Great professors. In Pink Floyd’s The Wall the schoolchildren are emotionally abused and harassed by their schoolmaster. Normal inquisitive children are mutated into faceless, nameless, soulless zombies willingly walking single file into a massive meat grinder. Their joy and confidence drained out of them due to a cruel teacher. In real life, attributes of a “great teacher” and “cruel schoolmaster” will most likely vary student-to-student. But for me the attributes of a great teacher are: inspiring, interesting, motivating. I’ve had plenty of professors who were dull and many inspiring ones. Without fail, I achieved better grades in the classes taught by the great teachers than in the boring classes. The bad ones didn’t exactly grind me into meat, but they wasted my time and money, because I didn’t get anything out of their class other than a strong urge to sleep. Bad teachers can make even the most fascinating topics sleep-inducing. Great teachers can breathe life into the most mundane topics. There are many websites where college professors are rated by past students. These sites are helpful in avoiding snoozers and finding a motivating teacher.
Honesty. You have to be honest with yourself. Is your heart really in this degree? Are you doing it for the right reasons? If not, you may be sentencing yourself to a life of jobs that you hate, or you might not even have the follow-through to graduate at all. I wouldn’t advise going to college just because you feel it’s the right thing to do because your family, loved one or boss suggested it. You have to have your heart in it. It’s hard work, and without the drive to pursue your chosen major it’s going to be a long, hard haul. Are you passionately in love with your major? Be honest with yourself about that question before you start a long and expensive collegiate endeavor.
Minimal outside stressors. Even the most devoted, intelligent and ambitious students can get off-track if they have a lot of stressors unrelated to school. Financial worries, bad relationships, a demanding “day job” to mention only a few. These types of stressors can really impair your ability to focus on school and give it your full attention. No one can prevent bad things from happening in their life, but some situations that are historically strife-ridden for you can be avoided or minimized by putting some effort into it. Applying for scholarships can ease financials strains. Talk to your boss about any scheduling issues you may need to work out with him due to classes or exams. Face your dragons, whatever they may be, and try to tame them, at least a little bit.
A social life outside of school. Remember Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And a crazy one! Take a mental health check once in a while. Are you too stressed? Overly bored? Restless? See a play, go to a museum, take a quick out-of-town trip on a weekend. Take a break once in a while from your studies. Do something fun and different to break up the monotony and stress of studying semester after semester. If you’re short on cash, have a weekend long staycation and indulge in a Netflix marathon and a pizza, assuming of course you’re caught up on schoolwork.
Sleep. Almost no one I know gets eight hours of sleep. And not coincidentally, everyone I know is always tired. I didn’t have a great GPA in high school and two words can sum up the reason for that lower-than-desired GPA: sleep disorder. I did not realize until after high school that I had a severe case of sleep apnea. After I was diagnosed my sleep doctor told me that for my entire life I was getting the equivalent of about 2 hours of sleep a night, even if I slept for 12 hours. I was extremely sleep-deprived which made studying and doing homework impossible. But now that I’ve been diagnosed and have a C-PAP machine I’m wide awake. It disheartens me to think about how much better I could have done in school had I been diagnosed earlier. I know what it’s like to try and attend school while exhausted. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and go to a sleep clinic if you suspect you may have sleep apnea. A good night’s sleep makes such a difference.
Your recipe may vary a bit, but as long as your ingredients work for you, then you’ll do well in school. For further help with your academic goals check out Grad Coach.