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Experts offer advice for success in college

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — College demands serious adjustments from incoming students. Here are five ways to avoid the biggest mistakes one can make.

1. LEARN TO MANAGE TIME

Your parents aren’t making you go to class, and you have no curfew. With all this new-found freedom, time management can be an issue.

Without good time-management skills, many new students are forced to skip meals, class or sleep, said Robert Stagni, coordinator of the Hudson Residence Hall.

One way to keep up on readings, notes and studying for exams is to make good use of time between classes, according to Academic Exploration and Advising Services.

If students use the daytime hours to get homework done, they should have more time for socializing in the evening. Also, quality of work in the daytime tends to be higher than work done at 3 a.m.

Kim Dude, director of the Wellness Resource Center, said moderation is the key to everything, including the computer, television and social life.

2. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Dude said poor time management can also lead to increased stress.

"Students will stress over something, get little sleep, and drink a lot of caffeine, causing them to sleep even worse," she said.

The best ways to reduce stress are to eat well, get enough sleep, maintain a healthy social life and get enough exercise, she said.

Dude recommended going for a walk, taking the stairs, using Columbia's bike trails and taking advantage of the MU Student Recreation Center.

With this kind of stress-relief help students can avoid counterproductive efforts, such as procrastination, substance use, isolation, avoidance, oversleeping and insomnia, according to Academic Exploration and Advising Services.

3. ASK FOR HELP

Students often do not use the resources available to them.

“If students have concerns or worries they should ask an academic adviser, faculty or staff member what options are available,” according to Academic Exploration and Advising Services. “All too often students don’t ask or wait until it is too late.”

Stagni said the Residential Life staff is trained to help students with problems they may have.

“Don’t be afraid to check your ego at the door and ask for help when you need it,” he said.

4. PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD

“It is important to start strong,” Stagni said.

Learning in college is fundamentally different than it is in high school. Students need to stay ahead of work by doing ample preparation, even students who could coast in high school, he said.

Going to class regularly is important. In a class with few grading opportunities, it's difficult to earn points if you do poorly in the beginning.

Studying in college is also more than reading and memorization.

“To be successful, studying has to be active. Handwriting notes in class, then typing them later, reading and re-reading material, summarizing main points and themes without notes, critically thinking through problems — all of these types of studying can help students analyze information in a way they can recall it when it’s time for exams,” according to Academic Exploration and Advising Services.

5. CONNECT WITH A COMMUNITY

Strong communities tend to have fewer problems, Stagni said.

“People don’t take enough time to meet the people around them in a significant way,” he said. “A lot of times they’ll say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ but never take the next step."

Students need to find a group, whether a club, organization, community group or church group, and reach out, Stagni said.


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