Letters from the Dorm: How preparation will help you graduate the top of your class and have fun at university

Letters from the Dorm: How preparation will help you graduate the top of your class and have fun at university

Tips from this summa cum laude graduate includes making a detailed weekly schedule and being familiar with your syllabus


April graduated from Pomona College with the highest class of honours.
Photo courtesy of April Xu

It’s the start of a new semester, and you’re super excited to see your friends, right? What might be helpful, though, is to use this time, before your studies properly start, to work on your time-management skills and plan for the term ahead.

The great thing about the start of term is that you get to “shop” for courses; you go to all the classes you are interested in taking this semester, read through each syllabus, talk to the professors if necessary to figure out whether the course is right for you, and complete one piece of homework before reaching a final decision.

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Once you have finalised your course schedule, you should map out what your weekly schedule will be. Add any part-time jobs you might have lined up, and extracurricular activity meetings you will go to, but keep everything reasonably flexible in case things change. Something else that might be useful would be to make a note of what time your professors will be in their offices. I typically write out a personalised office hours schedule with all possible one-on-one sessions I could go to.

Something that I have done at this point before is to map out all my key assignments (papers, presentations, midterms and finals). This has meant that I have been able to plan ahead for non-academic events.

Familiarise yourself with the syllabus from each course, and make a note of any questions you may have about it. Schedule some time with your professor to talk about them – it’s better to clear up any confusion you have now, rather than later.

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I recommend starting each assignment as early as possible throughout your semester. This allows you time to polish your work and potentially talk to your professors before it’s due. Don’t wait until your midterm exams to start revisiting old content. Make sure you understand all the material that’s been given to you in class. Putting in a bit of time to review key concepts as you go along is better than freaking out about things during exam season.

After doing your key assessments, take time to think about what you did well and what you didn’t do well on. This doesn’t just apply to your studies – do this for yourself, too! At the end of each term, I like to reflect on what I’m most proud of, how I think I’ve grown, and some of the moments I’ve most cherished.

Of course, everyone studies differently and these are just some reflections based on my personal experience. You’ll find the way that works best for you.

Best of luck with the new term!

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Start as you mean to go on


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