1. Master the art of syllabus week.
On the first day of class, sit close to the front. The front is where most students sit if they are either smart or looking for the smart people. Most likely, the ones looking out for those smart people are interested in studying hard and receiving that A. Make small talk with those around you. Ask questions like "where are you from?" "what's you major?" "are you a commuter or live on campus?" Really, ask anything that can spark conversation. Keep that going until class starts. Let it be obvious you are there to learn, focus on the professor, take short notes, and don't continue small talk. Once the class is over, ask for their phone number in case you ever need to ask a question. Most of the time, the person feels comfortable enough to share and will put their name in your phone as "Bob (Chemistry)" or "Mary (Calc)." If you can successfully get new people's phone numbers to ask questions and form a relationship, you will be more likely to get better grades, have a study partner, and be in communication with someone who also cares about the progress of the class.
2. Make relationships.
Not only does this apply to speaking to your peers, but to make relationships with those in charge of the class. Go to your professor's office hours, ask questions about the material, ask questions on if your professor conducts research, engage in conversation that makes you seem interested and invested in the class. Also, reach out to teaching assistants or graduate assistants. These people usually are very close with the professor and also very tied to the grading of the course. If your name is out there and it is obvious you care, they will always be willing to help you out.
3. Be the person to raise your hand in class.
Allowing your presence to be known is so important. Writing your name on a sign-in sheet isn't enough to prove you were present in the class. Be engaging, ask questions or for clarification. This, again, shows a professor that you care and are interested.
4. Fill out your planner the weekend before your next week of class.
Crack out all of the syllabi and write down EVERYTHING. Every homework assignment, quiz, test, and to-do list. Write things down for the week ahead as well. Having everything laid out in front of you gives you an idea of what to expect, what is expected of you, and what you need to do for the week.
5. Daily To-Do Lists
This is something I couldn't live without. The day before (writing a Tuesday to-do list on a Monday), list everything you need to do tomorrow. This will allow for your next day to run smoothly and nothing will be unexpected. What I always do is look at my planner, see what I have coming up, and break up the work into days. The trickiest part is knowing how much you can take in a day. I split my days into four major tasks. For example, on Monday I may list: complete pre-lab for chemistry, write response on discussion board on black board for writing, study for psychology, and complete anatomy lab homework. Those four tasks are my TOP priorities for that day and they need to be done. Once I list my top priorities, I list migratable tasks (things that I would like to get done, but can do another day if need be). This may include things such as rewriting notes, review practice questions, or working on homework that isn't due until next week.
6. Set up study time.
In your schedule, set up specific times to study. I set up times for me to go to the library and complete my to do lists. I usually set up two hours for library time, and half hour before I go to sleep to review any notes or materials that are important, or to get ahead on some work. Having time already factored in when you need to complete your homework or studying will make the difference. Most students just stop in between classes; however, setting up productive time in your day will keep you on task and focused.
7. Practice self care.
If you don't take care of yourself and let the stress get the best of you, you will scramble, crash, and fall. Take weekends seriously. If you live at home, get a bath bomb and light some candles and just breathe. If you live on campus, get together with some friends and have a relaxing night, whatever that means to you. Treat yourself to a good lunch or dinner with friends or someone important to you. Talk to family, do something you enjoy, and just step away from school for just a day. I encourage everyone to choose either a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to mainly focus on YOU. If you stay ahead of your work and on time, this shouldn't be a problem to just take a day to yourself. Your mental and physical health is more important than any paper. If need be, get work done in the morning and have a you-night, whatever that means for you.
8. Get a job that encourages scholarship.
Don't work somewhere where if you were to ask for a day off to study for class, they laugh. A great job I encourage freshman to seek after is a desk job. This could be a desk in an office, a residence hall, a college, anything! Most colleges in a university have a desk worker. For example, I used to work at the college of health and human services desk as well as a desk to a residence hall. These jobs encouraged keeping yourself busy at the desk with school work since most of the job was answering and transferring of phone calls. If this isn't possible for you, ask to work shifts that fit with your weekly needs. If you have a big test, let your work know ahead of time so you have time to study rather than be slammed with both school and work.