3 College Tips for Newbies & Pantsers: Midterm Edition

Strong Hall
Missouri State University
College
Strong Hall on a rainy day at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
Picture taken May 2020.

If you’re newer to this blog, you might not be aware that at certain points during the semester, I post some tips for those who are new to college or who tend to fly by the seat of their pants and put things off until the last minute. I believe it is essential that we try our best in every aspect of our work to reflect a godly character and strive toward excellency in all we do. Many of these tips are also applicable to those in high school, and we can even apply the lessons these tips explore to our lives beyond college.

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Midterms are almost here, and so are many big exams and paper due dates. Here are 3 tips I found helpful in preparing for exams and papers throughout my 5-year college experience:

1) Highlight key points & terms in textbooks or sources where you can.

For example, one history professor I had always provided us with a master list of terms we would need to know before each exam to properly define and describe them in paragraph form. Of course, we had no way of knowing which terms she would choose, and the list included some 60 terms out of which she would choose only a handful. Now, I felt she was pulling a Satan move on us, but after freaking out, I was determined to do well on the exam.

I searched through every document and page of every source we’d read thus far, highlighted each term, and wrote everything down about each term that I could find. The areas I focused on were the following: who, what, where, why, when, and how. Then, I wrote down the significance of each term. Doing so helped me prepare and pass my professor’s rigorous exams.

As you read your sources, any term or definition you come across is always worth highlighting and remembering just in case it comes up again later.

2) Plan your essays.

Do it. Even if you tend to be a pantser. A brief outline that simply states your essay’s topic and supporting points will go a long way in helping you create an organized paper that may earn you a good grade.

Brainstorm your ideas. Do some freewriting. Write down ideas for your essay’s intro paragraph and support for your main points. Write down the sources you’ll use to support each main point. Write down ideas for the significance of your essay’s topic that you will reflect on in the conclusion.

If you plan your research and an outline at least seven days before your paper’s due date, then you’ll have at least five to six days to write a page or two each day and finish just in time.

Pro tip: if you prepare two weeks in advance, you’ll have time to send your draft to your professor to get his or her tips on what you should change before the due date.

3) Take time every day to relax.

My ethics professor once explained how he never allowed himself to study so much in college that he couldn’t make time for his social life or to relax throughout the week. This was one of the best pieces of advice any professor had ever given me. I found that through applying his advice, I managed to enjoy my life even when I was juggling several papers and exams due at the same time.

College is stressful. You should be responsible and do your work on time. However, you should also take the time to be around your family and friends and (most importantly) spend time with God. If you study well and prepare for your papers, you’ll find you have more time during the week to relax for an hour or two each evening.

Read a book. Chat with your family. Spend more time in prayer. Take a nap.

Just breathe, pray, repeat, and relax, and you will get through it.

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The above are tips that apply to far more than just college experiences. Preparing for important projects in the workforce and adult world is essential for success. Taking the time out to enjoy your life with family and friends is essential for your mental and emotional health. Prioritizing your time with God is essential for your spiritual health.

We must never let ourselves become too lazy or too stressed or too busy that we don’t approach our work and relationships wisely and seriously.

If you know someone in college or even high school who’s struggling, share these tips with them as an encouragement. College is not forever, but the lessons one learns in college will help them get through the rest of life.

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