Meet Jim

The old grad

I’m sick of seeing so many students who did well in high school not do the same in college. Far too many want to change majors, transfer schools, or even quit completely and move home.  All for the wrong reasons.

Students want to do well in college, but they often don’t know how. They shouldn’t have to figure that out when they get there. They already have enough work to do.

Students should have a system. A set of simple behaviors and study techniques that they do the same way every day. Don’t think about them. Just do them and know that you’ll get consistently good results. I learned what those are and made them part of my college life. You can too.

How I Figured It Out

When I was in college, I used to think that all the other kids were just smarter than I was, and then I realized, they were. Mom lied to me. I really wasn’t that smart. Some brains just work better than others, and the fact that I never used my brain in my teenage years didn’t help either. I was a horrible student in high school. I didn’t even graduate with my class. When I did, my average must have been close to a D.

I spent my first six months out of high school working at a gas station. One thing is for certain – pumping gas brings clarity. I was sure that wasn’t something I wanted to do for a living. Luckily I had some relatives who suggested I try college. I hopped on my motorcycle and away I went.

The first semester of college was tough for me. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I had to work my tail off and it was often painfully frustrating. I kept finding myself in the library late at night wondering why I still wasn’t done. Something clearly wasn’t right and I was sick of guessing what that might be.

There wasn’t any Internet back then and I had to spend a lot of time getting my hands on everything I could find about the best ways to study. The advice seemed overwhelming.

Lots of it was endlessly long and complicated – memory methods, speed reading, lots of pep talk, feel-good motivation and psychology, and plenty of other approaches that just didn’t click for me.

It seemed like the solutions were more complicated than the problems. I didn’t need any motivation. I just wanted to keep it simple and find those things that could give me the best results with the time and effort I put into my studies.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t looking for shortcuts. I was deadly serious about college. I wanted to do well. I never missed a single class in college and law school. I also read every single word that was ever assigned to me. Literally. I had a passion for my college work, but I just wanted to do it as efficiently and effectively as I could.

I was lucky. I had time to get everything done. Other than working part-time for beer money, my schedule wasn’t cluttered with a lot of other things.

Others around me weren’t so lucky. Many had jobs, played sports or were involved in all kinds of other activities that took a lot of time. I soon realized that the biggest cause of stress of students around me was lack of time.

Success in college really isn’t always about how smart you are. You can take any major and learn anything that those really smart kids can, it may just take you more time. Sometimes a lot more. Unfortunately, you either don’t have it or you don’t do a good job managing what you do have.

But college isn’t only about time. Equally important is understanding HOW to get things done. Doing things in ways that get the most done with the best results in whatever time you have.  It takes discipline to use time effectively, especially for kids far away from home. That can be very hard to do.

When I was in college I started doing certain things to block out the distractions around me. I set up a very tight schedule and didn’t let anything interrupt it. I managed my time and took advantage of every extra minute I could find. I started to develop very specific study routines that gave me the best results in whatever time I had. I read my books, took notes and studied for exams in specific ways that helped me retain more and speed my review. I did things the same way, every day, semester after semester because I knew they just worked. I didn’t think about it. They had all become habits.

I didn’t understand it then, but I had a system.  I was never stressed out. I never studied late into the night and I never had to cram. The night before an exam was always just a quick review. I went to the bar for a beer. Seriously. I knew that I was ready and I knew I would be getting a good grade.  I didn’t even feel like I worked hard for them. They just happened as a result of the little things that I did every day.

The best part was that I still had plenty of time for the fun. In fact, I had more. I didn’t waste time just hanging around doing nothing. I got things done early and made sure I always plenty of time for the things that I really wanted to do later.

You can do the same. Stop guessing what you need to do. Learn the simple behaviors and study habits that will get you consistent results.  Click on the How To Study link at the bottom of the page or Join Shovel today and get started. You can do better in college.