HOW TO BE AN ACADEMIC SUCCESS IN COLLEGE:
by D'Lynn Waldron, B.A., summa cum laude, M.A., Ph.D. ©2005
Things have greatly changed since the 1960's when I was in university in America, and when I was doing post-doctoral research in Oxford in the late 1970s & early 1980s, and when I first wrote the advice numbered 1 through 6 below in 2005. That advice is still very valid, but now there are additional things to consider lettered A through F below
A-College has become outrageously overpriced, so an expensive four-year college is no longer the place you may want to spend your first two years 'finding yourself'.
B- Admission to the 'prestige' colleges has become very difficult and deceptive. They encourage far more applications than they know they will accept so they can brag about how discriminating they by admitting under 10% of the applicants.
C- For many high school graduates, a local community college is the wise choice to get required subjects done, to try out different disciplines, and to build up a good grade point average for your admission and scholarship application to a four year college. When you have gotten your required subject done and know what you want to study and how to study, you will get the most value from what you spend on those last two years in an expensive college. Just make sure the Community College course credits are transferable.
D-When choosing a four year college, look for one that is very strong in what you are interested in. It may not be one of the famous colleges, and there may not be a famous college that is the best for you. Be aware that there is a lot of 'old money' snobbery and 'new money' spoiled kids in the Ivy League colleges and you may find those students don't have the depth you would hope for in your classmates.
E- Developing a special ability in academics or sports or science that colleges are looking for it could give you a better chance at admission and a scholarship. Some smaller colleges pride themselves on being champions in a less common sport. Some colleges have an important teacher in a subject that interests you. These teachers are always looking for good undergraduates who will continue on in graduate school with them. In many fields, their research and the grants they get depend on having high quality, dedicated students.
F- Look at your potential academic interests and apply to major in a discipline where the college needs students to retain its grants. If it turns out to be the wrong discipline for you, you can change majors later.
1) Use every available resource to research the teachers before you choose your classes. Don't be afraid to go for the great teachers. You will get the best value for your education dollar, and teachers who really know their subject tend to grade far more fairly than insecure teachers who grade hard. Some of the finest teachers give introductory courses to interest students in their field. Such a teacher may open the path to your future.
2) Sign up for one more class than you plan to carry and drop the one that suits you least.
3) Start your term by finding out what papers will be required and what subjects the teacher prefers, and especially if there is a subject that can contribute to a research project the teacher is doing. Begin your term papers right away so you will be free later to study for the exams. Combining your outside research with your teacher's opinions is usually the safest approach because some teachers do not welcome independent thinking in undergraduates. Really good teachers encourage students to do independent thinking, when it is supported by research.
4) Take good notes in class and put notes and underlining in your text book to fix the material on your mind.
5) Prepare for tests with group study sessions where ideas are bounced around and questions snapped back and forth.
6) When taking a test, read the questions at least twice and consider what they are actually asking, not what you want to answer. Organize your time. A perfect grade on only one essay you do in a three essay test is a total grade of 33%- which is failing. Be clear, concise, and anchored in facts. Handwriting that is legible makes the teacher more receptive to what you have to say.
7) When writing term papers, good grammar and proper spelling are essential, but also you must follow the form the teacher designates, including for such things as footnotes. Your paper should look very nice and also feel very nice- 24 lb. paper with a silky smooth surface has a good subconscious effect.
8) My secret for getting through my degrees so fast was that I chose my doctoral dissertation topic early in my undergraduate years and every paper that I possibly could, I designed to be the basis for a chapter in my dissertation. (Those were the days before computer searches, and building up a bibliography was the keystone for writing a dissertation.)
9) Play to your strengths. If you enjoy and are good in a subject, that is a subject you should consider majoring in.
Everyone has areas in which they have a natural aptitude, and areas in which they cannot do well, no matter how hard they try. That is hardwired in our brains.
The so-called IQ tests measure only the ability to do that particular test. IQ tests do not measure most talents, skills, or even intellectual abilities, nor can they measure wisdom, creativity, kindness, and courage, or most of the other things that really matter in life.
Good luck in your studies, but more important, good luck in your life- Lynn
You will probably never be able to set the academic record I did: Sophonore to PhD in three and a half years with three majors and a minor, BA summa cum laude first in my class at Washington University.
I was a very ordinary student majoring in Asian Studies at Washingto University when my Anthropology professor rather furtively called me into his office. "How would you like $40 a week?"
This was the 1960's when that was a blue collar wage.
I said yes and was told I would have to add a second major in Anthropology because his department was selected for a Ford Foundation's experiment in accelerated study called the Special Master's Degree Program.
There would be no limits on how many courses I could take in a semester, and no length of residency requirement.
I had to take a doctoral level science course because that was all that would fit into my schedule which was way over the normal course limit. That was a wonderful teacher and friend for life who wanted me to major in his subject.
Because I completed my Masters (as All-University Fellow) before Washington University offered a doctorate in Asian Studies, it was arranged for me to be transferred as the Haynes Multi-Disciplinary Fellow, still with no restrictions, to Claremont Graduate school.
The teachers there needed a doctoral graduate in their departments and I added majors in Political Science and in Economics to Asian Studies and Anthropoly, with a Minor in Oriental Philosophy. My Economics professor, Dr, John Parke Young, was also a friend for life.
I sat doctoral exams in all five and defended my doctoral dissertation before the heads of all the major departments.
Now here is where what you are really interested in does the job.
I had prepared a dissertation on modern history in which I had taken part, but when I was told it had to be published, I threw it away and then wrote another dissertation in a few weeks in the area of my real interest, into which so many of my term papers fed.
This dissertation was on the problems of traditional societies in economic transition. Several years before I had helped our local congressman, a friend of my father's, write the original Truth in Lending Law. (Yes back then the elected legislators wrote the laws, not the lobbiests.)
My focus in that Truth in Lending Law and in every term paper where I could incorporate it, was on debt slavery created with usurious interest rates. I will let you imagine what I think of the debt slavery we have in American due to the cost of college and the usurous interest rates on borrowiing and that student loan debt is the only kind of debt that cannot be wiped out with bankruptcy.
Nothing could be more disastrous in our socio-economic system than banks paying one half of one per cent on savings and charging the people who can't afford it 32% on credit card debt. And at the same time giving corporations and the richest 1% virtually interest free money with which to gamble in the stock market and run up the prices on the things other people need for survival but can no longer afford.
I have studied the 5000 years of recorded economic history and all the things America is doing now are what has brought down the great civilizations.