Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Student Success – The Importance of Taking Responsibility

Tips for Student Success - Photo by Tulane Public Relations on Wikimedia Commons
The majority of students want to be successful in the classroom, but success is often defined in a variety of ways. One student may wish to gain skills while another may be shooting for a particular grade. Some students may be motivated to meet minimum criteria to maintain a scholarship while others may be stepping out to provide a great example for family members.

Whatever the motivation, a key ingredient in becoming a successful student is the ability to accept responsibility for one's decisions. Most students have a full schedule while trying to juggle home life, academic life, and often a job. A plethora of opportunities often vie for one's time.

Be Realistic When Choosing a Schedule

Many students overestimate their ability to commit to a full load of classes while caring for family members and/or holding down a job. Traditional face-to-face classes will have time each week to meet, but many hours of study and work may be involved outside of class time. Online classes tend to require a great deal of self-discipline as many students in a virtual classroom must develop their own schedule for studying and completing assignments within the class guidelines.

One rule of thumb is to plan to spend three hours of studying/working for each class hour each week. Many students find it helpful to take a few less classes if they have a particularly busy life outside of the classroom. Developing a set time to study in an environment that has less distractions is also helpful for many students.

Be Responsible for Requirements of the Class

Professors want students to be successful and often provide many resources that spell out expectations for the class. Unfortunately, some students fail to look at that information until the end of the semester is approaching.

Look at the course syllabus and answer the following questions:
  • What is the grading scale? (Many students mistakenly assume the grading scale is the same for all classes.)
  • Is there a calendar of assignments?
  • Are some assignments worth more than others (weighting of grades)?
  • Can any assignment be dropped?
  • Is any extra credit available?
If you find that you are struggling on particular assignments, look for extra study opportunities and make sure you understand how each assignment is graded and ensure that you understand all information because many class assignments may build on knowledge acquired from previous assignments. Those with special needs may find it helpful to seek assistance through an accommodation plan.

Free tutoring may be available, and volunteers may provide feedback on written assignments. Students may find study groups helpful. Some online study resources are excellent. Ask the professor what he/she would recommend to improve scores in the future.

Be Ready for the Unexpected

Sometimes life has a way of pitching a curve ball when you least expect it. Things happen. If you have planned carefully throughout the semester, you may have a cushion that may help to keep your grade closer to target. Some professors may extend a deadline if you notify them of an emergency, particularly if you mention a special need before the due date. Some instructors may offer make-up assignments.

If you miss an assignment that cannot be made up, determine how this will affect your overall score and adjust your plan accordingly. Many students miss multiple assignments and begin asking about extra credit opportunities and/or make-up assignments during the week of final exams. This usually does not result favorably for a student who is struggling academically. Students who explore options and additional learning opportunities immediately after a missed assignment tend to create better damage control plans.

Not All Success is Measured by a Grade

I find that many students who do not get a perfect score may be learning more than those who test highly on each assignment. A student who begins with very low scores and begins to improve throughout the class are quite successful in my eyes. Students who honestly earn their grades will be more likely to retain that knowledge than those who are only concerned with getting a score at any cost.

Some of my most successful students completely changed gears after taking a class. Perhaps she discovered that a chosen career path was not at all what she had expected and decided to change majors. Finding one's passion and moving toward that goal can be one of the greatest learning experiences one can enjoy!

Readers may also wish to read How to Calculate Your Grade in a Class and How to Communicate With an Online Professor. Find more of Katrena's articles, flash cards, and practice tests at Student Survive 2 Thrive.

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