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Professor Burns offers top ten tips for success in college

August 26, 2011

As Loyola welcomes the Class of 2015 to campus this week, political science professor Peter Burns, Ph.D., offers some advice for making the grade in college. Burns is the author of “Success in College: From C's in High School to A's in College.”

According to Burns, students and parents spend their lives trying to get into the best colleges possible, but pay little attention to how to succeed once they get there. After 12 years as a college professor of political science, he believes that students will succeed if they follow these basic steps:

  1. Commit. Your number one priority for going to college is to learn. Too many students go to college for some reason other than learning. You can have the best four years of your life and still learn.
  2. Go to every class. At the end of the semester, students who get below a B ask me how they got this particular grade. The first question I ask in return is, “how many classes did you miss?” They might say they missed three or four classes. For a Tuesday-Thursday schedule, three or four classes equal two weeks. You’d get fired if you missed two weeks of work without a viable excuse.
  3. Punch the time card. Treat college like it’s a full-time job. Spend 40 hours a week on your class and homework assignments. Don’t binge and purge. That is, you don’t need to study all night for your exams or to write papers if you prepare on a consistent basis.
  4. Get ahead, stay ahead. To avoid getting avalanched by your assignments and college life, start studying on day one. The semester rolls on with or without you.
  5. Know what’s coming. Students need to read their syllabi, which contain due dates, professors’ expectations, and other important information. After you get your syllabi, you should make a master calendar of your assignments and start on those tasks that are due first. You would be amazed by how many students have no clue about the dates of their exams or when their assignments are due.
  6. Sit in front. The good grades tend to be in the front of the class because students who sit there are more likely to be engaged than those who are a mile away from the professor.
  7. Write it down. Work hard during the lectures. Too many students stare at me while I lecture. Don’t rely on your memory. Instead, write down everything and copy your notes after class.
  8. You’re not the President - turn it off. In class, turn off your cell phone and leave it in your book bag. Cell phones distract. You can wait 50 minutes or an hour and 15 minutes to find out how your friends are doing.
  9. Go old school. Leave the laptop computer in your room. The new craze seems to be that students want to use their laptops to take notes. They claim that they can type faster than they can write. While this is probably true, the laptop computer as a notetaker presents too many distractions. Emails and solitaire pull students’ attention from the lecture. They turn students into zombies.
  10. Do the right thing. Behave in class. Don’t argue with your professor or other students.

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