It takes a serious survival instinct to make it through school. It's one of the hardest environments in which to thrive, but these students have come together to share their secrets and make the school experience a little easier.
Here were some of the answers.
Find time to get some exercise in.
All of that grab n go/fast food catches up to you fast
I got fat as f*ck in college and have since lost all that weight. I wish I made time to at least squeeze in a 30 min workout every other day.
For all my fellow commuters out there: Meal Prep!
You will save so much money by making some rice and chicken at home instead of buying some food every day. I used to buy subway twice a week as i was at school for a long time of those days. I just started to do meal prep and i feel so much better about not spending that much money anymore.
I Know Nothing, Jon Snow
If you need to participate in group discussion but aren't sure about the material, ask intelligent questions instead of trying to answer what you don't get - it'll buy you time and you'll still be participating.
See the professor/ta during their office hours if you need extra help understanding something. No one comes to office hours and they're usually really happy to help.
My classmate took up a strict 9-5 school schedule, right from the first semester. Every day, he'd work 9-5. He was either in class, working on homework, or studying if he got everything done. At 5pm, he'd pack up his stuff and was done for the day.
He had all his homework done way ahead of schedule and never had to pull all nighters or waste weekends on homework. He was never stressed out or anything like that because he'd spent time studying when he wasn't slammed with homework.
I could never manage it because I'd rather procrastinate and start 3 hours before it was due, but it seemed like the best way to do it.
You can google by file type. Using the syntax
filetype:pdf Name of the Textbook I Need
will often give you downloadable versions and save you hundreds of dollars. Plus being able to ctrl+f a textbook is a lifesaver.
This of course can be applied to any other file extension
Tricking Your Brain
If you don't know how to study, or have a hard time getting yourself to do homework: Get a friend to buddy with.
My ADHD a** can't study to save my life, but if my friend is in the room concentrating on that sh*t, I feel like I don't want to be left out, and I'll buckle down so we're on the same page.
If you can't manufacture executive function, peer pressure is fine too.
Please, Please, Please
As someone who just graduated college, do yourself a favor and actually go to class. You're paying for the chair (if you're in the US) and there is research on a correlation between greater absences= greater likelihood to fail a course. I know you hate the class, but go. I might literally be begging.
Your goal is to find the bathroom on campus that's used infrequently and find out when they clean it. When you find the perfect time and location, don't tell anyone until you graduate.
You've got to play the meta-game. If your lazy and unorganized like me, you won't have time to properly study for everything and complete every assignment. That's when you look at the grade distribution and start with the items that are worth the most.
Reminders For My Sanity
All my college student friends out there:
Make sure to give yourself enough time to sleep every day.
Get a little exercise when you can. It helps relieve stress and works to counter all the cup-o-noodles you're likely chowing down on.
Personal hygiene is huge. Shower every day, brush your teeth, wash your hands. It'll make you happier and believe me when I say that people can ABSOLUTELY tell when you don't do these things, regardless of how well you try to mask it with deodorant/gum.
It may be tempting to relax first and wait to do projects/papers later before they are due, but if you do the opposite you will find that there is WAY less stress involved.
Meal prep is a great way to make sure you are eating well while saving as much time as possible during the week.
Talk to your instructors. Get to know them. Their advice can be invaluable in knowing what they expect in the classwork and homework, and after you graduate you will want to ask them for letters of recommendation for jobs. If you don't have a relationship with them they are less likely to give you one.
Likewise, talk with your classmates. Lifelong friends are made in college, sometimes in the most unlikely circumstances/classes. I was a history major and met one of my best friends in a seminar class about genocide, we went out for ice cream and watched cartoons after each class to cheer ourselves up. And now nine years later we still meet up once a week for ice cream.
Remember that no matter how stressed you get, how hopeless things may seem when the world seems to be putting you under as much pressure as possible: There are always people out there who care and who want to help you. Most colleges have student counselors who you can talk with for free and get things off your chest. The college where I work also has a "Zen Den" where you can go to relax, sit quietly in a bean bag chair or hammock, and just get away from things for a minute. Chances are yours may have similar resources for students.
And finally, always remember: You are loved. You are enough. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are irreplaceable.
If you want to use Wikipedia when writing an academic essay, just cite the sources that Wikipedia cites. Not only does it reduce your workload a lot, but it makes it look like you've done a ton of reading during your research which your professor will be really impressed by.
Become Who You Are
Throw yourself into the course. Network like a maniac. Help out on projects that are tied to professional businesses. Volunteer. Long gone are the days of being paid to start the best band in the world. You are paying for a service so get the most out of it.
Or don't go and get a job instead. Master that, make cash money, train and get qualifications.
Or f*ck about with a minimum wage job, do the festivals, travel, hike up mountains and camp under the stars, join the greatest band in the world or learn to paint. Do something while you learn what you really want to do.
Mostly? Wear sunscreen.
Teachers Gonna Teach
Teacher here, but I work with hundreds of students every day.
Here's the 100% best school hack ever. ASK QUESTIONS! If you're confused about something, ask. If you forgot something, ask. If you need something explained again or in a different way, ask. Ask, ask, ask.
Teachers choose the job they are in because they want to educate. We aren't doing it for the hours, the pay, the prestige, the summers off, or the joy of working with apathetic children and their angry parents. We stay in the career because we want to make the future generations better than those that came before.
Most of the time, we can't help you if you don't let us know you need help. Ask, ask, ask, and ask some more. If the teacher doesn't want to help you, keep asking around until you find someone who will.
Also, learn to ask good questions. Don't just say "I don't get it," because that's not a question and the teacher (or whomever you are asking) has nothing specific to go on. Instead, say, "What do you mean by these directions?" or "What am I supposed to do here?" That helps narrow down where your struggles are and lets the teacher zero in on how best to help you.
College instructor here. Here are my best tips for getting good grades in my classes:
- Read your syllabus. It'll tell you what the assignments are and how much they're worth for your total grade, so if you're in a situation where you're in a time crunch and have to choose between doing two assignments, you can do the one that's worth a larger percentage of your grade. Not that I advise skipping homework, but if you have to, you have to.
- Get a calendar and plan ahead. At the beginning of the term, you should write down when the tests are, but also the due dates of the large projects. Then, working backward, set milestones about how far you should be on the project so you don't procrastinate and try to cram it all in at the end. Once you have a plan set up, follow it.
- Do the work with the intent of the question in mind, not the literal wording. Instructors aren't always perfect in their wording, so if a question says something like "Do an internet search for software to help you in [whatever discipline] and explain what you find, do what you know the professor is asking, don't just write "I did a Google search and a bunch of links came up." You won't get points for being clever.
- Use correct grammar and spelling. You'll get a bad grade if I have to decode your answers.
- DON'T use services like Quillbot or Chegg. If your answer comes too close to the textbook company's answer on a short-answer question, you're going to get flagged as a potential plagiarist, and I'm going to watch your answers like a hawk for the rest of the term. Just do the work as assigned. It's not that hard (unless you're going into medicine or physics or something like that, in which case it is that hard, but you need to actually learn it, so you should do the work anyway).
- Do projects outside of school that are related to your field of study. This stuff stands out in a big way when it's time to get a job. When an interviewer asks "What did you do outside of class" and you can say that you worked on a project related to your field, you'll see the interviewer's eyes light up.
- Learn how to eat like an adult. A lot of people never learn how to do this. Good nutrition will not only keep your weight in check, but you'll have more energy during the day (and for study sessions at night). And Coffee =/= energy.
- Learn to drink like an adult. Binge drinking will make you feel awful, and will take you days to recover. Have a good time, but know your limits and be safe.
- Don't come to class high. I will know, and you'll be branded as "that kid who comes to class high."
- Use the opportunity to meet people that aren't like you. Sounds corny, but we all live in our own bubbles, and school is a great place to learn about cultures unlike your own.
Good luck, students!
Buy a Crock-Pot and find some cheap recipes online. Saves time, money, and you get more nutrients than cheap ramen soup. Also, depending on how big it is, you might be set for at least a week's worth of food.
An Essay On An Essay
How about how to actually write a decent essay?
There's all sorts of college "hacks" out there, but what about the one that makes everybody squirm? Once you learn how to write a college paper, you'll want to die a little less. Read below.
First fundamental rule: Schmooze the professor by agreeing with his logic. Come on. Easiest trick in the fucking book. Don't be a total kiss ass though. Also, avoid big ticket issues if you get some freedom with topics. Do you really think your professor wants to read ANOTHER paper on abortion or gun rights? You need to be a hipster here to get some attention.
(Though i have to admit, writing an essay explaining the benefits of slavery to my black African Studies professor was just...awkward. I choose the economics route. There's a reason the Confederacy couldn't produce jack shit for firearms during the Civil War and it has a lot to do with lack of mechanization.)
Every essay of any given length starts with a general set of rules that must be known and applied. Failure to do so will result in suffering and poor grades.
- Avoid unnecessary bullshit. Does that sentence need to go there? No? Get rid of it, or move it. Students tend to write stupid, irrelevant shit in a futile attempt to pad their essays. If you follow the instructions below, you won't need to pad your essays, because there will already be enough padding in them! If it is truly relevant but only has one sentence, consider exploring it further. It may fan itself out into an entire paragraph.
- No I or me statements unless requested by the professor. Third person only. Need a feel for this? Read a few academic articles on the subject of your choosing. Notice how things are written. It's rather dry, unfortunately, but it gets A's.
- Correct formatting is a must. Thankfully, templates are available on-line for all major academic formatting styles, meaning you can focus on typing and then slapping it into the template document at the end. Again, as mentioned in the prior post, Citation Machine is a must. Cite your works as you go. Keep a copy of cited works for yourself if you can. The Purdue Owl is a must. Your professor is going to make you buy the APA/MLA/Chicago Tribune book. You'll likely never read it, because all the information in that book is concisely written on the Internet, and more specifically, on the Purdue Owl, with nicely formatted sample text so you can figure out how to cite a page in your essay text and move on with your life.
- Run your shit by your teacher at least once, preferably twice, when 1/2 to 3/4 of the work is done. They can prevent catastrophic fuckups. Nothing is worse than having to rewrite a paper in three days.
- Understand that this process takes time. You will still fail horribly if you try this in one night. Pace it out over two weeks, though three is best if you can afford the time. That way you can muse on the work and get some nice, solid ideas for analysis. Half my decent ideas came at the bus stop or while walking home from class. You can't squeeze out really good ideas like that if it's 3AM and you're in the library.
- A correctly written academic paragraph can run at least ten to twenty sentences. it gets worse if you can actually can explain it in detail.
- Understand that at the end of it all, you really are just polishing a turd. And since Mythbusters proved you can do such a thing, you can too.
- Ideally, you'll want to have some ideas listed out. Since drawing diagrams and storyboards and all that seemed like stupid, pointless bullshit to me, I simply wrote down a shopping list of ideas that would form each paragraph. Not a lot of detail, usually one or two core sentences. It's a start....
- Unless your University's Writing Workshop is in cahoots with your professor and their associated assignments, don't expect them to help you actually think of what ideas to write. Not only that, but most of the time, they are SWAMPED before a big essay is due, and wait times are long. They will not have time to help you write your essay in any meaningful way, and even if you do set up an appointment, it is usually not at an optimal time.
- This is not a catch all formula. This generally works for most humanities classes where it is expected that you read some stuff, analyze it, and write a paper. In more technical areas, it still works, but you'll have to tweak it a bit.
So your first piece is going to be the introduction. This section is of importance, not in terms of your content, but with how you set the stage for your reader (e.g the professor). Psychologists have noted that people are able to remember only the first and last parts of anything, including lists, books, movies (who remembers the end of a move in detail, but are kind of fuzzy on the rest of the details?). So make sure the first and last parts are decently written. As Judge Judy says, you only get one first impression...don't screw it up!
Luckily, you actually have some flexibility here, which is a luxury. You have to introduce the topic, and you can usually do this in a variety of ways. Personally, I start by rattling off some statistics, numbers, or facts in a clever (yet academically professional) way, or maybe tossing in some tangentially related anecdote. A good first sentence sets the stage though, so pay attention to that, be creative. After that, there's the introduction of the topic, the issues to be covered, and thesis sentence. It's what you're going to be trying to prove (or disprove). This should be the last sentence in your paragraph. No analysis here though. Then it's just a chain. A long, stupid chain of the same crap over and over and over and over until you reach your conclusion. You'll transition cleverly into the subject of your next paragraph, and don't skip this crap. transitions take the clunkiness out of your essay. "One of the first things that can be noticed about bullshit XYZ is that...", while your intermediary paragraphs will have a transition that references the last paragraph, and somehow ties it into the last one. "While XYS was interesting, Characters Jerry and Gazorpazorp are important as well for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is blah blah blah im too lazy to keep up the example."
Once you get your transitions out of the way, you just start rattling off your supporting pieces. This includes quotes, citations, and an explanation of evidence. Just keep barraging them until the next piece. There may be some mild explanation here, but don't get too analytical. That's the next part. Each piece of evidence should be transitioned with "additionally", "secondly" "finally" "even further" and "furthermore" before you you discuss each piece of evidence. Use them tastefully, and hit the thesaurus once in a while to prevent word fatigue (this is a common problem, where students use the exact same word or phrase multiple times because they are being unoriginal. This is a problem because it tires the reader and sounds terrible. Don't do that). If you learn nothing else from reading this, understand how powerful these little words can be in getting a decent sentence in your paragraph. I have noticed, in my college years, that the crappiest essays I have read from my peers DID NOT include these phrases. While including them doesn't guarantee an A per se, it certainly adds that pizazz that good essays have. Again, we must focus on polishing the turd...
Last section of the paragraph is the analysis. You'll circle back around to your supporting pieces and then somehow tie them back to your thesis in some fashion. But you actually have to analyze them and come to some deeper conclusion than anything superficial, otherwise you are just wasting your time, and honestly, you are most likely completely missing the point of the entire assignment. You are not writing a book report, remember that. That's for elementary school. We're talking about discussing the underlying social themes of a book, the significance of someone's actions on a political movement, etc. This is where you actually look at something and realize that there is more than meets the eye.
Rinse and repeat. Eventually you'll hit the limit. Don't go to the minimum. Ever. That's for lazy students, mostly. Finish it when you are finished, unless you have a maximum (I struggled with these, honestly, and usually begged the professor for an extension limit, and they would usually oblige to see what you would spit out).
The conclusion is merely a recap of your essay, in which you will reiterate briefly over your analysis/evidence and how it pertains to your thesis. It is not a very important piece, but needs to be written well nonetheless.
As for grading, it comes down to a few things. Your professor may have a template for grading your paper, or they may just go off of instinct. Most times, they both play in, especially when they have to grade a hundred or more. If nothing else, if you've been a decent, respectful student who came to office hours besides the days before the paper was due and at least made some effort to show interest, it will help a lot. I've even heard from professors that a student who busts their ass can get a bump of at least a letter grade. That makes a C- paper a B-, even if their paper was piss poor and barely grasped anything the professor gave lecture on.
This is the formula. There is still quite a bit of subtlety to writing a decent paper, and I think a lot of students struggle with it even into the formative years of college. I think one of the worst things people do is write what they are thinking. This is actually quite easy to spot, especially from someone who writes a LOT in their free time. People tend to write run on sentences a lot, so it comes off as mixed garbage.
Parse back through your polished turd once in a while and edit as you read. It kind of helps. Freinds also add a nice perspective.