Kernel’s declassified college survival guide

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Blake Blevins is the Opinions Editor for the Kentucky Kernel. 

Blake Blevins

Classes are beginning at UK; for new student and veterans alike, the beginning of the year is a good time to adopt some new habits. Decide to do better this year than last, and consider these tips to be as successful as possible.

1. Don’t Buy Books Before They’re Needed

It’s easy to jump the gun and order your books before classes begin. Buying books too soon, however, can prove counter-productive rather than proactive. Often, professors provide free online access to books, or even state buying them isn’t mandatory. With the campus bookstore open every day and e-books purchasable at a minute’s notice, waiting until you know you need the book to buy it could potentially lighten the load on students’ backpacks and wallets.

2. Read the Syllabus

Some students mistakenly see ‘syllabus week’ as a time to lay back and enjoy a lighter workload. Taking time to read the syllabi for classes can give a better idea of how to prepare and what is expected. Furthermore, syllabi contain grading procedures and the terms of the class, which students should be aware of. Professors are human and sometimes make mistakes, so it’s good for students to know what they are and aren’t responsible for, just in case an issue arises.

3. Buy a Planner

The syllabi students should be reading contain schedules for different classes. These schedules are not made collaboratively, which means professors do not accommodate other classes. In order to keep track of five or six (often conflicting) schedules, students should either buy a planner or find an electronic scheduling system that works for them.

4. Be Active in Class

Being active in class may seem like a vague phrase, but it makes all the difference. Rather than treating lectures or class-time like an hour lost, leverage your time to make an impression on your professors and peers. Making connections, whether it’s future homework help or a favor from an instructor, is a crucial part of succeeding. Lean in, ask questions and introduce yourself to your professors and classmates.

5. Don’t Get Left Behind

Things are always happening around campus. All of this action makes it easy to get distracted. In order to prevent miserable, panic-stricken all-nighters in the future, students should be attentive now. Check Canvas often and don’t wait until the last minute for assignments. Hopeless procrastinators should write down due dates at least a day early.

6. Fix Your Mistakes

Even the perfect student practicing all of these tips and more will eventually mess up. Failed exams and papers destroyed with red ink should not be seen as losses but as chances to improve. The university offers many resources to help students work through their academic problems. The Study offers drop-in peer tutoring, Presentation U lets students give their presentation to a team of other students who will provide feedback and the Writing Center will proof any paper students bring them. In addition, professors love a chance to sit down with any student and work through a knowledge gap.

This is not an exhaustive list. The most important tip to being the best student possible is for everyone to find what works for them. All people learn differently, and no one can account for every potential obstacle. The only perfect solution to any problem is to face everything with a growth mindset. The whole point of college is to learn, and if students are learning from both their classes and their own experiences, improvement will always follow.

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