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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 8, 2015

Canadian Excellence

Tips for Success

All of these academic changes can seem very overwhelming, and time-management and note-taking issues seem to be the biggest areas that students struggle with when they first come to university. Below we have outlined some tips to help ease the transition from high school to university.

Time Management

There is a difference between experiencing university life and enduring university life.

The biggest challenge you will have as a university student will be to find a responsible balance between your academic and extra-curricular life. The secret is time management. Learning to use your time effectively is the most important skill that you can acquire at university. It will enable you to be successful in your classes, obtain a part-time job, and participate in campus clubs and activities.

Here are some strategies to help you manage your time more effectively in first year:

  • Attend an Information Session:
    As soon as you arrive on campus in September find out through Student Services when they will be running sessions on Time Management. Attending one of these sessions early will get you in the proper mind-set and help you get organized and ready for classes the following week.
  • Follow your class syllabus:
    On the first day of your class your professor will hand out a class syllabus which outlines your reading assignments, your mark breakdown, important dates and your professor's expectations. This is a very important document, read it thoroughly. Now that you have your class syllabus you'll know what to expect for the entire term, or in some cases, the year. This allows you to plan out your schedule for the entire term, noting when you will have very busy weeks and perhaps when you have time to catch up on things.
  • Buy a day planner:
    It would be impossible to be successful at university without a day planner. Make sure you buy one and use it. When you find out about a test, essay due-date, meeting or event write it in your calendar and create a month-at-a-glance so you can gauge what's coming up in the next few weeks. Having a day planner and keeping it organized will make your university life so much easier.
  • Stay one day ahead of yourself:
    Once you've received your class syllabus you will always know what to expect BEFORE each class. If you make sure that you read the assigned chapters before class it becomes a lot less overwhelming and much easier for you to retain information. Make sure that you are always one day ahead of your schedule and therefore prepared for each class. Assign yourself time between classes to do your reading for the next day. It is so hard to catch up at university if you get behind, so try to start this tactic early!
  • Get help early:
    A lot of students make the mistake of not seeking help if they do poorly on their first assignment or set of mid-terms. At university everything builds upon everything else so if you don't understand the basic concepts it's difficult to learn later material. You CAN substantially improve your mark after a bad score if you take action quickly. Go and visit your professor, talk to your classmates, make an appointment with counselling services..there are so many resources out there, take advantage of them!
  • Schedule your social life too!:
    Having a day planner and a syllabus for each of your classes will allow you to look at your entire term and see when you will be really, really busy. Now that you know when your assignments are due you can plan your social life around them or get some work done early so you don't miss a big event!

Notes Taking Tips

At university you spend a lot of time listening to your professors. In a lecture you are responsible for taking down key information and recalling that information for exams. The only way to do this is by taking good notes. Note-taking is a skill; one that you can work on and improve. Often universities will hold sessions early in the year to help you improve your note-taking abilities.

Here are some note-taking tips from current Laurier students that you might find helpful:

  • Learn to use lots of short forms (ie "b/w for between"). This will save time, and allow you to pay more attention to the professor.
  • Try not to constantly write and learn to listen! Often the professor will repeat important concepts in the lecture... it is too hard to learn and understand the material when you are scrambling to write down every word.
  • Write what the instructor says in your OWN words. This will make theories and concepts much easier to understand when studying.
  • Take notes in more than one pen colour. Key words, formulas, or concepts can then be written in the opposite colour and they will stand out when studying.
  • Create flash cards of important definitions or facts from your class-notes, or chapters. Over the course of the term, review the flash cards frequently. Test yourself frequently. When it's exam time all you need to do is review the cards!
  • Summarize your notes at the end of each week. Select the most important ideas, and combine them with textbook notes you have taken from requested readings.