We all know the feeling. We studied for five hours a night, and all last week for an upcoming exam. Every second when we weren’t working, or in class was devoted to mastering the class material.
We drank coffee, we ate vending machine food from the library, and we hardly slept. All this preparation just to open the test and to be completely lost.
This is the reality for a lot of us. We are challenged in college for the first time. To me, high school did not properly prepare us for exams and course work that comes with going to a university. We did not learn how to properly prepare for exams. As a senior who has taken their fair share of daunting classes, I want to assure you there is a way to succeed in these tough classes, and it is probably easier than you think.
Properly preparing yourself for the challenge ahead is half of the battle. Here are a few good ground rules to consider when enrolling in an intimidating class:
1. Know what you are getting in to.
A lot of time, the hardest classes are meant as “weed-out,” or classes that cause those who aren’t concrete in their chosen degree path to switch majors. For engineering, this class could be Physics or Differential Equations. For pre-med majors, this could be Biological Chemistry. These classes will be hard. If they weren’t, everybody would be engineers and doctors.
2. Be attentive and ask questions.
You hear this all the time in college, “No question is a dumb question.” In a lecture hall of more than 100 of your classmates, if something during class confuses you, it’s likely that 30 other people are confused too. Being confident enough in yourself to admit you don’t understand something is a something a lot of us struggle with. So, just ask! Ask the question and take great notes on the answer.
3. Make friends in class.
This saved me in one of my tough Business Law classes. While most professors are great, there is nothing like having a conversation with another student regarding your coursework. Having a study group of friends with different techniques to studying will help you master the material. Everybody takes notes differently, so being able to compare and take highlights from other student’s notes will help you master the material faster.
4. Utilize tutoring and office hours.
In college, tutoring doesn’t have the negative connotation it may have had in high school. Like I mentioned above, we learn well when another person teaches the material. If your school offers class specific tutoring — most do — take advantage of it! Along these same lines, take advantage of your professor’s office hours. At the very least, go in and introduce yourself and talk a little about what you want to take away from the class. This simple conversation has been the deciding factor whether my professor was going to raise my 89.3 up to a 90 or not.
These tips are meant to be a basis for how to succeed in tough classes. Stuff I didn’t mention are more obvious lessons: try hard, go to class, and take notes. Though, these should be obvious, there is always a student who can’t figure out why he or she is doing poorly on tests, yet never goes to class on Friday. Don’t be that student.
Alec Hildreth is a Senior at Kansas State University studying Business Marketing and Political Science.