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First-Time Freshman Tips

Do you have a child going off to college for the first time, or are you a first-time freshman? If so, check out tips from Jennifer Gershberg. Jennifer has many years of experience as a college professor, having taught Business Law and Business Ethics to thousands of undergraduate students at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Jennifer is an engaging and highly motivating speaker who created JG Talks to help prospective and current college students thrive.

Here are some first-time freshman tips from Jennifer:

Time Management: This is a big one! Students often find themselves lost when they have so much free unstructured time in college after having spent all of high school so programmed and managed. The ability to effectively manage your time is absolutely crucial to success in college (and life). These are a few tips:

1. Put the phone away while studying! Studying takes about 10x longer when you’re constantly interrupted by group chats, social media breaks, and other electronic distractions. You can still use your phone, but…

2. …Schedule phone breaks when studying. A good rule of thumb is that you should focus intensively on work for 45 minutes and then take a ten-minute break. Intense, shorter study sessions like these are far more effective than 6-8-hour study marathons that are constantly interrupted by phones, friends, and other distractions.

3. Write out a detailed schedule as often as possible. Don’t write “Study for chemistry.” Write “Read Ch. 3 of chemistry and copy over class notes.” You should break everything down into very small, actionable tasks that will keep you from procrastinating (it is a lot less overwhelming to start when you know exactly what you need to do)!

Active Studying: Reading isn’t studying! Studying is an active process. Here are 3 ways to study actively and optimally:

1. Take good notes and copy them over. During class, your goal should be just to get down on what the professor says. Don’t worry about making your notes pretty or super organized; that comes later. Simply write down all the important information (including examples, because examples from class often end up on exams). After class, sit down in a quiet place where you are not distracted and copy over your notes by hand. Handwriting your notes is much better for retention than typing! When you are copying your notes, make sure you are thinking about what you’re writing and make note of any questions you have so that you can ask the professor later. Review your copied-over notes several times a week.

2. Make notecards! This is one of the best ways to memorize a large volume of information. Once your notecards are made, pre-test yourself and put the cards into two piles: those you know and those you don’t know. Then learn 2 cards from the “don’t know” pile, put them in the “know” pile, and go through the entire “know” pile to make sure you really know them all. Repeat this procedure until you know all the cards.

3. Teach a friend. Teaching is a great way to master information, so take turns with a classmate and teach each other the material. You’ll benefit both from listening and teaching, and working together is more fun than doing it alone.

Professor Relationships: Getting to know your professors is a whole different ballgame from knowing your high school teachers. In high school, your teachers knew you without any effort on your part. This will not be the case in college. Here are three ways to develop good relationships with your professors and set yourself apart from other students in your professors’ eyes:

1. Communicate professionally. Students are used to communicating via text and social media, which doesn’t fly with professors. You should think of every email as professional correspondence and treat it accordingly. This means using proper capitalization, punctuation, and grammar and observing basic manners and politeness.

2. Behave yourself in class. Put your phones away (it is rude and disrespectful to text while your professor is talking). Come to class prepared and ready to ask good questions and volunteer.

3. Visit office hours for reasons other than complaining about a grade. Professors love to talk about themselves, so ask them questions! How did they become interested in their area of study? What drew them to academia? What advice do they have for students? Doing this will help them get to know you and allow you to have a deeper connection with them – which can translate to excellent letters of recommendation, networking help, and more.

For more tips, follow Jennifer on Instagram @jgtalksorg!


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