Freshman Year

Lesson 21 Freshman Year

For the next five lessons, we’ll look at some specific things to do each year (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior and Graduate School). Some will overlap.

Freshman Year:

Yay – you have been accepted to college!!! You have done the previous lessons, you understand that the competition is world-wide now; you have set goals including Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG); worked on your attitude; decided to go for GREAT, not just good; find ways to be remarkable; know about traps to avoid; worked on your self-talk and motivation; you are picturing yourself successful and imaging about what your world will be like in several years; worked on networking and finding a mentor or mentors.

So, so specific things for freshman year.

First – learn to say “NO”.

When I went to college, I was scared I’d flunk out. My first semester, I spent at least three hours for every hour in class. I read my books, I did my assignments, I did extra assignments. I “knew” the material quite well. And … I learned how to say “NO”. When somebody on my dorm floor came by to say “Hey, let’s go for pizza”, the answer was NO; when there is a dance / speaker / program / event at some location, my answer was NO.

I created a calendar (it was on paper, these days, Excel would work. I scheduled classes, studying, meals, sleep and not much else.

To be honest, I was boring. While the adage is “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” maybe be true, in my class, “all work and no play” helped me to get great grades that first semester. I did learn how to slack off after that semester, but I was set a high level by getting strong grades that semester.

Second – learn how to study.

Okay, you have been a student, from Kindergarten through High School. You know how to study don’t you? The reality is probably not. You ‘kind of’ know how to study.

Sure, you go to your room at (say) 7:00 p.m., turn on the TV or music, check your email, Google some information, check out the latest YouTube videos or Facebook posts, and read your textbook. At 11:00, you put down your books and congratulation yourself on four hours of studying. You maybe did an hour.

The suggestion is to get rid of distractions. No TV, and it might be okay for music – like soothing Bach string quartets!! Don’t go on the Internet (unless you absolutely need to); don’t go to email or Facebook.

There are many great concepts available for you. I’ve been looking at: and and many others.

Take time to read and really understand studying.

Your campus probably has a Learning Center (or similar). Go there before classes start and find a class, seminar on “Studying in College”. Even if you have to pay something, it should be worth it.

Third – Plan / Plan / Plan your Schedule and your Time.

As mentioned before, develop a schedule – AND STICK TO IT.

Allow some down time – time for some exercise, a jog around campus, maybe even a basketball game or activity. But, the reason you are in college is to learn and to get a degree. Playing a pickup basketball game might be fun and a stress reliever, but does it help your learning and degree goals?

Socializing is good, but watch your time. There is an old expression that is probably true (not true for all, of course) that college is the best four years of your life. After all, you get to live away from home, away from parental supervision, setting your own time – and (generally) letting somebody else pay the bills. I remember after my first semester, one of my best times of the day was after dinner in the cafeteria. A casual group would get a cup of coffee (which is where I learned to drink coffee – but it could be water or anything) and just talked.

Saturday? Sunday? Yes – you study on BOTH weekend days. “But there is a big home football game this Saturday” – okay, then get up at 7:00 and study before the game. “OH – my favorite pro team (in my case, the Green Bay Packers) are on Sunday night football – I have to watch!!” To be honest you don’t “have to watch” it. You might enjoy it – and if you allocate your time, you can take some time to watch the game – but if not, you can take a break every hour and check the score – and get back to studying.

Fourth – tests

Depending on the class, tests will probably be the main component of your college work. When the professor announces a test (and it should also be on the course syllabus), start them preparing for the test. What has the professor emphasized in class? What important concepts are in the textbook? Are there study questions at the end of the textbook chapter? Do them – all of them. Get another textbook from the library (and yes, they should have similar texts for all classes) and go through the study questions and review questions.

I remember being so ready for my math classes tests. I did all the assignment in the textbook, including ones the professor didn’t assign. I pictured myself (imaging) knowing all the questions, I walked into the classroom so prepared that I could almost have taught the class – AND – created the test.

Again, go to the Learning Center and get help on test studying. Essay tests will be different than multiple choice tests.


Read (and read and read) and take thorough notes on how to study in college.

Find where the campus learning center is and make an appointment (you can probably make an appointment online even before you get to campus).

Start reading your books. Write down your notes. The kinesthetic process of reading (eyes) and writing (hands) help the learning become stronger.

Set up a schedule.

Start practicing saying “NO”

Posted by Bruce White

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