Whether you are just starting university or just beginning medical school, there are simple things every student can do to ensure their school year gets off on the right foot. Most of this advice is generic and old, but despite how many times you have heard it before in the past, it’s always good to take wise advice and put it into practice.
School is more than just getting good grades. It is a place where you can grow and mature as a person, pursue your interests and experience life. And by preparing yourself for an academic year, it is possible to have good marks and a good time at school. So here are just five tips that I always consider when September comes around. I hope you find them as useful for you as it has been for me.
1. Set Goals
If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. ~Lawrence J. Peter
One of the most important activities that anyone can benefit from is frequent goal setting. If you don’t have an end destination in mind, life often takes you whichever way it wants, often not to your liking. Do you want to achieve a certain grade point average? Do you want to get to know a few professors that could write you references in the future? Do you want to live healthier, socialize more or try something new? Without setting concrete goals down on paper, goals rarely actualize by themselves.
If you’ve never picked up this habit of setting goals, one effective system to follow is the SMART Goal Setting. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Success doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a focused and concerted effort to actualize your dreams.
So if you haven’t so already, take a few minutes and a piece of paper to jot down your top three to five goals you want to accomplish this school year. Be realistic yet strive to do your best. You’ll find your goals will change from year to year, so I always have a few short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. I adjust them often. Goals act as a compass for our actions. Often when we’re lost or confused about what to do next, all you have to do is to look at the goals you have set out to do to realize where you should go next.
2. Set a Schedule
Time is our most valuable resource. It is a scarce and non-renewable commodity. Once we use it, it never comes back. And yet we are all equally given the same number of hours in a day and it is up to each person to use it effectively. Setting up a schedule is crucial because it helps you manage your time to the best.
Everyone should have a basic calendar or timeline set up. Whether that’s using Google’s free Calendar or a simple white board calendar, you should have a schedule to help you organize. Write down all the new year’s important deadlines. Schedule in social events and holidays. Being able to see how your time is spent will help you use your time wisely. Remember to update and refer to your calendar frequently.
At the very least, you’ll save yourself time always having to look up dates and deadlines if you have everything recorded properly. It will seem like a lot of work at first putting in all the specific dates and events, but I can assure you and anyone who does keep a regular schedule, that the effort is worth it.
3. Get Organized
If time is so important, being organized ensures that we are efficient with our time. Instead of spending several minutes trying to look for an assignment or hours of gathering notes to study, you can use that time to actually work on the assignment and study. Getting organized is one of the easiest things you can do!
4. Know the Expectations
Check your course syllabus. Know how your marks will be distributed. Know what assignments are due and their deadlines. Knowing what to expect allows you to prepare accordingly.
5. Ask for Help when Needed
If you’re struggling early on, ask for help immediately. Go into office hours to get extra help. I remember asking a Professor who taught Chemistry 101, a class where of at least a thousand, how many people could get extra help if they wanted. His answer shocked me. He was lucky to get even one single student during his office hours every week. Go find resources to help you when you need help.