I wanted to start by responding to Cal Newport’s article “I Got a C on My Orgo Exam! What Should I Do?” because I feel that the article really sums up the differences in mindset that sets great students apart from good students. This is really the guiding philosophy in terms of studying which I will dissect in further posts. The article can be found here http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/04/01/i-got-a-c-on-my-orgo-exam-what-should-i-do/
It is safe to say that every college student will run into a bit of adversity when it comes to getting the grades they want. I have definitely bombed a test a few times. Sometimes you just study the wrong things or don’t review a certain area that the professor thought was really important. Being in the business of writing study advice, Cal Newport gets his fair share of emails from people saying they’ve failed a test and they need help. He believes that the difference between students who will pull themselves out of it and those that will just keep getting bad grades is adaptability.
In the context of academics, adaptability has very little to do with someone’s innate intelligence but their ability to change strategies to get a different result. In fact, the study Newport references found that someone’s belief in whether intelligence was fixed or not was crucial to their success in premed courses. If a student really wants to be successful they have to believe they can develop their intelligence and therefore adapt to get better.
How this plays out in college is that many students will study for an exam and fail it. In response, they may try to study for longer or even worse just keep doing the same thing they were doing and expect a different result. If you want to truly be successful you have to adapt your strategy and be willing to try new things to put yourself in a position where you can improve. When you get a bad grade, you evaluate what you didn’t get right and develop strategies to makes sure next time you know that type of material.
In fact, if you abide by the belief that you should always develop and refine strategies to study better than not only will perform better but you will be able to achieve better results with less time. More time does not necessarily guarantee better results. This is something many college students don’t realize. If you use your time efficiently, you can have a happier experience by getting things done so you have time for extracurriculars while still getting good grades. Maybe you can’t have it all, but you can a whole lot more than one might think.
It starts with one conscious decision. You have to decide to be go all in on the belief that you can be a great college student. You have to be willing to think critically about your habits and techniques to perfect them. Thinking isn’t necessarily easy but if you seize the opportunity college can be a life-changing experience.