“Back to school” may be one of the most dreaded phrases for students of any age – and with good reason. The end of summer means trading in magazines for textbooks, and typing out lecture notes instead of texting friends about beach plans. As college students, we’re in our last few years of hearing this phrase, so why not make the most of this time of year and get a head start on making the grade? Whether you’re an incoming freshman or going into your senior year, read on for advice and tools that’ll make that first month of classes a bit easier.
1. Plan ahead:
Make recording assignments that much nicer by jotting them down in a stylish planner, like this one from Vera Bradley. Somehow, that reminder to study for biology becomes much less threatening inside a pretty patterned agenda. Two other stylish options are the color-a-month Moleskine.
2. Find a study buddy:
Remember that making friends isn’t just important for your social life. It can help your grades, too. “Get a study partner or group that meets on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to talk through material,” advises Dr. Jennifer Durham, professor at Adelphi University on Long Island. Head to your school’s tutoring or career center for guidance on meeting up with other students or ask your professor to set up a group of students who are interested in meeting outside of class.
3. Make a Spark:
Spark Charts are super popular among high school students studying for advanced placement exams or the SATs, but they also make great review guides for college classes. These foldable sheets have info printed on the front and back so you can review in a hurry or throw the sheets in your bag to study in between classes. Categories range from medical and business, to psychology and law, and you can download them from the site or buy them at the bookstore.
4. Shop classes:
“Find out what other students who have previously had your professors have to say about how to get a good grade,” says Jennifer. Most importantly, if you don’t like a class or know you won’t learn from a professor’s teaching style, drop it and add another if you can. If you aren’t motivated to do well by the second or third week of class, it probablyisn’t going to happen.
5. Stick it on:
Forgetful student, meet your new best friend: the Post-it note. Jot down reminders for anything from grocery shopping (on the refrigerator or cabinet doors) and laundry (on your closet or dresser) to your professor’s office hours on the front of a binder, so important info is right at your fingertips. Leave them on your desk, dorm room door, alarm clock, notebook, computer… wherever. Plus, throwing them out when you complete an assignment can feel incredibly rewarding. Check out the line of shaped sticky notes here.
6. Get book smart:
Feeling the strain of hefty book prices? Jennifer offers up this bit of guidance: “Make sure you have access to all of the necessary materials for class. Even if you cannot afford to buy them, get to the library, borrow, beg [and] do what is needed.” But before you do any of that, check out some helpful book buying links and advice here.
7. Customize your calendar:
It’s one thing to put up a calendar. It’s another to check it on a daily basis. Create a customizable photo calendar with photo sites from Walgreens and CVS or shutterfly.com. Jot down important dates and countdowns underneath pictures of you and your friends and you may find yourself taking a look much more often.
8. One day at a time:
Jennifer’s next tip is about studying versus cramming: “Studying involves organizing notes taken during class and reading, and then going over, contemplating, and digesting the material,” she says. “It is best to develop a habit of doing this to avoid cramming and perform better on tests and papers.” Read over your notes from class that day before bed each night so the information stays with you.
9. Go digital:
Many textbooks come with study CD-roms or links to the book’s website. Both of these can provide helpful study tools, like chapter outlines and practice quizzes that will make prepping for exams a whole lot easier. So instead of throwing that CD-rom in the back of your drawer, stick it in your laptop and check it out! You paid for it, after all.
10. Make your professors your friends:
Finally, never forget that your classes don’t have to stay within the classroom. Frequent professors’ office hours to go over material whenever possible and try this tip: “Find a young woman who is at least a year ahead of you who is pursuing a similar course of study and establish a relationship,” says Jennifer. “Find a professor and do the same.” This could give you a head start on finding internships, prepping for future coursework, and making connections that will last beyond graduation.
Whatever year you’re going into, take a deep breath, get organized, and have an amazing school year!