdown of available points and what each assignment is worth. If you know that, you can calculate your grade at any time during the semester and also know how many more points you need to get the grade you want.
  4. Teach what you learn.
    Most students learn passively i.e. they will go over their notes, make sure they understand the content. Sometimes they’ll make flashcards and review those. Those are all good strategies, however, the best way to learn is to do it actively.
    As you go over a slide or paragraph take a moment and pretend that you are teaching that material. Imagine you have students in front of you, then teach what you learned. If you get stuck trying to explain something that means you have not truly understood it. Go back, review it, and teach it out loud again. Teaching is one of the best ways to master content.
    Every semester I will have students who tell me they are not good test-takers. I don’t believe that is the case. If you learn actively, you master the content. This allows you to answer simple recall questions or harder questions that involve manipulation of information.
  5. Read the rubric.
    Most assignments will have a rubric along with them. The rubric will tell you exactly what you are going to be graded on. Stick to what the rubric is asking for. Professors have a lot of assignments to grade, if you hit the points the rubric is asking for, you’re making the job of grading easier for your professor too. There’s no need to add fluff just to make your essay look longer. As a professor, I appreciate students getting straight to the point!
  6. Ask your professor!
    That’s what we’re here for. If you’re having trouble understanding something or would like additional instructions, or resources please reach out! I love when my students ask me for help. It tells me they are making a sincere effort to do well in my class. If they ever ask me for a recommendation letter I always include that they reached me outside class as well.
    If you’re feeling shy asking a question in class just know that there’s likely another student with the same question who is also feeling too shy to ask. When you raise your hand and ask you’re helping someone else too. And if you’re still too shy you can always email.
  7. Be disciplined and organized.
    Being organized goes a long way whether in school or outside. If you’re a messy note-taker, redo your notes and organize them after class.
    Organize your week as well. Block study time off daily for each course and be disciplined about it. College courses are usually three or four credit hours. A four-credit hour class needs at least 15-20 hours of outside-class study time. Be realistic about the time commitment needed for each class and make sure you organize your week accordingly. This is especially important if you work, or have young children, or are taking a heavy college load.

Amna Qureshi