Making the Grade
by Elizabeth Solazzo
It is natural to be nervous about returning to school
after not being a student for many years but you may
surprise yourself. According to
Suzanne Lucier, Director of Admissions at Alamance Community
College in Graham, North Carolina, older students usually
excel in academics. They study harder, actually read
all of the material assigned, and prepare for classroom
discussions ahead of time. They can't help but succeed
and you can too!
In many instances, as a returning student, you have
life skills that can easily be transferred to the classroom
to help ease the way. You understand
that you must put forth the effort to make good grades.
A mother accustomed to organizing play dates, balancing
the checkbook, or planning fun vacations, can use the
same planning and organization skills to organize homework
assignments, schedule study sessions with classmates
and research and write a great paper.
management is one of the biggest challenges you
will face. Life is always a balancing act and adding
school just adds more balls in the air for you to juggle.
It is a good idea to think about how you will make it
work for you ahead of time. Do you plan to attend school
full time or take some classes on the side? Will you
be able to adjust your work schedule or get outside
help with some of your home responsibilities? Attending
school full time and putting in the study time necessary
will require at least as much time as a full time job.
It is generally advisable to spend two hours of study
time outside of the classroom for every hour spent in
class, according to Lucier, who teaches a study skills
class for new students. In the beginning, you may need
to invest even more time, until you adjust to the routine.
Some colleges offer a freshman success class. These
classes usually cover study skills, research techniques
and time management tips. Study skills can be learned
and it is beneficial to investigate all avenues of help
open to you as you return to school.
Effective note taking also plays a large part in a student's
success. The modified
outline system is a method recommended by the Division
of Student Affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute
and State University. This system allows the student
to jot down the most important points during a lecture,
leaving a wide left margin on the page. The margin is
then used to fill in ideas and questions while completing
the review and study process. It is also recommended
that students review their notes for a few minutes each
day so that the material will be more easily remembered
when studying for the test.
If you haven't spent much time reading and writing in
recent years, you may
need some brush up work with the fundamentals. One process
to examine is the way you should read a textbook in
order to learn the material. Francis P.
Robinson developed a helpful reading system called SQ3R.
The acronym means Survey, Question, Read, Recite
and Review. This method advocates that you survey
the chapter first by looking at the headings, the summary
and the chapter questions. Next, you should create your
own questions about the material based on the information
listed in the headings. Having the questions in mind
as you read requires you to think more deeply about
what you are reading as you go through the material.
After reading the chapter, try to answer the questions
you designed. The last step requires you to again question
yourself about the information gained. This method will
help you to begin to understand and retain the material.