You’ve graduated and you’re waiting for VCE examination results day on December 14th, 2015. In the meantime, you can rest, celebrate, and get ready for university.
When I completed my master’s degree at Cambridge University in 2010, I took note of the habits and traits that helped me to succeed in university. I didn’t maintain all of them all the time – rather, I fluctuated between doing these things and doing the exact opposite – but the process has taught me which character traits and mental attitudes are necessary for academic success in university. Here are my top ten tips for university. Each one of these tips is written carefully from my personal experience.
If you have a strong opinion on something, be prepared for it to change COMPLETELY several times before graduation. That’s how we grow and learn.
Always know where you’re going from now on. Always have a goal and you’ll never feel lost.
Ask for help from professors or lecturers if you don’t understand something. (They will not reach out to you in university.)
Read all the textbooks on the reading list. Read the whole books (not just the required chapters) if you have time.
Textbooks are always more important than academic papers despite what your lecturers tell you. Read the textbooks first.
Always make notes as you read.
Arrive early to lectures to get the best seats and to make friends with like-minded, punctual and keen students before the lecturer arrives.
Socialise carefully. Will joining this particular group/team help you to grow as a person? Some groups will help you grow; some will drag you down. Choose carefully!
Don’t be too stubborn but don’t be too easily influenced, either. Be in the middle.
Memories and connections are some of the most valuable things you’ll take with you from Year 12. Keep in touch with as many people as possible both officially (using alumni networks) and unofficially (using social media). People move in different directions after graduation and you’ll be surprised at how your friendships evolve, too: classmates who were mere acquaintances during school might become very close friends in five years’ time. Keep in touch with all your classmates to make sure you don’t miss out on these future business connections, too. You might even meet again one day sitting opposite each other at a job interview!
Remember that your ATAR is only a means to a much more meaningful goal: it’s the key to a university course of your choice. Strive for an ATAR that’s high enough: there’s no need to stess yourself out by aiming for a ‘perfect’ score of 99.95. Your ATAR is like a disposable key: it gets you into university but doesn’t help you while you’re there. Nobody asked me what my A-level results were throughout my undergraduate years at Cambridge. High-school results simply weren’t important.
3) A Relentless Work Ethic
You’ve worked harder in Year 12 than you’ve ever worked in your life. If you want to be successful, you’ll have to maintain this level of hard work – or even increase it – to accomplish your goals in life. You’ve learned the difficult way that in Year 12, going to school and doing all the required homework isn’t enough. You’ve figured out in Year 12 that you have to spend hours reading the textbook by yourself, doing practice question sets that aren’t on the course, and making summary notes that your teacher will probably never see in order to get a high grade.
The relentless work ethic you’ve garnered will help you to conquer bigger obstacles in the years that follow. Give every major event in your life at least as much passion, dedication and preparation that you gave to your VCE examinations and you’ll be sufficiently prepared for the challenges that await you in the future. VCE is pre-season training for life.
Is there anything I’ve missed from this list? Is an ATAR more than just a “key to a university course”? Let us know in the comments section below.
Studying is actually really simple. Master these three simple principles while you’re in Year 12 and you’ll be on the path to excellent learning outcomes in university.
1) Analytical Reading
We learn the majority of our information by reading. It’s your responsibility as a student to make a careful, analytical reading of the textbook in order to understand all the concepts taught on your course. Beyond Year 10, the pace of your lessons will increase and you’ll find that simply paying attention in class will not be enough to gain a full understanding of what’s being taught. The earlier you master the skill of analytical reading, the more you’ll learn from your university investment. University lecturers don’t have time to explain all the concepts to every student in person!
Annotate the textbook as you read it. Paraphrase and summarise your notes onto paper and organise them obsessively into large, lever-arch folders. Colour-code all your subjects: Chemistry has always been a ‘green’ subject for me. In lectures, don’t rely on the printed notes/slides provided by your lecturer. High-achieving students make their own notes during the lecture. Cornell Notes helped me enormously in Cambridge: master this skill if you want to thrive in university.
After Year 10, teachers will check your homework less frequently. Don’t use that as an excuse to slack off. As you grow into adulthood, you need to become a self-motivated learner. You’ll need to be proactive and get help when you need it. Share your assignments with your peers, attend group study sessions, and knock on your professor’s door when you want some advanced Chemistry questions answered. University teaching staff don’t have time to check every student’s progress all the time – but if you approach them and ask them for help, they’ll definitely be delighted to help you out. Make the most of your university experience by being proactive and asking for help.
Are there any crucial study skills I’ve missed from this list? What else do you need to master before you go to university? What do you wish you knew before you started undergraduate degree? Write to us in the comments section below.
All classes contain students of mixed ability levels. However, performance in an end-of-year examination is more dependent on how hard a student is willing to work than on any measure of innate ability. Student learning correlates much more with “grit” than with talent. In other words, the more hours you study, the higher your grades will be.
In this article, I’m giving you my observations from a teacher’s perspective of what students in the top 20% (in terms of grades) tend to do.
1. They don’t play games on their iPad
Students with low scores tend to resort to picking up their iPads at every spare moment. iPad addiction is a typical sign that a student doesn’t spend any of their free moments reading or thinking. Successful students don’t usually have games on their iPad. If they do have games, they’ll be the more intellectually-stimulating ones such as Scrabble or quiz apps: you certainly won’t find an A-grade student frantically thumbing their iPad screen to Flappy Bird or Crossy Road between lessons.
2. They read the textbook at home, highlighting and annotating as they go
When I ask a class of students to open their textbooks to a certain page, four things happen:
The most successful students open their books to those pages, which are already highlighted and annotated with key vocabulary circled and translated/explained in the margins (see picture above);
The mid-range students open their textbooks, which look brand new;
The least successful students do nothing because they weren’t listening;
The remainder (if any) didn’t bring their book to school.
Reading the textbook before class does two things. First, it helps you to understand the lesson much better. It’s much more effective to read the textbook at home then ask questions in class than to learn the textbook in class then ask those questions at home. Second, a textbook that’s highlighted and annotated looks very impressive. Your teacher and classmates will be impressed.
3. They write neatly and colour-code their notes
Successful students use large, A4 notebooks. They write the date, title, and subheadings in the same places with the same colour pen. They don’t cram too much writing on one page, and they organise their notes heavily using subheadings.
An interesting studyfound that students who reviewed their own notes outperformed students who reviewed notes given to them by their lecturer.
4. They have a designated homework diary (or an app)
Successful students always remember to do their homework. They record their homework tasks in their diaries with due dates. Reminders for iOS does this job excellently.
5. They do all their homework on time
Even if the teacher forgets to ask to see students’ homework, the most successful students will actively hand it to their teacher because they’re proud of the work they’ve done.
Even if there’s no homework set, they’ll still spend time reading the textbook (or another relevant book) or watching YouTube videos to supplement their understand of what’s been taught. The most successful students are self-motivated.
6. They pay most attention to their teacher during the lesson
From experience, students who chat to each other too much tend to get low grades at the end of the year. They miss crucial instructions, homework, questions and information being delivered by the teacher. While it’s important to be sociable, the most successful students always pay more attention to their teacher than to their classmates.
“Students who reviewed their own notes outperformed students who reviewed notes given to them by their lecturer.”
7. They ask questions after class and email their teachers at evenings/weekends with questions regarding the homework
Most days, I receive Chemistry-related emails from students. However, these emails are usually sent by the same 30% or so of the students I teach. The students with the habit of asking more questions—both inside and outside the classroom—tend to fare better in the end-of-year examination.
8. They understand that we learn primarily through reading, and that the classroom is just a place to discuss what they’ve read and put it into practice
Successful students learn more outside the classroom than in. They read the relevant textbook section before class; they come to class with questions about what they’ve read. They re-read the textbook section after the lesson as well. They know that the more times they read the textbook, the more they’ll learn and the better their scores will be in the end-of-year examination. They know that their textbook (not their teacher) is their primary learning resource, and that their success depends more on how many hours they put into studying than on how ‘good’ their teacher is.
9. They know when to say, “Sir, I don’t get this!”
This is one of the most valuable skills on this list: admitting that we don’t know what we’re about to learn is the first step we take when we learn something new. Successful students have the confidence to admit to things they don’t understand and are thus more receptive when their teachers explain them. In other words, it’s a dangerous habit to pretend that you actually understand something—this habit usually has disastrous consequences before the end of the year. In a classroom, always admit when you don’t understand something.
“admitting that we don’t know what we’re about to learn is the first step we take when we learn something new”
What do you think?
Are you a student who agrees/disagrees with these 9 observations? Are you a teacher with more observations to add to the list? Write them in the comments section below.