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How to do better in classes

One of the first things you will notice about college is that it can be really hard. The Northern Light Presents these tips for doing better in classes.

  1. Ask Questions

Don’t understand something said in class, miss a question on a test or having trouble with an assignment?

Raise your hand and ask for clarification.

Worried about interrupting the teacher?

Quietly raise your hand and wait until called on. Instructors love questions: They get , how well everyone is progressing in understanding, and allows them to better tailor their lectures to their audience. Every teacher prefers to see a raised hand rather than glazed over eyes, a sleeping student, or the glow of a cell phone.

Worried about not looking like you know what you’re talking about in front of literally everyone?

Of course you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s why you went to college, so you could know. Remember you came to college to get informed, not look informed.

Worried about looking stupid in front of your peers?

For every person that raises their hand to answer a question there are five others that are too nervous to ask. To those five people your question could be the deliverance from confusion and embarrassment. Be that hero. Besides, if you are going to show that you don’t understand something, it’s better to do it during a lecture than on a test. Remember there is no such thing as a dumb question, just dumb answers on a final.


  1. Study as needed and pay attention

Before you entered college you have no doubt heard conflicting accounts about the amount of work that you do in college: horror stories about studying 10 hours a night contrasted with joyous tales if skipping classes and frolfing on the quad. These stories are all true, they just came from different people doing different things at different times in their lives. You will breeze through some of your classes, and slog through others.

But how long should I study? The truth about studying is that you should find out early on what works for you and stick with it. Make sure that you are staying up to speed in all of your classes, without going crazy and panicking. Remember that digging your way out of a hole is much harder than not falling in one.


  1. Suggested Homework is suggested for a reason-

It was a bit of a culture shock going from highschool to college. I remember distinctly several of my High School teachers saying that if we couldn’t handle their workload we couldn’t handle college. I couldn’t imagine how the humorless teachers, daily homework, weekly quizzes, and monthly tests of pre-calc could get worse. On the first day was given a list of suggested problems by a kindly professor and told that we would be only graded on four tests and a final, with the lowest grade dropped.

I naturally didn’t do a single problem, blew off a few early morning lectures and completely bombed my first test. I spent the next month doing both the last tests list of suggested homework as well as this tests list until I truly felt confident in my abilities. After a herculean effort I emerged from that class proudly with a C. What? Calculus is hard.

  1. Ask for help

Academic issues are amongst the top reasons that freshmen drop out of college. It’s not because they ran into trouble with difficult material tests and assignments. It’s because they ran into trouble, and they didn’t ask someone for help. They were too scared, or too proud, or too uninformed and they gave up before their time. Most classes here are difficult, but none of them are impossible, they only require more work. Every class you take has been passed by someone who wasn’t as smart as you, wasn’t as prepared as you, and struggled more than you, and then planned accordingly. It is possible, you just might need some help.

Luckily you are are drowning in resources to help you. Did the guy next to you get 25 points higher on the test than you? Sounds like the sort of person you want to form a study group with. Not confident in your writing ability? Head to the Learning Resource Center writing lab and they will help you edit your paper line by line.

  1. Use office hours and open lab

Office hours are set periods of times where your professors are in their offices for one explicit purpose: helping any student that comes in. For my less subtle readers, THIS MEANS YOU. Office hours are your best resource to solve any problem you are having with classes. Wondering what is going to be in the test?

Ask the person who is writing it.

Wondering if they’ll like your paper?

Politely ask if they can read it with you and point out problems

Having trouble with a tricky lab?

Ask a TA and they will help your work through it, step by step..

The best, and saddest, part of this is that office hours are rarely used by most students, giving the few that use them hours of undivided attention from their professors. These hours are posted on your syllabus/the lab room in question, or speak with your instructor after class to ask alternative times, that fit both of your schedules.


  1. No seriously, use the help

Anyone who has ever looked through their list of fines and fees angrily has noticed that they pay dozens of fees. Despite our suspicions, UAA administration does not just pocket your 3 dollar outdoor recreation fee whilst they cackle madly. They use the fees collected to run programs and hire people with the goal of helping the greater student body. You pay for these programs regardless if you use them.

A glance at any university website or bulletin board will show you countless programs offered at this university without any cost.

These programs are not free, and this is a very important point. We don’t take advantage of free things all of the time. Community billboards are covered with offers to take guitar lessons, go to yoga classes, join crossfit, get involved with pyramid schemes: all free of charge. University programs are not free- you already pay for them. It’s one thing to not take advantage of the free offers in life, it’s quite another to spend 1,153$ in fees every semester, and not use a single program that they pay for.



3 Alternative. Skipping Class Costs you

A three credit undergraduate course will cost you 549$, when split into 32 1-hour and 15 minute sessions over the course of 16 weeks will run you about 17 dollars a session. Doing make-up studying is inefficient and difficult, the fact that you don’t know what your instructor is focusing on and your lack of someone who can help with difficult questions and concepts that come up, means it may take 3 or 4 times as long to absorb the same amount of relevant information.

But how much is your time worth? If you have a job, the answer is at least 8.50$ for an hour of work. By skipping class you are out over 30 dollars worth of effort. Skipping that class for an extra hour of sleep has cost you at least 45$ worth of effort, more than enough cash for a nice date, night out, or tank of gas. Sure, going to bed earlier is tough, but a heavier wallet should help lull you to sleep before 3 in the morning.



Written by Nathan Burns

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