Three Tips for Staying on Track!
I like to think of the beginning of October as the end of the honeymoon stage in University for first year students. O-Week is long gone, Homecoming is over, the weather is cooling off and midterms are creeping up. It’s when everyone starts to walk a little faster and the library fills up a little sooner. It’s easy for students to fall behind on readings or small assignments in September because midterm season feels so far away! But here we are... October is right around the corner!
The first set of midterms can be overwhelming for students in first year. They often don’t know what to expect on the midterm itself, what to study or when to start studying. Your students may be calling home or visiting for Thanksgiving, and expressing concern about their courses. In this post, I am going to shed some light on university midterms and assignments and how to stay on top of them!
The first thing that I recommend to all students is to find all of their course outlines that were given out by professors back in the first week of school. Sometimes they can also be found online in Courselink. The outlines will give students an overview of the course but most importantly, they will tell your student all of the due dates.
I suggest that students get a big calendar (these can be downloaded for free online if you google “free online calendar + September”), post it on their wall and write down every single one of the due dates that they have, no matter if the assignment is worth 100% or 1% of their final mark. This will help students get an idea of what their semester actually looks like. First year students have a tendency to look at the semester week by week instead of as a whole. This causes students to essentially ‘take a week off’ if they don’t have anything due that week instead of working to get ahead so that week with three essays and a midterm isn’t as overwhelming.
The second thing that I recommend is to go to class. This one seems like a no brainer but it’s surprising how often students skip class. Professors will often give tips and hints leading up to midterms but will not post them online so it’s useful to attend class. They will tell you what sections are most important, the structure of the midterm and how best to study for it. This can help ease a lot of anxiety that students may feel about their first midterms. Even if your student is struggling in a class, encourage them to attend. Often not attending will push students even further behind and will cause more frustration.
Thirdly, do the class readings before class as often as possible. This can really help with not only being familiar with the concepts covered but also with understanding them when the professor covers them in class. Having a basic understanding beforehand will put your student that much further ahead.
I always find myself falling asleep at the beginning of the semester when I try to do my readings, no matter how interesting the class is! Our bodies aren’t used to sitting still for so long but they will soon remember how. I also suggest taking notes on the readings so that when studying for a midterm or writing a paper, your student doesn’t need to start from scratch and go back to page one of the textbook. This also helps with keeping the mind on task and focussed.
Learning how to study and stay on top of university course loads takes practice. It can definitely be overwhelming at first, especially when your student is walking through uncharted territory.
There are many great resources that can be found on the Learning Commons website. Learning Services (which is within Learning Commons) “provides assistance and support to students at all levels - from first year to doctoral candidates - who want to enhance their skills and performance and achieve their intellectual potential.” Some of their great resource include the online modules called A Guide for University Learning and A Guide for Time Management. Check them out!
Remember, if you have any questions about this blog or about anything else, feel free to email me at email@example.com!
Have a great day!
The author of this blog is Melanie Harding, a University of Guelph student and the current Parents and Families Facilitator with the Centre for New Students.