If you’re one of the many lucky students to be beginning your new endeavor, you have probably heard many times over how different college education is from high school. Well, in case you need to hear it one more time – it’s very different. To save from an in-at-the-deep-end feeling, follow our tips to help you through your first semester at college.

Check the syllabus

Being prepared gives you more of a head start than you might think. Jumping into a whole new branch of education, a new experience, and new topics can be overwhelming, and it can be comforting to feel a little bit prepared and organized. Not only that, but you are giving your brain a good head start; showing up to class knowing what you will be learning allows you to get in the right head space.

Get ahead with reading


While you are still in a state of excitement over your shiny new books, read them! You may not remember everything you read, but you are slowly opening your mind to this new information. Make small notes on post-its and add them in here and there.

Get a little culture

So maybe you’re not a big lover of reading, or you want some extra knowledge around your subject. If you have a course in American history, find a museum to visit, find a gallery that holds 19th-century art, or a collection of weaponry from the civil war.

Brain training

Kick off your morning routine with some simple puzzles, crosswords, and lateral thinking. A quick ten or fifteen-minute session can ‘work out’ your mind and get you thinking intensely and more regularly.

Read around your topic

Textbooks and literature on your course aren’t the only written work on any given subject. Find more: books, articles, blog posts, clippings on the internet – the more you read, the more you understand.

Practice taking notes for lectures


It may sound silly, but have you done it before? Lectures are one of the biggest differences between high school and college, and it can take a little adjustment. Find a TED talk or other lecture-type video and practice taking notes. Leave them for a week and come back to them. Do they make sense? Can you remember more of the video? Reflect on how it’s best for you to learn from your notes. Try different colors, add images or charts, and make a key for abbreviations you use often – some of those professors speak fast!

Find out your learning style

Hand in hand with making notes comes learning style. Do you think in images or words? Do you organize the structure first or focus on small details and work out? Often times, students become frustrated and discouraged when things don’t stick, but it can be done to how you learn. Where book-learning is best for one student, slides and videos work better for another. Find out how you learn here:

What is your Learning Style?


Make a day planner


Once you get your class schedule, figure out times for studying. You may find a cause for celebration when you see the free time you have, but don’t forget about study time. If you don’t like last-minute cramming, sit down with a day planner and pencil it in now. When do you work best? Are you an early bird or a night owl? When you have figured that out, then you can start working on social events.

Familiarize yourself with the library

College libraries are far, far different from your regular library, trust us. And as a child of the internet age, you probably just look up everything you need online, right? Get yourself to the library and start figuring it out. This might be a full day in itself, as you’ll need to get yourself a library card, find the right section, understand how the system works, log on to the computers, then learn how to check books out. When you’re talking about a library that accommodates every course on campus, that’s a lot of books to sift through.

Work on critical thinking

College education means saying goodbye to being spoon-fed information and theories; you have to think for yourself now. While you may be given a lot of information in class, it’s up to you to not only find more, but compare, link, and evaluate them yourself. Critical thinking means engaging your analytical side – question everything, think about different angles of a story or theory, link together ideas and come up with your own. These sound like huge concepts, but you can easily practice them yourself with simple brain puzzles and techniques. Read more about them here: How to improve your critical thinking in 5 ways



About Neil Movold

I am the founder and CEO of InsightNG. I have a career spanning across Canada, Australia, Bermuda and New Zealand. For most of my life, I have been keenly interested in how our human brains function at a cognitive level. When my son Jaden was born with Spina Bifida, my interest in human cognition became more focused, resulting in the creation of InsightNG. My current interests lie in the areas of social learning, open innovation, collective & contextual intelligence, knowledge discovery, findability and content visualization.