How to Be a Student

Introduction

The typical college campus is a friendly place; but it is also a competitive environment. The education you receive there, and the attitudes you develop, will guide you for the rest of your life. Your grades will be especially important in landing your first job, or when applying to graduate school. To be a successful student requires certain skills; but, these are skills that can be learned.

The Basics of Being a Student

Self-Discipline Made Easy

Human beings are creatures of habit. Therefore, form a habit of doing what you reason you should do. Is it not foolish for your behavior to contradict your own reasoning? And what could be more harmonious than finding yourself wanting to do what you know you should?

Train yourself so there is an immediate reaction-mechanism within you:

You reason that you should do something, and thus you do it.
Other people who seem to have less difficulty with self-discipline probably have simply had more practice at it, thereby making it less difficult; because, practice is what it takes.

Time Management

No matter how you slice it, there are only 24 hours in a day. Good time-management requires:
  1. Not taking on more than you can handle.
  2. Reasonably estimating the time required to perform each of the tasks at hand.
  3. Actually doing what needs to be done.
Only you can do these things. A couple of thoughts, though, that may help spur you on:

Introspection

Taking a Course

Each student's attitude is some mixture of the following: Each instructor's attitude is some mixture of the following: In order to do well in a course, it is up to you (the student) to do two things:
  1. Learn the material.
  2. Learn the instructor.
As for the latter, pay attention in class to the instructor's patterns, to what he/she emphasizes, etc. Gather information about the instructor from other students. A good instructor, however, will present their course in such a way that it will be of little benefit for the student to try to learn him/her, thereby forcing their students to learn the material.

Homework

Exams

Further Suggestions

Closing

Overall, there is one basic trait that distinguishes successful students from those that are not:
Successful students force themselves to understand.
They do not merely go through the motions of attending class, reading the text(s), and doing the homework, expecting these actions to necessarily suffice. Rather, they are continually asking, "Do I really understand what's going on here?" They ask this question of themselves honestly, applying an internal barometer formed from experience to detect the slightest lack of understanding, be it ignorance or confusion. And, if the answer is "No", then the situation is viewed as unacceptable, and more effort is the response.
How to Be a Student ©1997 Jerome R. Breitenbach. All rights reserved.
Last modified: September 26, 1997.
Comments? Contact jbreiten@calpoly.edu.

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