Get the FAQs for college student academics

Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, college students have many questions. Some are perennial favorites, like why do I have to take electives. Others concern study habits and best strategies for a term paper. Here are a few answers to frequently asked questions and some college tips to help you get a student advantage in your academics.

College academics can be a cinch with the right tools. (Credit: Johnny Lopez & Randall Salazar)

College academics can be a cinch with the right tools. (Credit: Johnny Lopez & Randall Salazar)

Are electives not related to my major a waste of time?

Actually no, and we’ll tell you why… “As you progress through your degree, … you will see that Biology is related to Psychology, which is related to Literature and Drama, which are related to Music, which is related to Math, which is related to Chemistry, which is related to Biology. The classes outside of your major are not a waste of time, but rather are the classes that help you to make more sense of your major and fill out your ‘well-rounded’ view of the world,” according to “Frequently Asked Questions” on the University of Saskatchewan website.

Should I highlight my textbook? If so, what’s the best way?

Highlighting in a textbook is a great idea to boost your learning in academics. When you are studying for a test, you can easily reread the chapters to find the most important information presented or information you need some extra help understanding. Use a main color for general information and a contrasting color for headings and bold-faced terms or vocabulary.

Onondaga Community College offers tips in its Academic Tips and Techniques: Highlighting Textbooks post: “You will get it right if you read a paragraph or a section, think about what you’ve read, then mark it. Aim for no more that 20 – 30 percent highlighted. Pay special attention to terms, definitions, & examples; topics & lists; and main points… When you finish your reading session go back and reread only what you have marked… Does the information you have focused on make sense and give you a good shorthand version of the overall assignment?”

What kinds of things should I see the professor for?

The professor is not your nanny or your parent. He or she is your academics advisor and guide for learning and understanding your school work. See the professor for help with:

• Learning how you’re doing so far in the class and if you need extra help

• Understanding the material better

• Finding resources for further research

• Learning how to study more effectively

• Getting advice on other classes to take

• Getting one-on-one time with someone who cares about your academics

Also, respect your professor’s space and office hours. Don’t approach him in the Men’s Room, and don’t expect to discuss your grade while she’s eating lunch.

What do I do if I’ve missed too many classes or an assignment deadline?

First, see the professor (see above!). Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to make up classes, tests and term paper assignments. If you’re just a deadbeat, you’re probably out of luck. The key is to prevent this from happening again. Get plenty of sleep so you don’t miss morning classes. Start on long projects, such as term papers, well in advance of the deadline.

Make yourself an academics calendar so you know exactly what is due when. Calendars can be anything you like: yellow sticky notes, a daily planner you carry in your bag, a big paper wall calendar with dates circled in red or … “Don’t hesitate to use technology. There are so many electronic planners and online organizers that it kind of seems silly not to use them. The computer you’re using right now most likely has a calendar program that is a perfectly acceptable way of reminding you about important dates,” advises a writer on Campus Explorer in “Create a College Calendar: Track College Prep Deadlines.”

Are study groups beneficial in college academics?

That depends on how best you learn. If you’re a solitary person who trusts your own ability to concentrate, memorize and understand the material, you might not get much out of a study group. However, if you’re the social type who really feeds off other people’s knowledge and enthusiasm, definitely join a study group.

In a study group:

• Students help each other understand difficult subject matter

• The group helps you see the material in a way you may not have thought

• Study buddies are companions in academics who keep you grounded and disciplined

• For big projects, study group members can each concentrate on the portion they’re good at.

What other questions might you have to help improve your college academics experience? Let us know in the comments.

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