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10 Ways to Survive College Academics and Succeed in the Classroom

Let’s face it: college is all about the social life. Gone is your family and provincial high school friends. It’s time to start from scratch; here’s your chance to be the life of the party.

Nevertheless, it’s worth talking about academics. After all, whether you’ll stay in college depends on your grades. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, here are a few college classroom hacks to get your GPA soaring.


10 Ways to Survive College Academics and Succeed in the Classroom

1. Show Up to Class

This one’s a given. Some days, you’ll be eager to soak up some knowledge. Other days, you’ll be lying in-between your warm and cozy sheets avoiding the cold, rainy and grey weather.

And who could forget about Netflix?!

On those days, you’ll have to exercise some willpower and force yourself out of bed. When ennui ensues, remind yourself why you’re going to class. Think beyond GPA. Revel in the ingenuity, creativity, and willpower in human history.

By being in college, you’re continuing a legacy that’s 5,000 years in the making.


2. Sit in the Front Row

It depends on the professor, but most won’t pick on you if you don’t do your homework. Some professors won’t even notice (or care about) texting students.

But, if you sit up front, it’ll be way easier to pay attention in class. If you sit in the middle or in the back, you’ll get distracted by students incessantly yawning and using their smartphones.

Plus, sitting in the front makes it easier to ask questions; when you raise your hand, you won’t fall prey to the entire class turning around and giving you their “death stare.” It’s just you and the professor.

3. Get to Know Your Professor

In college, networking is everything. If you’re majoring in the liberal arts, chances are the people you’ll meet will help you find an internship or job.

Make those connections. In a class filled with hundreds of students, don’t expect a professor to write you a letter of recommendation if you don’t bother to talk to him all semester.

You won’t have to come up to him after the first class; visit him during his office hours. Ask questions about the material, show your curiosity and willingness to excel, succeed and learn.

By talking to your professor, you’ll grow your network and your character. Don’t worry; the professor will notice if you put in the effort.


4. Don’t Buy the Textbook

There are some exceptions. For the most part, wait until your professor explicitly tells you where and what to buy.

Most instructors will give you one week to rent or buy the book; your grade shouldn’t suffer. Before checking Amazon or your local bookstores, check and see if a free copy is floating online (be aware of viruses).

If all else fails, try and see if you can buy a previous edition of the textbook. Unless you’re a STEM major, most textbooks don’t revamp their content between editions.

Although it’s a risk, you’ll still be able to pull an “A” if your textbook is one edition older than the required version.


5. Get a Planner

No, your smartphone calendar won’t work. Pen and paper is faster and will force you to remember what you’re writing down.

Write down things you need to complete (even beyond school) on the day you need them completed. In other words, if something is due Friday, don’t put “assignment due Friday” on the preceding Monday.

You’ll more clearly visualize when assignments are due and what free time you have in between. Time management is a biggie, and Google isn’t that big a help.


6. Lose the Smartphone

That is, leave it on “silent” inside your backpack during class. The internet is a treasure trove of humor, information and friendships.

None of that has anything to do with understanding Calculus or Rhetorical Theory.

In his article in The Atlantic, author Paul Barnwell quotes clinical psychologist Richard Freed: “High levels of smartphone use by teens often have a detrimental effect on achievement, because teen phone use is dominated by entertainment, not learning, applications.”

C’mon, we all know you’re not looking at that phone to look up the Pythagorean Theorem. Practice some self-discipline and focus on the class.


7. Be Careful About Laptop Use

This one’s tricky. Because it’s faster, most students will take notes on their laptops. Why should you use pen and paper?

In the Scientific American, Cindy May writes: “Although computer use during class may create the illusion of enhanced engagement with course content, it more often reflects engagement with social media, YouTube videos, instant messaging, and other nonacademic content.”

It’s super hard to concentrate in class with your laptop; Facebook and other sites are literally one click away. Reddit will try too hard to lure you away from boredom.

During class, your laptop is another obstacle to overcome instead of a tool that helps you focus. While your textbook or other materials may be digital, see if you can do without them during the class. Save the distractions for later.

8. Have a Designated Study Spot

Your dorm is for sleeping; don’t use it to study. Your brain will see that dorm as a place for relaxation and comfort. You will probably feel more tired and unwilling to do work when you’re on your bed.

Do your work in a cozy space in the library or in the Student Union. Understand what environment will force you into diligently completing your work. Just don’t make it the bed you’ll sleep in.

Not only will you not get your work done, you’ll feel guilty about it. Plus, you’ll have a hard time falling asleep since your brain will be confused whether the dorm is for resting or working.


9. Be Afraid to Say “No”

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in college is to tell your friends you can’t hang because you have a looming essay, test or lab report. College is all about that social life, but don’t forget what you’re trying to achieve.

Not only are you here to learn about collective human history, but you’re trying to set up a successful career. Think in the long term. Your friends are understanding and will (hopefully) always be there.

In fact, there’ll be days when they’ll need to be studious. Build lasting relationships, but don’t sacrifice your long-term plans for short-term rewards.


10. Be Kind on Yourself

You see similar messages sprawled over social media. But, really consider what it means.

Chances are, you will be distracted by your smartphone during class, you will take notes on your laptop, you won’t talk to your professor until mid-semester, you will sit in the back row too afraid to ask a question and you will spend extra time with your friends and neglect your schoolwork.

But, it’s ok. A wise man said that “to err is to be human.” A little insight about the author of this article; he had to go through many trials and tribulations to understand how to effectively participate, study and manage time.

Maybe, you’ll need to experience failure before you get it. But, if there’s one takeaway you should get from reading this, it’s this:

Love is never earned but given.

When you fail, respect yourself. Be kind on yourself. Love yourself. You won’t get anywhere if you constantly bash your conscious against a wall. In fact, you’ll discourage yourself from taking risks.

Set goals and know your purpose. And if you mess up, smile, stand up and keep going. The sky’s the limit.


Written by: Theodore Karabet


Theodore Karabet is a San Francisco native currently studying International Public Relations at UNC Charlotte.

In his spare time, he enjoys writing piano music, tending to his family’s goats, and spending late nights with friends at French bakeries.

Ironically, of course.


Psych Bytes Interns
These articles were written by our wonderful interns at Psych Bytes!


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