the semester and the syllabus - study tips
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Back To School : The First Day of Classes   syllabus

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back to school   Most college students tend to share similar feelings of anxiety mixed with hope towards their first day of class. Everyone... even the worst of students... tends to enter "back to school" mode with a genuine sense of motivation. Many of us become ironically eager to purchase new textbooks, to see new teachers, and to adjust to a new schedule. We even convince ourselves that we are going to excel this semester... that we are going to live up to our "full potential" and score perfect marks even if we've never come close to doing so in the past! Hours later, we own at least a few of our books... we've looked over a syllabus or two..and we've begun to plot out an easy path to success: 40% for the mid-term, 50% for the final... 10% for an essay.. no problem... we can hack it...What could possibly go wrong?first day

   What usually goes wrong is poor planning. Overly-creative, highly intelligent  students begin each semester with genuine hope and personal promise but typically end the semester with a sense of underachievement and dissolution that had begun to set in even before mid-terms. Understand that when a professor hands out a syllabus, it is essentially serving as a contract between teacher and student-- as a mandate for what is to be expected and as a set of guidelines dictating how the student's work will be evaluated. But on paper it all looks so simple: This quiz will earn us this many points... that exam will add on that many points...Syllabi tend to give students an illusionary sense of ease because they enable us to visualize the entire semester on two or three sheets of photocopied paper. Syllabi do not, however, have the ability to show us the in-between days... the work that must be done at home... the long hours of laboring necessary to achieve a perfect score on each exam. And so we subconsciously note the date that first test will take place and wrongly allow ourselves to slip into a state of academic ease until just a day or two before test time...when we realize we don't know the material well enough to even get a "B."  

   tutoring and study tips How can a student avoid this? Don't look at the whole semester right when you first get your syllabus. Break each semester down into little, sub-goals first. You wouldn't leap up an entire flight of stairs...you'd walk them each one at a time. The same principle applies here: Don't even look at the first quiz or test yet.. it's probably still a long way off in the grand scheme of the academic term. Look on your syllabus at the FIRST lesson to be taught. Worry about how to excel at THAT lesson and ONLY at that lesson. Don't think of the mid-term or any other assessment yet to come. Concentrate only on what is to be expected of you in the very next class and focus all of your time and energy on achieving a mastery over that one subtopic. Do this for each class and when it finally does become time for an examination-- you'll hardly need to study... you'll only need to "review." The secret is truly in the psychology and it's far easier said than done... We challenge you to make it happen this school year!!!

 


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