Monday, April 17, 2017

How to do Good in College When ur not That Smart

             Here lies a guide to make college your b (with A's). If you take my advice, you will succeed. If you don't succeed with flying colors, you will most definitely pass, and D's get degrees, remember? If you don't take my advice, you will be stressed, you will get pregnant, and die. Just take my advice. Okay?

           Disclaimer: I can help you graduate with a 4.0, Summa Cum Laude, while being completely average intellectually. Do not, I repeat DO NOT ask me how to get a job after you graduate, because I have no idea. I will not tell you what I do for a living but I will tell you it has to do with tips and an extensive knowledge of alcohol. That leaves you with two main choices: I work in a restaurant, or I work at a strip club. I will leave it for you to decide. In addition to that, please note my college experience was different than yours so this is probably completely irrelevant/impossible advice. Let's just say, you went to Cancun during spring break, and I got married during spring break.

           Let me start with a little background of my educational history. I went to a nice elementary school. I know that because my sixth grade class was almost entirely Asian. I went to middle school and I did fine academically, not socially (because it's middle school). In high school I literally could not have cared less about class, but I did care about my social well-being. I cared about getting twelve varsity letters. I didn't even get an award and I am 99% sure that is a school record (Oh sorry, "cheerleading isn't a sport," I forgot. Never mind!). I cared about getting perfect attendance in seminary. Seminary is Mormon school at 6:00am every morning and I never missed a day (I didn't get an award for that either). I cared about winning student government elections every year so I could have a free third-period each day to pretend like I cared about the canned food-drive. Those are the three things where I focused my energy. I never studied for anything. I turned things in super late, unfinished, or never. I missed school all the time because I was the queen of faking sick. I'm serious, just say you have ongoing diarrhea and no one can or will question you. I got out of a gymnastics meet with that one. I took the easiest classes possible (discrete math, am I right?). I talked the whole way through every class even when my teacher tried to isolate me. Looking back I feel pretty terrible about it all, especially the teachers who saw potential and I let them down. At the same time, I really enjoyed high school and I had a great, stress free, time.

        I graduated with a C average in a school full of ambitious overachievers, and I was totally okay with that. I never thought about college until I felt through the peer pressure of friends with real dreams that it was time to apply. I applied to one school, a small LDS liberal arts school that I knew I would get into. Perhaps it was the cost of tuition or my BYU transfer plan, but for some reason I still don't know, I started to care the moment I stepped on campus. I became highly organized, I refused to cheat, I quietly sat in the front row and genuinely cared, I studied for everything, I had a few jobs at a time, I never missed class, and I did every assignment to the best of my abilities. Despite being happy there, after two years I transferred to WVU, the number one party school, and I continued to practice those same new habits.

     Since graduation I've compiled a list of tips for succeeding in college. This is what worked for me, and while most of these tips are completely psycho and really just relevant to my freaking weird personality and lifestyle, maybe something will be of use to you. I had to do a lot of these things because I am not that smart. To do well I have to work. I have to study multiple times for days or weeks leading up to an exam. I am not like my brothers, who study for nothing, show up, and do just as well naturally. So if you are one of those people, skip this post and don't judge. Alright, here it goes!

1. Make a schedule that works for YOU.
My cheer coach told me to never schedule a class before 10am. I knew that was absolute rubbish because I wasn't planning on having a social life. I want my classes as early as possible, with no gaps between them, on the same days. I would take classes I knew were out of my league or of little interest to me specifically for the sake of my schedule. I put myself in a masters level history course on the Third Reich just because it filled a gap (it ended up being the most challenging and rewarding course I ever took in college). Make sure you sign up for classes the minute scheduling opens online to insure you get a schedule you actually like. This is so much easier at a big school with options, but at a college of 700 students, you have to act fast. When it came to a schedule, I wanted to be on and off campus as soon as possible so I could do my work and then watch Netflix.

2. Do everything you can from the start and manage your time obsessively with LISTS.
I never once pulled an all-nighter despite cramming in tons of credits and working a couple jobs at a time. As a matter of fact, I never even stayed up past 11pm to work on school (though I would wake up crazy early if needed). I burned through dozens of little mini spiral notebooks which had detailed to-do lists and schedules accounting for every thirty minutes of my day down to what I ate and whether or not I needed to wash my hair. With my notebooks, I would always know how much time I would have/need to get things done, and I wouldn't forget about assignments and obligations, even if it meant waking up at 5am to go to the library. If you take the semester seriously from the start, by the time the final rolls around and everyone is freaking out (feel free to chuckle at their lack of preparation. You deserve it), you can calculate the lowest possible score you can earn and still receive A in the class. Finals week was a breeze every semester, every year, because of planning well from day one.

3. Care or at least pretend to care.
Sit in the front or towards the front. Pay attention and write stuff down on paper, not a laptop. Don't be a suck-up and ask questions and make comments for the sake of talking and being noticed. You waste time. I don't like you. I would show teachers I cared by simply showing up on time consistently, doing all of my work, and getting to know them a little tiny bit without being obnoxious. They usually appreciated the effort, considering a vast majority of kids showed no interest whatsoever. However, If you show your professors you care too much they might fall in love with you. Be careful.

4. Show up.
Calculate how much tuition costs divided into the hours you spend in class and you will show up. If that doesn't work, understand what an awesome opportunity it is to get a formal education. Be grateful and take advantage of that. Not everyone will have that opportunity. It makes me really upset to see students blow off classes habitually. I would allow myself one day off per class per semester and I would make sure it was a day I knew I could afford to miss ahead of time. Find a friend to swap notes with on day one in case either of you miss class. Make sure it's mutual and don't find a parasite. I made that mistake once.

5. Form coalitions, not study groups.
When was the last time a study group actually helped you study? Study groups are a hard-to-arrange waste of time. I only ever participated in one that worked effectively. My best method was to find a one or two reliable classmates that I could share the workload with. We didn't have to be friends and we didn't have to meet outside of school. You know those study guides with one hundred vocabulary words, six possible prompts, and only a fraction will be on the test? Yeah, find a partner to do half of them (with all sources made very clear), make a deadline, and then swap them. This type of method saved me SO MUCH time. Also, if your partner is not done by the deadline, *nicely* tell them you won't send your half of the work and they can do it all by themselves. Passive aggressively freak them out a bit. This worked like a charm for me. Along with this topic I am going to offer my psycho advice for group assignments where the group grade is your grade. The only way you can guarantee good work is if you do everything by yourself. If you know for a fact someone else in the group is reliable, then work with them. Give everyone else menial tasks that makes them feel special but not stressed. "Hey guys, I will do the research, the poster, the written paper, and the verbal presentation if you pick the poster color scheme and bring chips and salsa on presentation day." This worked for me every time, even if it meant more work to guarantee a good grade. Trust no one.

6. Pick a major you can work with and find work with.
Yeah, I had to pick the most generic major (Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology) for some reasons I won't get into right now and found myself unable to study something more specific, where I had natural talent, potential, and interest. Don't be like me. Don't rush. Take time off to save up or find what you really love first. Start at a community college to knock out your General Ed if you need to. Don't feel bad about not starting at a major university first. Most of those kids will drop out anyway.

7. Take care of yourself.
I guess since I didn't party in college this part came a bit easier for me. My first semester away from home and eating in a dining hall with a chocolate milk machine contributed to fast weight gain. Because it was pre-paid for the semester rather than pay as you go, I felt pressure to make the most of it. However, my first semester on my own in apartment with two vegans worked wonders on my health. I was in charge of my own food and ate all day long (I call it grazing) rather than three separate times in the cafeteria. I lived off of black beans, brown rice, peanut butter, some fruit, and frozen veggies. I went to the gym a couple times a week at most but made sure my health was a priority by walking more, drinking water, and sleeping. A lot of college kids think to eat cheap they have to eat ramen noodles every day. Beans and rice are dirt cheap and far better for you. Lastly, try to not rely on coffee and alcohol to survive. You will feel better and save a ton of money.

8. Don't go 100% all-out with everything.
Okay, this one might make some people a little mad. There is no possible way you can do everything so don't even try. You have to pick which things are a priority. For example, it is not possible to do all the reading associated with your schedule in most cases, especially if you're in the humanities like I was. Find a way you can skate by without reading as much as possible. You have to find out what your professors are looking for from the readings. Most of the time it is just assigned but never mentioned in class. Skip those all together. They just want to make you buy a book. Sometimes, there will be a quiz based off of readings. Read it full out the first time and then based off of the quiz or test, see how you can get away with reading significantly less for the next time. Sometimes you can develop a formula to help you find what you think the teacher will ask. Just skim and focus on those parts. Other times, you will have to write a paper based off of one or more books. Those are easy to just skim and highlight important parts you can feature in your paper. Try to find a summary of the book online if possible, but usually with such obscure readings, it isn't. I magically completed four years of college, at the top of most of my courses, without ever reading a full book. That might offend you. It is just what worked for me and saved me hundreds of hours.
Another way I didn't go 100% was by figuring out the bare minimum amount of work needed to achieve an A on an assignment. This varies from professor to professor. Take the time to figure out early on what is needed to do well. The least amount you can get away with, the better. Every time I tried to go overboard to impress a teacher, it only left more room for unnecessary errors.
While this isn't directly related to school, I almost never put 100% of effort into my hair, makeup, or outfits. The way you look at school really doesn't matter and no one else cares how you look. My freshman year I ended up losing so much hair by washing it daily, in addition to stress, that I took the entire year to train my hair to last longer between washes. I got up to washing it only once a week and this saved me time, water, energy, and hair loss. I didn't bother with makeup a majority of the time and I just dressed to be comfortable. Don't dress disrespectfully comfortable at PJ level, but a good "athlesiure" look can't hurt.

9. Sleep well and nap often.
It might just be that I require a lot of sleep, as much as I wish I didn't need to, but I napped a lot in college. I would leave a little hour long spot on my schedule to nap or relax any time possible. I quickly realized I can only study in small doses broken up my many naps and for some reason I retained information so much better that way. My first month of my freshman year, I was getting in bed around 9:30pm and getting up at 7:00am for my daily 8:00am classes. This didn't last long because I met D but I still made getting to bed early a priority. Do NOT pull all-nighters and do not cram study at the last possible second. It won't work. Plan ahead and make sure you get your sleep. This was of course no problem for me because I had no social life.

10. Ask for help.
If you need help in a course (or with anything for that matter) it is crucial to find that help, no matter who it is from, as soon as possible. I am terrible at math and saw one of my professors during her office hours every week for the entire semester to ensure I could fully understand the material. I desperately needed that extra hour per week in order to succeed in the course. In addition to seeking help, offer to help others as well. Make time for people who are struggling. It will benefit you too.

11. Just ignore me and do you. 
Just do what works for you. Experiment and find a way to get the things done that really matter. If you feel the need to do all readings full out, do it! If you want to party every night, go for it, just make sure you allot enough time for school. Being social was not a priority for me. I made amazing friends through classes, church, work, and cheerleading and that was all I needed. Once I got to WVU I had my husband and my dog and my goal was to finish school to the best of my abilities, as fast as possible. If I could go back and start over, I would have kept a daily journal, saved all of my class notes/assignments, and taken more time to select a major.

               College is a time for you to push yourself, get to know yourself, try/learn new things, and set a foundation for your future career. Do whatever it is you need to do to accomplish those things. Don't throw it away, don't take it for granted, and don't waste your time.

 P.S. The mini spiral notebooks books that got me through college can be found HERE. I use them daily for ideas, to-do lists, shopping lists, and scheduling.


1 comment:

  1. This is one of your funniest-truest-most insightful post - just loved it!!! Honest and refreshing as always!!!