by Dr Boyce Watkins
Some people think that getting through college is difficult, and some think it’s easy. Even more of a mystery is how to get through college with good grades. Personally, I made horrible grades in high school and didn’t think I was prepared for college. However, I realized that when I followed a few simple rules, college was actually a piece of cake.
Once I figured out the right way to study (not by reading a book, but by using common sense), it was like solving a puzzle that my friends couldn’t understand. When they were cramming at the library, I was on the basketball court. When they were stressed out about whether they would get a passing grade, I was wondering if I had an A or an A-minus. I’d never known this feeling before, and when I finally felt the power of being the best student in the class, I never let it go.
So, in the spirit of sharing with those who may have not yet solved the puzzle, I thought I’d give you a few of the tips and tricks I learned along the way. Again, this wasn’t rocket science…it was just a matter of applying the very same tools that have worked for almost everything else I’ve accomplished in my life since the day I left college.
Here’s what to do if you want to be a straight A college student:
1) Study 4 – 6 hours a day. This may seem like a lot, but when you get a job, you’ll be working 8 – 10 hours a day, so this is actually easier than being on the job. If you want to make even better grades, then put in more time. A person can never study too much, and people who eventually run the world tend to be those who pushed to the limits of exhaustion. If you have friends who don’t think you should study on Saturday nights, ignore them. These same people will be begging you for a job a few years down the road. Tomorrow belongs to those who put in the effort today.
2) Be consistent and don’t wait till the last minute. You can’t shove a month’s worth of information inside your brain the day before the test. I see students try this all the time, and all they do is stress themselves into a coma. College should be a time when you’re working hard and having fun, not a time when you’re wondering if you should jump off the balcony to avoid disappointing your parents. The key to staying on top of your classes is to put in a little time every single day and not letting things pile up. That way, the pressure is miminal at exam time.
3) Switch topics every 45 minutes, so your brain can focus on something else. I personally believe that I have unmedicated ADHD, at least that’s what my teachers told me. But I found that by simply allowing myself to switch topics every 45 minutes or so, I could put in long hours without having to endure the boredom of staring at the same topic for six hours in a row. It’s really a matter of finding a way to make studying fun; it doesn’t have to feel like torture.
4) If you’re tired, go take a nap. Your brain is better off when it’s rested. A sleepy brain is an unproductive brain. So, pulling all-nighters and working far longer than your body and brain want to go will only make you unhappy and unsuccessful. Sleep is an important part of your psychological functioning, so I suggest taking breaks when you get tired or bored. Just make sure you pick up your books again after you wake up.
5) Study in a place that is well-lit with no distractions. When there is background noise, you may think you’re learning, but really it’s going to take you three times longer to absorb the same information. Studying with the TV on or while listening to music is a good way to make you feel like you’re doing something, when in fact, nothing is getting done. It’ll also make you wonder why you’re studying all day, every day and still failing your tests. Study by yourself, in a quiet place, with good lighting. That way, you can knock out your homework and then go do something else. Don’t even bring your friends with you if you don’t have to, unless they know how to work without talking. Some people are good to have around in social settings, but need to be put to the side when you’re handling business.
By being efficient and smart with your studying, you can put in your time, get solid rewards, and still have all the fun you want. By studying the wrong way, you’ll end up putting in more time than most, stressed till your hair falls out, and mad that you worked your butt off and still failed your test. Another important thing to realize is that your education is probably the most important thing you’ll ever obtain. The hard work you put in today will pay off for the rest of your life. I’m 43-years old and still benefitting from choices I made when I was 19. I’m glad I made the right decision and didn’t follow the crowd.
Remember: Smart is the new black. Use education to fulfill your destiny.
Dr Boyce Watkins has been teaching at the college level for 20 years. In college, he graduated with a triple major in Finance, Economics and Business Management and was the Wall Street Journal Outstanding Graduating Senior. In his year of graduation, he was the only African American in the world to earn a PhD in Finance during the year 2002. He is also the author of the books, “Everything you ever wanted to know about college,” and “Black American Money: How black power can thrive in a capitalist society.”