Stay Ahead of Classes in College (With Collective Minimal Efforts)

Last Updated on June 22, 2022 by David Shaw

smiling college girl with confidence

Doing well in college or a big exam doesn’t always have to be an all-nighter effort. The same theory applies to new skills, it’s the fact that we put in a little effort daily to learn and improve. Everyone might share their different opinions on how to succeed with you, but here are more in-depth tips to help you gain confidence and apply them.

When a few major classes are stacked up against you, we know it can be tough to balance it off and execute each exam paper well, so here are a few tips to help you stay ahead of classes in college and ace them, with cumulative minimal efforts that are much more feasible and less gimmicky.

Review Class Materials Ahead of Lectures

girl studying in bed

Reviewing the class materials from the syllabus on the first week of class or even before really helped me grasp the big picture of what I’m supposed to expect from the course. I remember I struggled during my first Calculus class but approached Calculus 2 differently because I knew all the tricks and variants to new concepts.

Reviewing Calculus 2 materials early on in the semester helped me realize there are only so few concepts and tricks to solve certain questions. This valuable insight helped me envision how ‘feasible’ and formulate the right amount of time and effort needed to learn all the topics in chunks.

What I did differently taking Calculus 2 compared to Calculus 1 helped gave me a heads up in a way that helped me predict and speculate the end results vividly. As I understood and accept when I am already given the formula and correct resources to confidently shape my outcome, it streamlined a very disciplined, clear, and motivated pathway to help me succeed in the class much easier.

Start Working On Assignment Early

alarm clock ringing

College or university workload will consistently keep you busy in mostly the same way for years. Starting on your assignments early on helps you keep yourself on your toes and maintain a healthy and consistent flow to tackle assignments. When you start early, you simply have more time to notice, overcome, and produce high-quality work from enough repetition of problems or questions.

With these experiences accumulated, the end product of such effort equates to a well-make assignment as well as experiences you simply cannot gain from last-minute grinding. The idea is that if we start, early little by little, then we potentially end up encountering more challenges and mistakes, which we get to learn from more of them. Like people always say, your mistakes are often your biggest lessons.

So don’t ever underestimate the small gesture of starting things early, little by little. Tending a good habit to immerse and familiarize yourself with upcoming classes and materials really does all the wonder behind the scenes, which leads to our next big tip.

Muster the Courage to Work on Personal Projects

girl working on her own project on laptop

This is admittedly not a tip with minimal daily efforts, but it sure made the most impact on me during my college days.

Ever since I started working on my personal projects related to my major that I’m passionate about, I found it significantly easier to deal with classes that my peers would say otherwise describe as difficult. The most impactful reward of working on my own projects is that it gave me lessons and exposure to materials that my professors would otherwise teach later down in the course. In certain of my classes, a large chunk of the materials was old knowledge to me, which helped me breeze through the assignments and exams, and provided so much confidence since I knew I was ahead of the game.

Regardless of your major, you can be sure the more intensive and difficult courses down the road are preparing you for real-life projects which you will soon be applying to the working industry someday, so start early!

And guess what, regardless the quality of your project, you don’t necessarily have to publish it or put it on your resume, instead treat it as a professional practice project to hone your skills. If you want an easier variant to this approach, I would also recommend replicating other people’s projects as a practice to start getting your feet wet.

Utilize Office Hours and Communicate With Professors

My professor once shared some tips with our class that have changed the way I utilized my professor’s office hours. He pointed out that most professors can only repetitively come up with a certain number of questions of the same flavor for the course, and the easiest way to access them is to simply ask them! And before you guessed it, they have also graded far too many similar papers and know which questions and concepts tend to catch students slacking off their revision sessions.

So in most cases, especially for popular prerequisite classes with high demand, professors are usually willing to give out the essence of their class, which covers the materials to focus on, and what they expect students to do correctly in order to ace the class. If you’re simply able to depict questions that will be exams or quizzes and end up acing them, you’ll definitely be ahead of the class!

Participate in Group Studies With Peers

Distractions are everywhere around us, and if you know you’re not mentally focused to block them off a productive study session, then it would be a good idea to look for study groups. Studying in groups not only motivates you to stay productive, but one can also exchange constructive feedback on things they may be doing incorrectly or less effectively from their peers.

Looking for a group of study peers that are driven, focused, and disciplined is also important to make sure everyone keeps each other on track to nonsense, distraction-free study sessions. If you notice your class doesn’t already have study groups, be proactive and form one because you will always expect some classmates to say yes to group studies!

Summarize or Teach a Peer on the Class Materials

guy teaching girl

This has to be one of my favorite tricks in college to not only help my peers but simultaneously test my own knowledge on certain topics. Summarizing or teaching a peer always feels easier than learning from, simply because we are relaying what we know which is easy as opposed to storing and learning complicated concepts into our brain.

Realistically, summarizing a topic material or teaching a peer will not take you more than 30 minutes simply because you are not teaching the materials as your professor did. You are likely putting concepts in your own words and understanding, getting to the main points rather than the fine details. When I think about it, teaching a peer is always more relaxing and satisfying than studying alone which practically achieves similar results but with added benefits.

It is easily one of my top 5 favorite tricks while in college to kill two birds with one stone.

Reflect on the Big Picture After Each Class

student thinking out loud

One thing is true is that when professors explain or introduced a complicated concept in class, it is always harder to make sense of it when we review it after class on our own. What this method helps achieves is that it retains the memory longer in our brain just so we have more time to put more thought into it.

After a heavy class with a large number of notes or new materials, I try setting apart 10 to 20 minutes to reflect on the new materials so I won’t completely forget them the next day. I try my best to give it a second thought process to ensure the information sits properly in my memory.

Even when I slacked off a day from revision, I find that putting in the effort to virtually mind map and piece lecture materials in their place before I sleep helps me remember them the next day. I find this method of thought process very helpful because I often can circle back or identify certain materials which I have questions for, which helps me keep it in the back of my mind to look into it the next day.

Final thoughts

Attending college does require great determination to succeed in classes. Regardless of difficult classes or other unforeseen challenges we will definitely face in college, mastering the art of self-discipline and staying consistent with a healthy routine is key to success. We hope these tips will serve you well, now pat yourself on the back if you’ve made it so far, and all the best with your college experience!

David Shaw

I enjoy blogging about the college experience, teaching people how to navigate and hack their way through college. I also enjoy promoting financial literacy among young individuals.

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