Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The One Word That Leads to College Success

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

The lesson we’ve learned from this year’s college decisions couldn’t be clearer.  More students are applying to more colleges, so colleges can be more selective about the students they admit.  That’s just as true at the Top 25 colleges (whatever those are) as it is for the colleges in your neighborhood.  More choice means more opportunity for colleges to be more choosy.

So how do you prepare?  In a word, study.

It’s absolutely true that grades alone don’t lead to a yes from any college, but studies show grades and strength of schedule are the two biggest factors in nearly every college decision, not counting art schools.  Since good grades are based on knowing what you’re talking about, good study habits become more important than ever.

The good news is that most students are studying—it’s just that they aren’t studying enough.  Your Geometry teacher assigns you problems 5-15, and you do them all.  The English assignment is 20 pages of The Great Gatsby, so you knock them out.  Tomorrow’s Bio quiz on the parts of a frog?  Memorized and good to go.

Or are you?

Your study habits may be getting you through the next test or paper—but are they enough to help understand the big picture, and see how this unit will apply to the next unit?  If it’s time to boost your study skills, consider these simple exercises.  Do one of these every time your study, and that extra 30 minutes can make a huge difference in your learning, and your college plans.

Math  It’s great that you knocked out those 10 problems when your teacher assigned questions 5-15 for homework, but what about problem 20—the one that asks you to explain your answer—or problem 24, where you have to apply what you’ve learned in a question about building design?  Once you’ve done those two, flip back 20 pages, and try question 17 from the homework three weeks ago—and once that’s done, try and figure out why doing questions 5-15 tonight meant you had to complete 11 problems, not 10.

English  Too many students read those 20 pages by opening the book and plowing straight through—since the words hit your eyes, you were reading, right?  But what did each part mean,  and how did it relate to the 20 pages you read last night?  Spend a dollar on a drug-store notebook, and stop every 2 pages to write down a summary of what you just read, then read those notes before you complete your next reading assignment.  It makes the ideas pop out more, and stick together—and they may even remind you of some ideas you read last month in The Scarlet Letter.

Science  Chances are you have those frog parts memorized by where they appear on the diagram in the book.  That’s good, but it’s better to also know how they relate to each other.  Which are muscle?  Which ones are organs?  Which ones do frogs have that toads don’t?  Regrouping ideas means you see them in different ways, and that will get you hopping down the path of amphibian wisdom.

Social Studies  This group of classes isn’t called the Social Sciences by accident.  Frog parts relate in different ways, and so do sequences of historic events.  Look for the economic, ethical, and philosophical similarities and differences in the topics you study, and the relationship between the Boston Tea Party and the Montgomery Bus Boycott could be stronger than you think—and both could relate to the Ukrainian crisis in a way only you can see.

Look at you.  Scholar.

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