9 Ways to be a Better Student: Part 1 Perspective
Why be a better student?
If you had a ticket to a lifetime of a fulfilling, interesting and challenging career, what would you do with it?
Well, surprisingly, you can! Though, you have to work for it. You are the creator of your own ticket! As a matter of fact, you are deciding what to do with it. Whether you are someone who loves school and naturally excels in a classroom setting, or rather, you are someone who finds school less than appealing, it is important that you treat your educational “ticket” with care, respect, and diligence. With the right attention, it just might set you up for the rest of your life.
Surely, you do not need us to convince you how important school is. You already know it and that is why you are here. For many people school can feel like a frustrating and out-of-control experience. Consequently, we hear students say things like, “I’m just not good at school” or “I just don’t get this.” Do NOT fall into the trap of believing that your potential is limited in this way. If you are feeling frustrated with school, it might be because you have not been taught the strategies and study skills to set you up for success.
These skills are so important, whether you are in school or not, because many of them will play a role in your life outside of school. Most importantly, these skills can become generational. If you can master being a student, you can teach your family and children how to be great students too.
*Shameless Plug Alert! Summarizing information from dense passages is a terrific way to retain information and make reviewing your notes easier! So, if you forget what those two paragraphs described, no need to re-read them, read the summary!
Becoming a Better Student
To understand how to crack the code of learning in a classroom environment, we’ll need to develop some broad skills and some more specific ones. First, we will begin by understanding the broad stroke skills, then we will deep dive. These are categories of important skills like perspective, time management, and organization. However, it is important that we dive into specific skills, so you understand exactly how to revolutionize your student experience. These are active learning skills like note taking, in-class habits, and reading skills.
We will be discussing 9 topics in this 3-part series in particular:
A. Find purpose
B. Activate curiosity, on purpose
C. Own your education
A. Get the tools that you need: supplies, books, etc.
B. Keep track of your assignments
C. Managing self-care
A. Prioritize your priorities
B. Create a schedule
C. Be adaptive
*Shameless Plug Alert! Reading an outline ahead of reading material can help your mind to prepare to absorb material. In other words, if your brain knows what to expect before digesting content, it’ll understand it sooner and better. If you are not provided with outlines, no worries! Get the same effect by skimming a textbook chapter or passage before fully reading it.
Generally, Attitude is always half the battle.
And, I know, what you’re thinking, “But invisible writer, I can’t control my attitude!”
Well invisible reader, I have news for you. Yes, you can. You ABSOLUTELY can!
Essentially, this is a skill that could quite possibly revolutionize your life. Choosing our attitudes and living our lives on purpose changes everything. Why? Doing things that we do not want to do is just downright difficult, instead we can reframe. If we can trick our brains (teach our brains) to want to do it, it automatically becomes easier. But how? Let’s break it down.
Find Your “Why”
If you are going to teach your brain to love school, you’re going to have to understand why you are in school. We did some work on this at the beginning of the article (see “Why be a better student?”). But we must go deeper. Your why is going to be different than mine, different from your friend’s, and different from your spouse’s. That is why it can be challenging to find. For your “why” to really work, it should extend beyond yourself and your future. Heck! It should even extend beyond your family (though family is usually at least part of the equation).
Let’s play a game. Bear with me. Answer these questions (in writing!) and follow the instructions.
Why am I pursuing a career in [INSERT CAREER]?
Obviously, if your answer involves your family, your desire for a stable income, benefits of work environment, or location, that’s great. These are all very good reasons to choose a career, but right now, we need to go deeper. Answer the question again. This time, you cannot use ANY of the reasons I just mentioned.
Why am I pursuing a career in [INSERT CAREER]?
Okay, great, you’re getting closer. What is coming up for you? What purpose might you find in this career? Who can you help? What difference can you make? What need in your community will you fill? How will that make you feel? With these questions in mind. Answer the question one more time.
Why am I pursuing a career in [INSERT CAREER]?
Struggling with this exercise? Read more about what it means to have purpose as a student by reading How Can Students Find Purpose.
Great job. Save what you wrote down. Take a picture of it on your phone. You’re growing your mindset already. You will want to keep this in mind for the next section.
Activate Curiosity: On Purpose
You’ve done it. Previously, you narrowed down your purpose and your “why.” Now we need to start using it. Activating curiosity is an important strategy for the best students. It is all about teaching our brains that we enjoy learning. This involves some mental reframing and a specific skill. Next time you are about to read a passage or learn something new, start with a question. Let’s go through an example.
You are a student in “Beckfield’s College of Being a Better Student.” Your instructor assigned you to read “9 Ways to be a Better Student: Part 1 Perspective.” You’re a little annoyed because it looks like a long read, but you’ve been paying attention in your Being a Better Student 101 class, so you know what to do. Here’s your to-do list to tackle this reading.
- Write down the assignment in your planner (Topic | Page Numbers | Due Date)
- Skim the text and look for an outline or summary
- Activate Curiosity: Ask yourself a question about the text. Examples:
“ I wonder why it is important to find my purpose in my education.”
“ How can I make approaching boring topics more interesting by activating my curiosity?”
“ Why should I become a better student?”
- Deep read the text with your question in mind. Answer your question as you read.
Skim before deep reading, to activate your curiosity. After skimming the text, ask yourself a question about. What is something you might find interesting or curious about? This looks different for everyone.
Want to read more about the power of activating curiosity? Check out Science Space: Activate Curiosity.
*Shameless Plug Alert! Creating your own exam questions or imaginary exercises can be a fantastic way to solidify new knowledge!
Own Your Education
Earlier, we identified our “why” and leveraged it to teach our minds to be curious about material before we consume it. Lastly, it is time for the specifics! I promised you we would start broad and go more specifically, and here we are.
How else can we own our education and make it a wonderful experience?
- Form professional relationships with your instructors.
Introduce yourself after class on the first day and make an effort to meet and talk to your instructor. This can make going to office hours or asking for help more manageable in the future. Instructors love to see that their students care.
- Ask Questions
If you are going to own your education, you have to be responsible for it! Don’t fall behind. When you have a question, ask it, or write it down to ask at the end of class. Instructors love to see students advocating for themselves and paying attention. It will show that you are dedicated and attentive.
- Go to Office Hours / Request Appointments
If you find yourself feeling helpless or hopeless in a class, you’ve waited too late. So, as soon as material begins to feel overwhelming or your grades begin dropping, reach out to your instructor for an office hour or appointment. Ask questions like, “How do you recommend I prepare for your exams?” “I’m feeling overwhelmed with reading this textbook, how do you suggest I approach it?” “Do you recommend any specific study tactics for this class?” Your instructor is your #1 resource. Use them.
Do you want to read about more strategies to own your education? Check out 10 Ways to Take Control of Your Own Studies (Even While You’re Still at School).
At last, this is where we part ways, for now. You are now undoubtedly armed with everything you need to improve your perspective and teach your brain to love learning. At the present time, if you need some reading material, check out the related blog How to Be Succesful in Nursing School where Dean of Nursing, Dr. Smith-Clay, shared her tips for success as a student.
However, this stuff only works if you practice it. Go! Practice for a while and stay tuned for Part 2: Organization. In the meantime, find your why, activate curiosity and own your education. We believe in you.
– Beckfield College