A Better Me Essay

Ever wondered why you just can’t seem to reach your full academic potential? It’s likely that your brain isn’t the cause but, rather, your lifestyle.

Review the following steps, which outline simple changes you can make and soon you’ll be on your way to becoming the student you’ve always wanted to become.

1. Set goals

Goals, both short and long-term, are a great way to measure your success. If you don’t have goals in sight, you have nothing to achieve or strive for in your courses.

If you set concrete goals for yourself, it’s easier to become motivated and measure your success in those goals.

Make sure your goals are realistic! While you should challenge yourself, you shouldn’t set yourself up for failure, either.

Remember, you can always set higher goals once you’ve achieved your first set.

2. Adopt and stick to a study schedule

Scheduling is vital to maintaining a healthy learning balance and keeping up with rigorous courses.

3. Stay well-rested

If you’re awake and alert, you’re certainly more likely to absorb information given in class, during study sessions and in class activities and participation. Think of it as an equation: awake + alertness = A’s.

4. Take advantage of educator resources

In addition to attending class, there are a variety of resources available to aid students in thriving and achieving in class.

TA’s, office hours and study review sessions are amongst the resources offered within specific classes.

Additionally, many high schools and colleges offer tutoring sessions free of charge to students who seek extra help with their courses.

5. Healthy study techniques for proper exam preparation

Study techniques considered “healthy” include balance, time-management and avoiding all-night study “cram” sessions. Information is certainly easier to absorb when reviewed in increments, rather than procrastinating until the last minute.

6. Develop note-taking skills

Listening and taking notes actively during class not only ensures the recording of accurate information, but also reinforces the information through recording the information as you take it in.

Have you ever gone back to your notes when it comes time to study for the exam and find that they are illegible or difficult to understand? It’s helpful to go over your note after class and either rewrite them or outline the key information while it’s still fresh in your mind.

You’ll find it’s much easier to utilize your notes and retain clearer information, come exam time. Clearly, it also provides you with any important information that was only mentioned in class when it comes time to review and study the exam material.

7. Extracurricular activities

Try to create a life outside of academics, like participation in extracurricular activities, such as intramural sports or college clubs.

Contrary to popular belief, extracurricular activities increase a student’s overall college experience, contribute to the learning process and aiding in balancing scheduling skills.

8. Study buddies

Collaborating with other students is a great way to learn – as long as you’re sure to choose students who you’ll stay on task with. Try finding various students in your class, rather than friends you already have. It can expand your social group and you’re more likely to stay focused on the school work.

Students who form study groups with one another can often learn more through learning by teaching. When students explain concepts to one another, they are able to learn and absorb the information more easily.

Inversely, students that may need clarification on areas of study are able to ask peers in order to be able to better understand the course materials.

9. Take advantage of school resources

Utilizing school resources for setting goals and creating positive study habits tremendously aids in a student’s success.

School resources are abundant and students who take advantage of such resources are much more likely to succeed.

Such resources include the utilization of school libraries, career centers and school centers that provide tutoring and knowledge (for example: student writing centers, math centers, etc).

10. Take on a manageable course load

When taking on a well-balanced course load, students are more likely to succeed because of realistic expectations in the work load that can be handled successfully.

11. Attendance

This should be common sense – if students go to class, they will likely become more successful in the course.

Obviously, the course material is presented during class periods and students that are paying attention tend to learn while in class and, thus, are more likely to perform well on exams.

12. Participation

Going to class is one thing but paying attention and participating in class is another. If you listen to the lessons, questions are likely to arise. If they come up in class, ask!

If you’re too shy in a large class, wait and ask the professor after class or during office hours. It’s important to know, however, that if you’ve got a question, it’s likely that other students have the same question as well.

Whatever you do, DO NOT wait until it comes time to study for the exam!



What other tips do you have to become a better student?

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I recently finished reading 99U’s new book Maximize Your Potential (which I can’t recommend enough), and it ended with a lovely little essay by Jack Cheng about the “Better You.”

The idea of the essay is that there is always a version of yourself slightly ahead of where you are now. This “you” isn’t perfect, but he or she is a little more organized, gets up a little earlier , is a little better at focusing on the task at hand. It’s the person you know you could be if you just tried a little harder. It’s not scary impossible, but you’ll have to push to get there.

I loved this idea of a better me sitting next to me at work and pushing me to achieve my potential. For the next week or so, I would think with every move I made—what would better me do?

But even with a nice metaphor like this, keeping up with your better self is not an easy task. It takes hard work and persistence, and it’s easy to just want to revert to your self that hits the snooze button a couple of times and hops over to Pinterest for “just five minutes” in the middle of the workday.

To help you (and myself) out in this quest for continual self-improvement, I’ve come up with a couple of strategies that make staying on track with my better self a little easier.

1. Break the Norm

Sometimes you already know the changes you want to make in your life. But sometimes, it’s not as clear what behaviors are holding you back from your full potential.

The best way to figure it out? Start trying different things. Make a list of productivity tips you’ve read about or friends’ behaviors you’ve been wanting to try, and challenge yourself to do things differently. It doesn’t have to be big things: If you usually get up and check your phone, instead get up and relax for five minutes to start the day fresh . If you usually check your email first thing when you get to the office, instead try spending an hour working on your big task for the day first.

Not every change you make will be one you want to continue, but experimenting like this will start to give you a sense of what’s holding you back and what will help you move toward the better version of you.

2. Do it Regularly for a Month

Oftentimes when people get excited about improving themselves, they’ll think about all the things they want to do differently and make it a goal to change them all at once. I fall prey to this far too often, too— this week, I’m going to stay organized at work, devote time to side projects, eat healthier, and actually exercise . It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens in this scenario: Monday I’m gung-ho for all of them, but by mid-week I’m back to my old ways.

Changing habits is hard, but it’s nearly impossible when we overwhelm ourselves with too many changes at once. Instead, it’s better to focus on one major change at a time, and give yourself ample time to establish this change as a habit. I find the most effective way to do this is to practice the new habit every day for a month. Even if you aren’t looking for this to be a daily habit in the long run, doing it every day at the start makes it easer to condition the behavior as a regular part of your life. Scott Young explains this well in his article on 99U .

For example, over the summer I was working out approximately never. I wanted to get to the point where I was active three or four days a week, so I made it a goal to work out every day in September. By spending a month focusing on how working out could fit into my life every single day, doing it a few times a week is now a piece of cake.

This could apply to things at work, too. Want to start devoting more time to special projects at work? Devoting even 15 to 30 minutes a day to these projects for a month can help get you there. It may feel like slow progress, but in just a year of doing one thing a month, you’ll be closer to your better self in 12 major ways.

3. Give Yourself a Performance Review

Nothing makes a goal fail faster than not keeping yourself accountable. It’s all well and good to say you’ll wake up half an hour earlier every day, but if you’re not checking in on yourself, you’ll probably start hitting the snooze button again before you know it.

So, set up a regular time to check in with yourself on your goal. Every evening, once a week—whatever cadence you think you need to stay on track. Sit down and think about what you’ve been doing well and where your weaknesses have been, and then come up with action items for how you’re going to overcome them. Better yet, write them down so you can keep up with your progress .

And if you’re still having trouble staying on track, find someone else to help you stay accountable. It could be your roommate, your best friend, or even your boss. For example, I had a goal to start writing more. After sharing it with my boss, we set up regular times during my work week that were blocked out for writing, and she checks in with me at the beginning of each of those times to see what I’m working on that day. She’s even started joining me in this writing time—meaning we’re both making progress towards our better selves.

All of this is not to say that you should be constantly self-critiquing and never be happy with where you are in your development. But when you do find ways you can change your habits to make your life a little easier? These strategies will do wonders.

Photo of man smiling courtesy of Shutterstock .

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