I’ve learned over the many years that I have been attending college that the key to success is not based on how smart you are or how hard you study: The key to succeeding in college is time management.

Without good time management skills, you are dead in the water. Even if you cram and pass a test, even if you pass that test with an A, you haven’t really succeeded. You may feel like you’ve beat the game and won the prize of passing the test. Instead of patting yourself on the back for having “pulled it off,” realize that the only thing you accomplished was cheating yourself out of a test-worth or course-worth of knowledge.

If you had properly studied, you would have learned and retained a majority of the information from the course. Hours or days after the test, the people who cram study probably can’t recall 75% of the content. Months after the test, people who cram study probably can barely remember having taken the test (or even the course) at all. When you cramm study, you are robbing yourself of the knowledge that you could have gained from the course if you had properly studied and analysed the content.

So, my word of advice: Don’t cram.

  • Give the course a good amount of time each week. 
  • Have a regularly scheduled slot of time set aside for each course.
  • Read through the course materials without studying them: just read for the purpose of seeing what it has to say.
  • Read the materials again at a later time with the purpose of studying and comprehending.
  • If there is something you don’t fully understand, don’t just memorize it, research it and ask the instructor questions until you do have a working comprehension of the topic.

You’ve probably heard advice like that hundreds of times and, if you are an habitual crammer (like me), each time you hear that you probably think that it’s worthless advice and you are doing just fine without it. If you feel that way, I challenge you to look back at a course you took several semesters ago in which you had little to no knowledge of the subject prior to the course. Take a blank final exam copy and re-take it or pop open the book (if you still have it – otherwise borrow one from someone who is currently taking the class) and take some of the end of chapter quizzes (or similar comprehension exercises in the book). How did you do? Can you hold an intelligent, college-level discussion about the material? Do you really have the knowledge that your eventual degree will claim that you have? Did you get your (or your parents’) money’s worth out of the class?

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