Preparing for college while maintaining a high GPA can be stressful. How can you help alleviate stress and help your teen become a more successful student while preparing for the rigors of collegiate studies? We offer the following advice from Ann Fellinger, who teaches a student success course at the University of Arkansas, Pulaski Technical College. Fellinger has nearly three decades of experience as a college instructor and for the last three years has tutored students to improve their study skills.
“All students should do a skills assessment to find their learning preferences. Most students take in information in one of three ways,” Fellinger said. He or she may be a visual learner, an auditory learner or may learn best through hands-on methods.
“For a student who learns visually, using notes to prepare for a test can be frustrating. People who learn using hand-on methods—boys tend to have a stronger hands-on preference—need a tactile way to process information better,” she added.
Once an individual’s learning preferences are known, finding effective studying techniques is fairly easy.
“There’s so much technology available. For instance, graphics are a great way to study. Many visual students use things like color or icons to illustrate concepts. I have students who [when studying] use blue ink for their main points, green ink for subpoints or supporting details, and red ink for definitions. This is just an example. Students should develop their own methods.”
Students who process information through auditory learning are the most successful in classrooms in which teachers employ traditional teaching methods.
“They tend to be good listeners and like reading. They’re simply ‘built better’ for the classroom than fidgety students. They benefit from reading notes and using flash cards; however, these students may not like videos as they tend to fare better with word-based methods,” Fellinger said.
She said fidgety students are often labeled as hyperactive, but their brains simply process better when they move than when they are sitting still. “I suggest they tap their foot softly or hold something in their hands, like those fidget spinners, or create something they can hold in their hands, such as flash cards, because they involve movement.”
She recommends the website and app Quizlet, which allows student to create materials, such as flashcards, games and diagrams.
“It’s important to remember, one size doesn’t fit all, and that what gets students through school, kindergarten to 12th grade, isn’t necessarily what will get them through college.”
As most teachers use traditional methods, Fellinger suggests students should learn how to take notes with the goal of later packaging into a meaningful study guide that works for them, such as an outline, flash cards or by using Quizlet, based on their learning preferences. Students may also try taking notes in the Cornell format, which incorporates visual impact and helps clearly define the main points and subpoints.
To help students prepare for ACT and SAT tests, Fellinger said: practice. “There’s no substitute for practice. Plan to invest time, and if you can afford it, money. However, there is a number of ACT and SAT tests that have been released to the public. Students can download them and practice taking them,” Fellinger said. “Most high schools offer boot camps to prepare, and juniors can take the ACT for free. Students should plan to take the test more than once.”
“Additionally, use your strengths. If you are working on the reading section of the ACT, and you don’t like prose or literature, but you like facts, start with science. Do the test out of order.”
She offers the following advice: “Without a doubt, the biggest mistake students make is not reading the instructions, the questions and the answers all the way through. One word can change the answer. Also, students shouldn’t be afraid to mark on the test, to make notes and circle key words.”
Finally, to help ensure a successful college career, Fellinger said students should consider classes such as the course she teaches. Students learn key study skills, get essential information about financial aid and how to plan their degree paths.
Download a copy of the Study checklist HERE