Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tazi's Corner #28 - Success Tips For Returning Students

Dear Readers:

Over the past few weeks I have received a few letters from adult humans returning to the classroom, for college; trade school; or a GED program, all asking the same questions: what to expect, how to succeed, and how to overcome their nervousness and outright fright! These letters intrigued me, because my Mommie is an adult learner. I never thought that there was something out there that might scare her; my Mommie can do anything! I know that everyone says that about their Mommy (or at least they should be saying that!), but it is true! I never thought there might be something that scared my Mommie – other than when I wander off out of her sight, but then she is just being silly and overprotective. I decided to investigate the issue further in order to assist these letter writers!

In preparation to respond to their letters as one batch, I interviewed my Mommie over a bowl of cat cereal, while she sipped on her coffee and tried to fill out her paperwork for her impending graduation. Having none of that, I sat on the paperwork until I had her full and undivided attention. I found the answers that she gave me to be quite helpful, and did not wish to edit them for space, so I decided to put them here in my Tazi’s Corner column, where I have more room to share my thoughts! I am not fond of lists, and I seem to be doing more of them lately, so I have not numbered this one, and have put it in paragraph form to make it look less like a list. Let me know if I fooled you into thinking it isn't a list! Without further delay, I present to you

Success Tips For Returning Students!
By Tazi-Kat and His Mommie

Starting any new venture can be scary, so treat returning to school like any other new experience. What is the first thing you do when you start a new job? You get to know the people in your office. Well, the school is now your office, so get to know people – your classmates, your professors, the Reference Librarians; all of these people will make your learning journey a much easier and less isolating time.

Also, don’t let age differences get in the way of making friendships. Two of my Mommie’s best friends are about 15 years younger than her, but you would never know it! Both women are very mature for their age, have set career goals, and aren't allowing youthful stupidity to distract them. Mommie wishes she knew women like this when she was younger; she may have indulged in less youthful stupidity for it.

Bring your schooling home with you. The last thing you want is for your family to feel left out of your life, so don’t keep what you are doing to yourself. Share your day; invite your significant other to join you for a tour of your school/classroom, and introduce them to the people you interact with regularly. If you have school-age children, schedule a set “homework time” during which everyone – including you – are doing some form of schoolwork.

Another important thing is to find balance. It will be difficult at first, but as you settle into a routine you will be able to find a school-work-home life balance. Make a study schedule and stick to it. This may mean you will need to give up the distractions and time-wasters – Facebook and video/computer games are big ones – but after a few weeks you will find that doing so makes it easier to complete your reading/studying and creates more time for family and friends.

Speaking of studying, try to do a little bit every day and break it up into small chunks. If you have ten minutes to spare, try reviewing your classroom notes or working on a math problem that is giving you difficulty. Knowing that you will not have to spend a lot of time doing it makes it easier to try; when the time limit is in sight, it doesn't seem so onerous. If you are setting aside a large block of time to study/read/work on homework, take a 5 minute break every 20 minutes. Studies have shown this to result in better grades.

Grades! Everyone wants to chase after straight A’s, and they think cramming every little fact into their head is the way to do it. It isn't  In fact, cramming is the worst way to study because you forget about 90% of what you “learned” as soon as the test is over. This may not seem all too important, but if other, more advanced classes or success in the workplace depend on what you learned you will soon discover just how important true learning really is! Rather than chase grades, chase knowledge; good grades will follow.

When it comes to reading your textbook, don’t try to read every word on every page; rather, check out the first page of the chapter where it highlights what you need to know; read the chapter summary where it summarizes what is in the chapter; review any new vocabulary and important concepts. Look for bold headlines and words; illustrations, diagrams, and text-boxes; and anything else that is highlighted as important. When you have finished reviewing a section, look for any “self-review” questions; if you can’t answer them correctly, go back and find the answer to what you got wrong. A lot of professors use these questions on quizzes and tests, sometimes word for word!

Also, while still on the subject, many textbooks come with an online study component that guides you through what you need to know with games, quizzes, flash cards, and video lessons that make learning easier and a lot more interesting. Look for the web address on the inside cover page or back cover of your textbook!

Another way to maintain good grades is to do the assigned reading before class! A professor’s lecture is meant to supplement and explain the assigned reading. If you have not done the reading before the lecture, the lecture will not make as much sense as it would if you had read your textbook. Plus, if the lecture does not answer any questions you were left with after reading the text, you can generally ask your professors questions during the recitation [question and answer] period, after class, or during their office hours.

Don’t be afraid to take advantage of a professor’s office hours! Most of the time, they are sitting there catching up on work or reading because they are required to be there for their students, regardless of whether or not students show. If you are not available during their regular office hours, ask for an appointment to meet with them for a Q & A session. It’s like a free tutoring session with the professor!

Free tutoring may be a service your school provides. Check with student services to see if your school has a peer tutoring program. In most cases, the tutors are students who took the class they are tutoring and excelled in it, so you will be assisted by someone who had the same professor/teacher as you.

If you aren’t certain if a particular professor will be a good fit for you, ask fellow students for recommendations or check out (just understand that some students who post there are allergic to work; take such reviews with a grain of salt).

So there you have it – may you learn from one who has gone before you. Who knew that Mommie had learned more than just the stuff inside her textbooks? Good luck to all who are returning to school for a new semester of learning! Next week, I will present Part 2 of this subject - Tips For Conquering Test Anxiety!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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