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Making the Grade
(Continued from 1)

Writing papers is another area that many students feel incompetent to handle because they don't understand writing is a skill that can be learned just like any other. Joel Saltzman, author of If You Can Talk, You Can Write, encourages writers to take the plunge and put on paper whatever they are thinking. This will provide a large rough draft to work with in writing your final paper. Cure your perfectionism by recognizing that the first draft is just the beginning. Use as many drafts as necessary to say exactly what you need to say. The standard outline generally recommended for research papers consists of an introduction, several paragraphs for the body of the paper, and then a conclusion to wrap up the ideas presented.

Examine what study patterns work best for you. Younger students in college for the first time often wait until the last minute and have a heavy cram session, but you should plan ahead. Several short study sessions over time is a better strategy. Reviewing your notes each day after class helps reinforce the material learned, reducing the study time required before a test.

If it seems that your memory no longer works as well as it once did, be assured that it is still possible to retain information. It may take a bit more time for you, but the brain can be be prodded to work again. Acronyms can be useful when trying to remember a list of facts. Creating a word or phrase that contains the first letter of each item is an easy way to remember a list. Creating study groups can be helpful for older students unsure of themselves as well as young students. Students teaching students can be reaffirming for both groups. If you are able to share some knowledge and help another student understand a concept they are struggling with, it can be a boost to your confidence as well as helping to reinforce the material for you.

There are many test-taking tips available but in the end, it all comes down to how well you have prepared. Everything from class attendance, note taking, completing homework assignments and reading the textbook all combine to determine how well you will perform on a test. Some other helpful strategies include arriving for the test on time, reading the directions carefully, reviewing the test before you begin so you can budget your time wisely and using all of the time available to review your answers. You should always answer all of the questions and not change an answer unless you are positive it should be changed. Usually your first instinct is right. Anxiety can be a concern for anyone taking a test but the longer you've been away from the classroom, the more anxious you are likely to feel. Practice some relaxation techniques that you find helpful but remember that some anxiety can actually enhance your performance.

As you begin earning some good grades, your confidence with soar. Success will breed continued success for you. You took the leap into an uncertain future and you worked hard for it - maybe harder than you ever have before and you have the good grades to prove it. Be proud of your new accomplishments because you are making the grade.


Elizabeth Solazzo is employed in the student financial aid office at a community college where she spends her days working with many adult students helping them find aid for their college education. Read about her own journey in returning to school.

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