Essential Skills for Success in High School and College
Everyone wants to succeed in college but not everyone does. While you cannot predict your GPA, especially since there is an element of chance or luck when submitting assignments in the liberal arts due to the subjectivity of the fields, you can succeed. In fact, by learning how to learn and prepare yourself to tackle the academic demands of college work, you can improve your chances at getting higher grades throughout college.
Here are the most common skills you can develop to prepare for success in college. For more skills you can develop, contact a student coach today.
Time is the one resource we cannot get more of. We have time and then it is gone. If you have ever sat through a Star Wars or Simpsons marathon, or bingewatched a series on Netflix, you know how fleeting time can be. Managing your time, especially in college, is easy though. You just need to develop good habits.
The first thing you need to figure out is how to spend the time you have, and on what. Write a list of everything you have to do and see how much time you have to spend, at a minimum, to achieve your goals. Keep in mind that any distractions will also take time out of your busy schedule.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique that may work for you. You can use a timer, like the one found here. You work for periods of 25 minutes each, followed by a five minute break. After three of these work periods and breaks, you work for a 25 minute break followed by a fifteen minute break. Then, repeat!
You will be able to do so much more work this way, since you are focused on working each 25 minute work period to the fullest. Suddenly, an hour of productivity using the Pomodoro Technique is comparable to a few hours of simply meandering through your work without a timer or schedule. For more time management techniques, contact a student coach.
The best way to manage materials is to avoid starting your work until you know you have everything you need to succeed in one place. You should categorize and label your materials. If you have old papers, you can use a filing system. If you have digital files, you can use a digital material management system like Evernote or Google Drive. If you are preparing to work the night before, you should manage all your materials that night, not right before you are going to start working.
Doing schoolwork is similar to baking a cake. You need to ensure you have all the ingredients required for success before starting to bake. If you waste time gathering the ingredients as you need them, rather than collect them beforehand, your cake may be ruined. The same is true for papers and exam prep.
Gather all your pens, calculators, syllabi, assignment rubrics, and more before starting your assignments. Summarize any readings you need beforehand. If you can acquire the materials and manage them, you will be one step closer to success.
Being organized is a mental state of mind. You have the ability to become the most organized person on the planet. Some people even make whole careers out of simply being organized. You can too. Some ways you can be organized in college is to make and fill a calendar with due dates and a weekly schedule as well. Make a to do list of assignments, listing them in order of their importance. Write down questions you have from readings and lectures and schedule meetings with teaching assistants and professors. A student coach can help you learn more organizational tools. Organization is a mindset.
Organizational skills are also physical skills that coincide with materials and time management. Before working on an assignment or project, ensure that you have everything in one place so that you are prepared to make significant progress on your work, if not finish it. Review your agenda or planner to schedule your work efficiently. When you receive your syllabi, mark down the due dates in your calendar and planner so that you never have to work on a project last-minute.
The best planners are those that let you schedule your work by the hour. You can use them in conjunction with daily and weekly planners to organize your work and life.
Structuring a Schedule
Structured schedules work. You do not have to schedule everything in your life, like the exact nanosecond that you make coffee after you wake up or the percentage of oscillation you set on your fan every time you turn it on, but you should structure your schedule.
Think of your schedule like a rock jar. Different-sized rocks, each of which is put in the jar, starting with the largest, represent different assignments. The big “rocks,” like midterms, final exams, and course papers, are scheduled first (i.e. put in the jar). They are the cornerstones (pun fully intended) of your schedule. Next, you put pebbles in the jar.
Pebbles are assignments like homework, studying, research, etc. They are medium-sized assignments. They fill in around the spaces between the big assignments. A half hour here, 45 minutes there, etc. can allow you the time to finish a course reading and take notes on it, or prepare some flashcards.
Finally, sand is last put in the jar and fill in the micro spaces between pebbles and rocks. In micro-moments throughout the day, you can do things like watch a five minute video on YouTube that explains a class concept, you can write a “To Do List” of the assignments that have to be completed, or you can check your printer’s toner levels.
With each type of “rock” you use to structure your schedule, you should also schedule and prioritize the materials and time periods you think you will need to complete your assignments. If possible, give yourself extra time just in case.
Filling in your schedule like putting rocks in a jar will allow you to maximize the time you use for your schooling, and it will become easier to do well in every class.
Splitting Projects Between Partners
Doing group work in any setting is a balance between managing productivity and the feelings of the individual group members. Everyone perceives the work at a different level of difficulty and believes that their contribution is bigger than it is.
You may have to complete a project with someone who is never available because they are working whenever they are not in class. You may have to work with someone whose grasp of the English language is below yours. The best way to split projects is to evaluate each group member’s strengths and weaknesses, and assigning sections of the project amongst yourself and your group members.
However, once sections are assigned, try not to interfere with your partners’ work unless they ask for help. We all have different ideas of how assignments should be completed. Just because someone decides to use a different approach does not make his or her approach incorrect, even if you have never seen it before.
Before you or any of the other group members do any work, meet up and discuss the project, your ambitions, and a timeline, to get work done. A badly managed group project can last longer than your other assignments and can complicate your schedule. Communication is key. Make sure each person in the group has each other’s contact information and make sure you all contact each other on a regular basis on the assignment.
When presenting, it will be apparent who has done what, in terms of work. Professors can tell who has invested time and effort into their work, and who has not. Although it is ideal if everyone works equally on the group project, it may not be like this for you. Keep in mind that teachers often grade each member differently, even if you all share a group assignment grade. You may find that your group receives a higher grade based on the efforts of specific members, and those who do more work and put in more effort may receive higher marks at the end of the semester.
Prioritizing Your Goals
Here are some ways you can prioritize your school assignments during college:
- By grade percentage
- By due date
- By length
- By ability
- By easiness
Other metrics may exist but these are some common ones. Make a list of your assignments and prioritize them according to your own needs. Then, complete them one by one and move on to the next task. If you are unsure about how to prioritize your assignments, a student coach can help you.