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(1) STRATEGIES FOR ACADEMIC SUCCESS
Carlton H. Oler, Ph.D., HSP, MAC, BCPCC
Psychology Professor/Licensed Psychologist (PSY 20356)
(408) 852-2808; firstname.lastname@example.org
1. DEVELOP A SELF-CHANGE PLAN where you write down (1) the challenges or problems you’re aware of in your life that cause you stress, (2) the goals for the challenges or problems in your life, and (3) your plan to achieve your goals. Develop and stick to a schedule of exerercise, eating and sleeping properly, academic study, employment if necessary, and socializing with supportive others. It’s very important that you DISCIPLINE YOURSELF AND ORGANIZE YOUR LIFE to increase efficiency, reduce negative stress, and enhance your educational experience. PURCHASE A WEEKLY PLANNER AND USE IT to make a daily or weekly list of tasks to be done. Rank the tasks from urgent to most important to least important, then start with the most urgent task and go down the list. Cross off each task on the list as you complete it. READ THE SYLLABUS very thoroughly, carefully, and regularly to be clear on course expectations, and follow the instructions exactly.
2. PURCHASE THE TEXTBOOK for the class (or make sure you can share one with a fellow student if you can’t afford one) AND READ IT. You can’t adequately study, learn, and do your best academically if you’re not familiar with the material in the textbook and/or other information given out.
3. DON'T PROCRASTINATE—“Procrastination is a dagger in the back of academic success causing students unnecessary stress, and hemorrhaging their academic enjoyment, their academic learning, and their academic performance”—it’s academic suicide, it’s you hurting yourself academically. The moment you’re given lecture notes, chapters to read, or any assignment, get to work! Effective study leads to increased learning that leads to realized potential. Consider a study partner or forming a study group. Don’t get into the cramming habit, it only increases fear of failure, reduces study effectiveness, and leads to retention of information for only the short term.
4. AVOID THE USE OF ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS as ways to cope with stress, pressure, or demands—they never solve problems, only create new ones. AVOID EXCESSIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY AND TELEVISION. Videos, DVDs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, surfing the Internet, smartphones, texting, sexting, Instagram, Snap Chat, Pinterest, Tumblr, e-mail checking, video games, pornography, e-bay, Craigslist, Backpage, iPods, iPads, tablets, and the Internet in general are all just activities to escape from boredom or stress, and consume valuable study, sleep and exercise time.
5. GET GOOD SLEEP. It’s so very important to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night to allow the body and brain to rest and rejuvenate itself after a day of dealing with stress, pressure and demands, and the brain to organize memories and cleanse itself of metabolic toxins. Good sleep also permits the immune system to rebuild itself, for growth and development to occur (human growth hormone is made while asleep), and for stabilization of mood and consequent social behavior.
6. EAT REGULARLY AND HEALTHFULLY—plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans. Reduce or eliminate beverages and foods loaded with sugar, salt or caffeine, and saturated and trans fat and cholesterol products (e.g., meat, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese). Avoid the junk food snack machines—the products in them aren’t good body fuel. It’s so very important to start each day with a healthy breakfast, and to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to flush and revitalize your system and maintain optimal functioning.
7. BE CAREFUL IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH SIGNIFICANT OTHERS AND PEERS. If you spend so much time with that significant other and friends that you neglect other important people and activities (e.g., studying, sleep, exercise, support group or family), perhaps now isn’t the time to be involved. Also, break ups do happen—can you handle them?
8. REGULARLY EXERCISE via walking briskly, running, cycling, tennis, aerobics, swimming, etc. Don’t let technology, school, work, a significant other, friends, family, or any other life responsibilities prevent you from regularly exercising. A little exercise some of the time is better than no exercise all of the time.
9. AVOID WORRYING AND CATASTROPHIZING about anything. SPEAK TO THE INSTRUCTOR BEFORE ANY PROBLEMS GET OUT OF HAND.
10. NO GRADE PERFECTIONISM. Don’t make “A’s” your idol or you’ll become caught up in the driven, obsessional, and joyless pursuit of them. The goal of education isn’t about obtaining a high GPA (grade point average), but to ALS (ACTUALLY LEARN SOMETHING).
11. MANAGE YOUR FINANCES. Be very careful how you spend any money you have. Focus on using your money to take care of needs (necessary for survival), and not wants (not necessary for survival). When you finish your education and obtain a decent-paying job, then you can spend some of your money on wants (but don’t overdo it or you’ll end up in DEBT which YOU MUST AVOID).
12. TALK TO A COUNSELOR WHEN INDICATED. It’s not unusual for students to have problems with low self-worth, anxiety, depression, addictions, learning disorders, the list goes on and on. These problems can greatly reduce satisfaction with one’s self, relationships, and life. Don’t be afraid to SEEK COUNSELING to overcome whatever issues you’re struggling with (you don't have to suffer this way).
13. BE THANKFUL NO MATTER WHAT because whatever your situation, it could be worse. Also, there are always others who have it worse than you do who’d gladly trade places with you. Keep a thankfulness or gratefulness journal to remind youself of all the good things and positives in your life.
14. DRAW ON SPIRITUAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES 24/7 that help you cope with stress such as reading spiritual material, prayer, meditation, and helping those in need.
15. BELI EVE that you will learn, grow, and eventually graduate with a degree that will be worth the sacrifice.
If you’ve sincerely and consistently practiced these strategies, and still perform less than your potential, contact the Gavilan College Counseling Department at (408) 848-4723 regarding an evaluation or referral for a possible learning disorder, psychoemotional problem, or other issue(s) that may be undermining your academic potential and enjoyment of school—please don’t deny, ignore, or minimize what you’re going through. Help is available.
“It is the duty of all to observe strict rules in their habits of life. This is for your own good, dear youth, both physically and morally. When you rise in the morning, take into consideration, as far as possible, the work you must accomplish during the day. If necessary, have a small book in which to jot down the things that need to be done, and set yourself a time in which to do the work” (Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, p. 596).
“If the youth would form habits of regularity and order, they would improve in health, in spirits, in memory, and in disposition” (Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, p. 597).
“Whatever promotes the physical health promotes the development of a strong mind and a well-balanced character” (Education, p. 195).
“Health is required for efficiency” (Counsels to Teachers, p. 294).
Study Apps I've heard about: Quizlet (create flashcards, tests, study games), Evernote (note-taking), Khan Academy (instructional videos on various subjects), StudyCal (helps you organize your academic life).
(2) General Study Guides and Strategies, Study Skills Guide for Students, Braingym.org (exercises designed to improve academic performance)
(3) How to Do Well on the Exams
(6) Elements of and Tips for Reading Empirical Research
(7) Empirical Research Example 1, Empirical Research Example 2, Empirical Research Example 3
(8) American Psychological Association (APA) Formatting and Style Guide, APA Citation Examples
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Carlton H. Oler, Ph.D., HSP, MAC, BCPCC