Five College Success Tips You Don’t Have To Take

Posted by on Aug 8, 2012 in General, General College Success/Responses to Other College Entities | 2 comments

You have tons of time for texting outside of class... and even more because you aren't worrying about extra credit!

Back-to-school advice is ramping up all over the place. There are some fabulous tips out there and others that I quite frankly find worrisome. I thought I’d knock out a quick post to respond to five of them: 

5.  Figure out what topics are important to your profs because those topics end up on tests.

I find it very hard to believe that a freshman, or even seasoned college students, can decipher what information is “important” to a prof in the confines of an hour-long (or even longer!) lecture. If you asked me to pick out the most important material within my hour-long lesson, I would say, “If it wasn’t important, I wouldn’t be teaching it!” (Also, for the record, the “Did I miss anything important today?” question makes profs want to drive a staple into our finger… a rusty staple. Same for “Will that be on the test?” Gahhhh!).

Do this instead:  Putting on my post-secondary ed degree hat here: Watch what concepts your prof is approaching in multiple ways. For example, what concepts are you reading about, then writing about, then being quizzed on? You can pretty much figure that those are going to be on a test. Look at any course or unit objectives for words like apply, demonstrate, explain. Any theories or material that you’re studying within those objectives will likely show up on a test because the course objectives are saying that you need to “do” something with the information (and the prof will probably assess it).

4. Ask your professors how they would study for their own exams.

Okay, sure, some profs might take this question seriously. Other profs would  totally look at you cross-eyed and reply, “Um, I’d read the book, go over the notes, and look at all the material I just taught you.” Also, everyone’s approach to their own learning and studying is individual. A prof has already been through years of education and would be considered an expert learner. Many of us would approach study quite differently than a novice learner. I just don’t think this is the right angle to tackle this question.

Do this instead:  Once you have already done everything you can to figure out what is on the test (such as what I recommended above about the objectives, etc. You can also use any helpers that your textbook offers), make up a study guide/notes and then go to your prof with that in hand. Show that you’ve done something and then say, “I’m striving for the best grade possible on this exam. This is what I’ve done so far. What other recommendations do you have so I can maximize what I’m doing?” Essentially, you want to know how to best connect to and retain the information you are learning. But you want the prof’s respect that you’ve taken steps to make this happen yourself first.

3.  Do extra credit if it is offered.

The subject of extra credit always makes me grumble and I realize my popularity may decrease just by saying it (but if you follow the blog, you know my feelings already). Extra credit is extra work! Why bother with extra work which, ahem, takes extra time? Your time is too valuable for that. If extra credit is offered, don’t bother with it unless you absolutely need it (but if you take my advice, hopefully you won’t!).

Do this instead: Kick butt on the points-bearing work, rather than wasting your time with extra credit! Say to your prof, “I want to do my absolute best on the assignments we have. I’d like to show you my work in advance. Will you review it?” It sounds like a no-brainer, but too few students take this step and that’s why so many want/need extra credit! If your prof won’t review work early, then take the early-completed work to him/her anyway and say, “Can I ask you two specific questions about _______?” I’ll say this again: You should not even need extra credit if you are rocking the assignments you have. Thank me later when you have all this extra time to spare!

2.  Text in class rather than talk.

The context of this one was that texting is less distracting to the professor and students around you, as opposed to talking to your neighbor. I completely disagree on both counts. Both are distracting to everyone! Profs and fellow students are wise to texting. I had a student take another student to blows for texting in front of the entire class, and I have had students come to me privately to complain about students texting around them. Despite professors’ varied policies about texting, try to resist the urge.

Do this instead:  Unplug while you are in class. One response to one text could sideline you. If you are caught, the prof may not say anything (or you could get busted–depends on the policy), but you will be remembered–and not in a good way. And, you never know who you are distracting around you. Make a deal with yourself and reward yourself later for being so attentive for the hour. If you must stay in contact with someone during class (we’re talking emergency), step out of class momentarily. Don’t hide under the desk. Yes, students really do this.  

1.  Sit in the front row.

I’ve blogged about this one before. I disagree that sitting in the front rather than the back of class scores you lots of extra points with profs. If you like the front row, sit there, but don’t do it because you believe it will get you better grades or make you more memorable. Students can sit in the back of the room and be just as outstanding. If you have a prof who moves around the room, the head of the class is ever-changing, so you may not end up as front-and-center as you think.

Do this instead: Sit wherever you want. Raise your hand and engage in the class discussion from your spot. Make your voice nice and loud (think projection… like from your diaphragm). You can make an impact–even from the corner! (Because nobody puts Baby in a corner! Dirty Dancing? Anyone?).

What college success tips do you have questions about? I’m here to answer them!


Disclaimer: One of the pieces with the tips I’m responding to can be found here. To be fair, I thought there was some good advice in the article, as well. The advice on seating and extra credit is mentioned in too many places to note.

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  1. #2 is so true what you say. I hated when students texted in class. Or surfed the internet during lecture. If they weren’t going to listen, why were they there? Obviously they had other things to do.

    Worst offenders were those who forgot to turn the sound off on their cell phone, or turn them off. One loud ring can really destroy the momentum of a lecture.

    • Hi, Susan,

      I once had a student whose cell phone went off during their own speech! I went a little out of my mind and I’m known for having a very even temperament in class, so students were amazed that I reacted so strongly. We were close to class being finished and I stood up and said, “We’re done here.” I don’t think anyone made eye contact with me on their way out the door. It was a daily class, 50 minutes, early on in the day, too, and we had a number of other infractions, so tensions were high. Not my finest teaching hour, for sure. I’ve learned a lot since then!

      (I can’t remember if the student answered the phone :-) .

      I always appreciate your words :-) .


  1. Freshmen: Wondering About Textbooks & What To Call Your Prof? Just Ask! - [...] already wrote about five college success tips that you don’t have to take. This was in response to college ...

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