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Study Habits

Page history last edited by Tonya Howe 14 years, 2 months ago

Need a crash-course in college? Look no further! While I can't guarantee that all your professors will see things my way, I can make a solid wager that they will come pretty close.


  1. Professors have “office hours.” These are regularly-scheduled times during which your professor can be found in her office, grading, researching, writing, preparing, and so on. But mostly, she’s waiting for you to drop by and talk.
  2. Identify your strengths and weaknesses as a scholar. Do you need help with writing? Contact the Learning Resource Center in the Library. Are you good at following written directions? Help clarify the schedule for your peers. Are you good with computers? Take a more active role in the technical parts of the assignments. Do you need help with time management or reading comprehension? Contact a tutor at the LRC. Have trouble researching or getting started on a project? Come talk to your professor!
  3. Read the syllabus, and pay special attention to each professor’s policies.
  4. ACTIVE READING 1: Look closely at the organization of your book, especially if its a textbook. In a film class I recently taught, these are some specific pieces advice I gave for the text we worked with. While all books vary in their organization, many will have lots of useful information in appendices, tables of contents, and so on:

There are lots of film stills with captions to help you interpret the basic ideas of film analysis. These stills and captions are also good models for your own analysis!

A glossary in the back of the book defines key terms, and an index just following it can help you find relevant pages about those terms.

The “summary” at the close of each chapter gives you an overview, and it also includes questions that can be used to help you look more closely at any film.

Each chapter discusses several examples of each film element studied; these moments in the chapter can and should be used as models for your own thought and writing.

Don't forget about the index!

  1. ACTIVE READING 2: Don’t just read the reading assignments; read them actively! Read with a pen or pencil in your hand. Assume you’ll be keeping this textbook and referring to it for later classes—write in it! Unless you're writing about half as much on any given page, the bookstore will still buy your books back, though. Take a look at these examples of student-generated active reading. Here are some other possiblities:

    You can take notes in a reading notebook or Word document. Don’t just jot down ideas, though; try to develop a system for your note taking that will help you clarify and organize key ideas so you can find them quickly.

    For instance, I transcribe short, one- or two-sentence moments that strike me as particularly insightful in a very broad way; then, I note the page number of that quote—all this is in one section of my notebook, or one file on my computer.

    I also find it helpful to restate the definitions of key terms in my own words; I’ll also note down a corresponding page number, though, so I can go back and refresh my memory with the author’s language.

    I also note down really good examples of language, analysis, or models that I might want to use in my own work.

    Also include questions that arise for you as you read; you can ask these questions in class. College is very different from high school; here, you’re expected to participate in the civic microcosm of the classroom. One way to do that is to raise questions, or share your thoughts on the subject. If you have questions, other people do, as well—and your examples might help others understand something in a new way!

  1. Participate intelligently and respectfully. Unlike in a high school classroom, here, knowledge is something that is created—not simply absorbed passively. College classrooms, especially in the humanities, are often looked at as miniature versions of the public, civic sphere. Your voice and presence are what help create that civic sphere, and if you’re silent or disrespectful, you alter the shape of the classroom. College professors value intelligent, thoughtful, creative, exploratory participation; if you participate effectively, I can virtually guarantee that you will end up with both a higher grade and a more productive college experience.
  1. Complete all the reading and written assignments fully and on time.  If you are struggling to keep up, let your professor know! We are not mind readers. Most professors are okay with extensions, but you have to ask. Don’t let assignments drag on, though, because you will become overwhelmed, and likely will not finish them if you have too many to do. Always turn something in—even if it’s a blank piece of paper with your name and an excuse. You’ll get an F—but an F is 55%, where as a zero is zero. Which averages better?
  1. College isn’t high school! Think about your college classes as an opportunity to explore ideas, perspectives, and activities that you will likely not be able to enjoy regularly in the future, depending on your job. When will you be able to sit down with a room full of interesting people who want to discuss film, literature, history? Or, if that doesn't appeal, think about your college classes also as a dry run for future employment. Give your professors what they want, when they want it, in the form that they ask for. If your employer asks for a formal report, and you give her something sloppily researched and handwritten, will you get the promotion—or will she remember you when the company needs to downsize? College professors tend not to teach “to the test”; we have different approaches to topics, different methods of lecturing or leading discussion, different ideas about the classroom, and so on. Don’t expect cookie-cutter classes! Rather, learn how to adapt yourself to new surroundings.
  2. You’re in charge of your life, and if you make a decision that might compromise your grade, that’s your decision. This includes everything from study habits to attendance and beyond. If you have trouble self-starting and planning, or if you procrastinate, for instance, identify those areas early and work to ameliorate them.
  3. Remember that your professors are people, too. We have feelings, we have lives, and we put a lot of effort into each class. We want to know that you understand this!


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