Succeeding in first year

Everyone back home is really impressed with you. You’ve landed yourself in university – a feat that generally takes hard work and dedication.

Unfortunately those awe-stuck gazes stop here. Welcome to university; you are not impressive.

Your high school counselors were right when they said that university will be a learning curve; not only are you going to have to refocus your learning style, but university has all kinds of crazy new distractions that are bound to get in the way of your success.

This brief article is not meant to dissuade you from the fun new opportunities that university life offers (partying, socializing, living in filth), rather, it will outline some tips to consider if succeeding in university is amongst your life goals.

Telling you that getting straight As is easy would be a lie, as getting an A takes hard work and diligence.

What I will say is that getting straight As is simple. All you really need to succeed is common sense and any semblance of a little work ethic.

You don’t even need common sense; I’ll spare you the thought process and lay out some tips for you.

Tip one, mostly how well you do in a class is, shockingly, determined by your behavior in lecture.

Lecture is where everything comes together. You’re not going to get the point of the class based only on the readings. You need the lecture to guide you through the subject matter.

The Arts is all about ‘so what’s’ and overlapping themes. If you do not dedicate your brain to following the narrative of the lecture, don’t expect that you will be able to understand the class.

To fully appreciate a lecture you need to be present. And I don’t mean just dozing, texting or playing laptop games in the back of the class. To make the most of a lecture you need to sit near the front of the class and be completely absorbed in what the professor is saying.

That means no texting and no fooling around on your computer. Not only are those things completely distracting and a ridiculous use of your time, but it’s so obviously disrespectful to your classmates and your professor. Spend your time in class engaging in discussion and taking notes.

If you engage properly you will find that it will affect the quality of both your participation in discussion and your notes.

Notes, contrary to popular belief are not meant to be an exact copy of all the facts provided to you by the professor either on the board or on Powerpoint. In an information age, such as the one we are in, you can find those facts anywhere.

Your notes should be used to record what the professor is saying, what points they’re emphasizing, what stories they’re telling, as well as your own thoughts.

Whether or not you get an A doesn’t depend on facts that you can recite, but rather, how well you can think.

This leads us to tip two: while you can’t rely on readings alone to get you through a class, they are an essential compliment to your engagement in class.

Readings help construct the big picture of your course and will ultimately give you the subject matter on which you will develop your own thoughts and opinions.

If you don’t do your readings you will have a fundamentally incomplete understanding of the class. Also, you don’t look cool when you don’t do your readings, you look oblivious.

Finally, the last and easiest tip: select classes you’re interested in. Honestly, if you don’t care about a class, don’t go. You won’t be able to participate or learn anything if you’re completely apathetic.

If you don’t care about a class you will drop down a grade and to be honest, it’s really frustrating to your classmates who actually care about the subject matter.

Altogether, your key to success at university doesn’t depend on how well you’re taught, but whether you accept responsibility for your own learning experience.

Getting an A does not mean that you’ve played the game right, it means you’ve actually learned something.