Everyone strives to be the best in school, or at least improve their college grades but few know what it takes to really study for excellence, and fewer still are not ready to make the effort. Studying, like any other skill, requires more than a commitment to schoolwork and academics. It needs a high level of self-awareness, carefulness, and discipline to hone and perfect. It is a major instrument in the success toolbox, so it is important that everyone arm themselves with this life tool that would aid them not just in school but in other endeavors requiring the preciseness that is needed for effective studying. Below are eight some tips on how to excel in academics:
There is hardly anything anyone can achieve if they are reckless about how they spend their time. A schedule that gets you through every day studying at least four-five hours would be sure to announce itself in the improvement of your academics. It is only a rough template to guide you, as, done rigidly, there will be no accounting for contingencies that you can’t foresee, and unplanned contingencies will always happen. It could be something like a sudden change in lecture time, an expedient test, or a desperate friend asking for “two seconds” of your time to help them out with their frozen laptop. So you could, for instance, take out eight hours, say, and put it down to sleeping time, another eight hours for regular lecture hours, and then accomplish what specific study goals you hope to achieve within the remaining eight hours, but these should not be so unrealistically crowded within such an ungenerous amount of time. With an almost consistent devotion to your schedule, a rough organization of the 24 hour day not only gives you a sense of control over your life but a sense of purpose, because you always get something done each day, and this creates a positive cycle that reinforces your need to always calibrate your day the next time.
It is always good to take out time in the weekend to relax your mind after a rigorous academic workweek. A sound and healthy mind can concentrate better than a tired mind, can achieve infinite times faster than a fagged out one. A cool evening out with friends, a routine morning exercise, weekly cardio, or a bodybuilding session, meditation, and a healthy diet can rejuvenate the mind and set it fresh for another round of hard brain labor. Most importantly, no matter how pressing the need to solve that last assignment question, make sure to always get in those eight hours of sweet supple sleep.
Develop a study habit that goes in tune with your strengths and weaknesses. Are you more of a marathon reader or a spaced-out sprinter? Do you read better in the mornings just after you are up, or in the evenings before bed, or you wake late at night to read? Is an all-nighter convenient for you? How many pages can you read extensively in an hour? Could you dig the strength of study groups, or do you effortlessly slog through it all on your own? Do not conform to the notion that there is only one way to get your studies done. Find out what works for you and stick to it.
The right attitude is everything. It is the fuel for motivation. If you hold to the belief that intelligence is a trait reserved for special people, you will never be able to break out from that self-prison. Anybody can do math. Anybody can write. Anybody can program. Although there are those to whom these talents come naturally, it in no way means that hard work and dogged consistency cannot trump innate intelligence. The best way to achieve a positive mindset is to set milestones for yourself. Hang out with friends a little smarter than you in a particular subject and challenge yourself to beat them at that subject. When you have achieved that aim, move on to the next higher group of friends. And even if you never beat them, their presence will always provide perpetual motivation to keep you on your toes. Lastly, because the coursework might be sometimes too bulky to finish in one semester, you could feel panic whenever the time comes to read. Just looking at the volume of the material to cover puts you on edge and you begin to read in fear and panic, hoping to cover everything before the appointed exam period, or you might even give up entirely. These are not attitudes to adopt. Remember you are not alone. Always approach your material without fear. Do what you can and leave the rest. Whatever you cannot finish before exams, you can have study groups in which each member takes a different topic each and comes regularly to explain briefly to the group. With this, good time management, and dogged consistency you would be sure to cover most of the topics beforehand. Take your time, but do not linger so much on what you do not understand. Reading with fear is no reading at all. It’s a proven time-wasting venture.
This happens to be what sets the high achievers of average intelligence from the low ones. If you are honest with yourself you would notice that most times you spend your reading hours carrying your thoughts away to random occupations, or residues of disturbing emotions and stress, or, yes, social media, or fantasizing about the steaming hot guy badgering you with attention. So you get lost in your head as line after line slips through the fingers of your inattentive eyes. Concentration is a skill, and meditation is one way to master that skill. Another way is learning to manage your emotions with the help of friends or people whom you can lean on so that when the time comes for reading, you give it your full, undivided attention. Another way is setting a 1000 word password on your phone just before you read. The thought of typing in one thousand characters alone might help dissuade you from one more look at Kylie Jenner’s clean-shaven armpits.
The study proper
First of all, establish specific academic goals before you begin to study. You can do this by scouring through the chapter for a rough overview or summary of what to expect and matching it against your course scheme of work. Then proceed to parse sentences carefully, keeping in mind the importance of each sentence to the overall goal which you should now have an idea of from having skimmed through. After that, you can reread the chapter summary by summary and make small skeletal notes for later revision and help you remember. Learn a lot of memory techniques to master details that cannot be learned but are important, and passages and terms you do not understand, you can underline in the book to revisit later. It is always better to anticipate the lecturer beforehand so you can read the forthcoming topic, and if you have made notes, you can listen in class, and flesh out your points. This consolidates understanding and tailors the information on your textbook to the course outline of the study. Also read as though each line were very important to the concept you are trying to make out, such that to miss the meaning of a single line would be to miss the whole point. That way you can motivate yourself to read in-depth and in-between the lines. After having read each section of a chapter, ponder on the practical use of this information you have just been equipped with. Imagine you using the knowledge to solve a problem in society. This imagination alone gives your reading purpose and would etch whatever information not only in your head but in your heart and would make forgetting in the long term more difficult.
Do you know what you know?
Sometimes we bring preconceived judgments into a study material we had been beforehand familiar with. Or our intuitive connection with the content does not pass slow, rigorous thinking and as such we are apt to commit mistakes and biases common to all. So each time you read ask yourself, did you really understand the concept of what you had just read? Or you just felt you understood it? A safe way to approach this is to always have it in mind that you truly grabbed nothing, always have that mindset that you might not have completely got the whole thing, so that you could, again and again, keep revising until it becomes simple enough to fully and wholly grasp. Theoretical physicist Richard Philips Feynman once said that to completely understand a material meant that you were able to confidently explain it to a child and he would get it. So it is good practice to imagine you were reading so that you could quote the whole material to a child standing nearby. That way you can consciously be aware of and literally catch your biases and prejudgments that could miscolor the material in the light of your own experiences.
Excelling in school would of course require more than just study. There is a bureaucracy aspect that nobody loves. Attending lectures, doing your assignments the moment you see the opportunity and turning them in on time, preparing two or three weeks before tests and exams, understanding your professors, and knowing how to answer their exams. It is one thing to know a subject, it is another to learn how to take a test on the subject, as there are rules specific to each lecturer that he would have you keep to in order to pass the test and you would do well to know all these rules. Also, before the exam, take mock tests with your friends under exam conditions. Even reading in the venue where you are supposed to take your exam could help serve as a memory anchor on the exam day.