Life Of An Undergraduate: 10 Keys To Every Successful Student (Continuation)
Continued from last week
NUGGET 5: Associate
No employer today is independent of those about him. He cannot succeed alone, no matter how great his ability or capital. Business today is more than ever a question of cooperation. Orison Swett Marden
You will discover yourself developing the lifestyle of a winner simply by associating with those who are what you want to become. Bishop T.D Jakes
Always be in close rapport with your course mates. No young undergraduate is an island unto himself. Choose your company carefully as you would your choice of clothes. Avoid toxic students (those you stand to gain nothing from) they are usually the back benchers in class (the House of Lords, as we call them). Be friendly to everybody in class. Don’t be aloof or snobbish. Someone may possess career-crucial information that you may not possess and all it might be begging for might just be a little conversation before the cat is let out of the bag. Sometimes materials may exist that you may not have and no one will bring that to your notice unless it comes up in the course of conversing. For instance, someone in the course of a conversation might just remember it and ask you if you’ve heard of the latest article on so and so. Extend some of your good graces to senior colleagues since they are a level or so ahead of you, you may find some of the advice they give timely especially as it pertains to navigating your way through the mazy labyrinth of your undergraduate curriculum. You might even get a possible heads up on a challenging course and its pitfalls. Again in class be well behaved, try not to draw too much attention to yourself. Ask questions if the “need” arises but don’t make a habit of it just to show off how much people should know you know. They could tag you as the “questionnaire” and you may walk a very lonely road the rest of your undergraduate days because no one could bear being around you.
NUGGET 6: Optimize your Memory
Perfect retention. I don’t think I could do that-I’ve never disciplined myself to do it. I suppose a lot of it is a question of discipline. Which Improvisation is not. – George Shearing
Now I understand what was happening. I don’t particularly gain water; I don’t have water retention. – Suzanne Somers
One of the trademark secrets to undergraduate success lies with your memory retention. Undergraduate work unlike all prior academic engagements require a kind of memory retention technique that you may not have been familiar with before now. This is especially so given the staggering loads of academic materials and text you are required to commit to memory. One young undergraduate roommate got so confused reading one day that he approached me in frustration and asked me how it was possible that everything he had read that day just seemed to grow wings and fly away like twinkle stars. Remember the nursery rhyme? I bet you do. I for one suffered from this same ailment, I don’t mind telling you. I queried seniors too for answers. Just imagine enjoying a topic so well in the course of reading only to draw a blank the next minute you summon it. There is therefore the need for stepping up. This probably explains the shell shock students have when they are greeted with their first “F’s” especially when their prior records have maintained stainless celibacy. They would have probably thought things would be “business as usual”. Surprise surprise!!! Still remember those three natural laws of remembering? Here they are;
Speaking of association, the mind has its own way of retaining information and this is done in compartments and depending on which side you deposit the things you read, you could end up working with either your long term or short term memory. So to create lasting impressions of things you read and to avoid one those embarrassing black outs we spoke of earlier, try and associate the things you’ve read that seem stubborn with things you’d naturally remember. Here is an example:
I’m a football buff, so sometimes in school, I naturally associated things I had read with notable football icons. One time in my fourth year, I had this troublesome case to recall, no matter what I did, it just wouldn’t fit into my memory bank. Here is what I did. The Case title was Commissioner of Taxation v. English, Scottish and Australian Bank. I could imagine someone saying, “Piece of cake” but give me a break! Your turn will come someday and who knows! Back to where I was. I split the first parties name “Commissioner of Taxation” and associated it with the name of a roommate who really looked the part. In my mind’s eye, he seemed like the ideal “tax collector” never smiling, always serious”. As for the second party “English, Scottish and Australian Bank, I used my notable football icons “Rooney of Manutd” for English (he was an Englishman in every sense). “David Moyes” for Scottish (and who would forget that one) and Tim Cahill (former Everton player). If I ever forgot my case title, I still had Rooney, Moyes and Cahill as my insurance. Go find yours, it might not be football icons.
As regards visualization (there’s also the technique of building a mind place which we’ll address another day), where association ends, visualization begins. I should come down to your level then. In visualization, the mind works pretty much like a camera set, taking snapshots of everything you read that it considers memorable (no need to feel gutted if you don’t have the memory of a Mike Ross of Suits). With visualization, you’ll manage. It simply requires that you diagrammatize the essentials of the things you read. That way your mind will have a mental picture of it. Not everything you’ll read will have exam relevance, that’s the first nugget in the school of smart work. So narrow down your reading to essentials. You’d probably know which is which from the lectures you attend. Lecturers sometimes let you in on it. For me, I used foolscap sheets to summarize. I used to wonder how law students in some schools in Nigeria, still used foolscap sheets to summarize their own notes and text books when they still had the luxury of referring to them at any time. The reason was that with foolscap summaries, you could always stuff them into your pocket or bag and occasionally glance at them at intervals. Whether it’s in the toilet, library, and classroom or in between lectures and conversations, or before important assessment test without being noticed. I was something of a scribe myself in writing at school. I had special unused long notes I used for tearing out sheets for my note summaries. As part of the visualization exercise, I would divide the foolscap sheet into two halves by drawing a line across the middle using a pen. After which I would go on to write on both sides. I equally saw to it that everything I had written down were coherent since that may not have been the case in the text books I had read. This was one of the ways I visualized with my mind taking everything in. As law students we often used red pens to high light our case titles for visualization purposes.
We turn to Mnemonics now. It is simply using codes to shorten or represent your otherwise lengthy subject titles. Let’s say you were tasked with recalling the 9 planets. You could go with the code MVEMJSUNP. Now recite them in that order. Don’t they just look catchy? One time I was tasked with recalling four Nigerian States in which only one particular law applied. They were Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Oyo,Osun and Lagos. I simply shortened them to 2E4OL. How do you forget that!
NUGGET 7: Utilize Group Discussions
Educational relations make the strongest tie. Cecil John Rhodes
We should not only use the brains that we have but all we can burrow. Woodrow Wilson
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (AMP)
Discussions groups are key to any maiden undergraduate voyage if only you can make the most of them. Ensure you share topics with each person taking turns to explain assigned topic. They help keep you on your feet and you will no doubt feel challenged when you discover someone in your group has covered a lot of ground in courses you both offer. Another point worth mentioning is that with group discussions you get the chance to put “good heads” together to brainstorm difficult subject areas. That is as good as they come. They may even help you always keep touch with things you’ve read since you may be called upon to speak on them. Attend tutorials too, you’ll find help on dealing with some of your courses there.
NUGGET 8: Take Advantage of Your Library Resources.
Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it. Dr. Samuel Johnson
Get over whatever phobia you may have had for the library. The resources housed there are user-friendly and have been tailor made to suit your course requirements. Don’t dither, get on with it. I had this phobia too, until my second year when I confided in a friend who took me in hand and helped me turn my phobia into a passion for the place. Some of the research skills you’ll develop there over the course of your studies would really come in handy in your final year of school when you are mandated to write a dissertation (project). There is nothing more embarrassing than a final year student who cannot use the library. It’s worse for you if you a law student. Let me warn you if you are one of those. If your only concern in school is just to land good grades then you’ve failed already as a law student because there’s the world of difference between passing law exams and becoming a lawyer. The latter can only be got by using the law library. Not just over relying on summarized Internet resources. The more you read case reports (regardless of the bulk) the more your legal reasoning develops. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Use Internet resources if you like but ensure you combine it with the library.
NUGGET 9: Be a pro at time management
Discipline is a self-imposed restriction motivated by a desire greater than the alternative. Rev. P.N Utomi (R.P.N)
Commit to your goals by writing them down. If they are not written, how can you check your progress? Chris Caris (the Price and the Prize)
This is the part we speak of your time management strategies. How best do you manage your time? While in school I was only too familiar with the refrain that examinations weren’t only a test of one’s intelligence but a test of one’s preparation. Don’t forget I said earlier that success follows a predictable course. The truth is that how you set up your reading schedule would often be a critical decider in whether you come out tops in the exam or not. It therefore becomes expedient that you tabularize your school life. That way, you can keep a close eye on the things you spend your time on the most. A timetable would come in handy here. The value of your timetable cannot be overemphasized. Ensure it’s elaborate, taking into account every of your activity within the school year. Set it up according to your strengths. Don’t promise yourself 10 hours of reading each day when you can only do two or three. I’ve spoken about this earlier. Once you’ve written your time table, take every effort to see to it that you follow through on it. Don’t ever compromise your schedule unless necessity demands. Your commitment to your timetable is a reflection of your discipline which is a very important component of undergraduate success. I had one back then and I went one better. I also had a to-do list, where every night I would scribble down all of my tasks for the day ahead. It was always on me wherever I went and I’d have been lost without it. I checked off everything I had on the list as the day went by. Just imagine my excitement when I realize I had done everything on it and the momentum it helped me build each day. I practically woke up each day feeling nothing was unconquerable and that I could do anything. That’s the feeling, your reward for been schedule-faithful.
NUGGET 10: Relationships can wait.
Well, I’m not a relationship counsellor only that I know one or two things they can do to your undergraduate GPA especially in your first year. Relationships in school can be something of a red herring for anyone whose focus is not set straight. The majority of undergraduate successes have been able to identify this potential pitfall and have been able to steer themselves clear of it. For someone who is still trying to find their footing, I think you will do well to avoid relationships at an early stage in school. This can be a potential momentum breaker. Why? Because when you have misunderstandings as is oft, there is an even chance your academics will take the beating for this. Your focus would have been broken. Still if you feel you can handle it, then I’d leave that decision to you.
Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Law Student Hub. He is an LL.B. Law graduate from the University of Benin, Nigeria. He’s a life enthusiast, a budding writer and internet entrepreneur. Patrick is deeply passionate about law and research and has inspired many with his thought-provoking articles. To get in touch, follow him on social media.