Hear it from a second year: dropping a course, readings and midterm reviews!

This week Psychology specialist Soha Salman helps us unpack some things she learned from her first year.  Now that she's in her second year she's put these insights to great use. Whether you’re in the middle of your first year or doing your last year here, I think she has advice we can all learn from. Here are her top three tips to boost all the learning this semester:
  1. Want to drop a course? Talk to your professor first.
The drop deadline is nearing and all of us have that one course we’re not sure we want -- either we’re scared it’ll ruin our GPA or maybe we would just prefer to do it the next year. Soha recommends a conversation with the professor or tutorial assistant before you make your final decision. More than anything, it helps make you consider important factors. For example, if it’s a professor you particularly like, you might want to ask if he or she is going to teach the course again next year. If you didn’t do so well on the midterm, talk to your professor to see if there’s opportunity to pull your grade up on the upcoming assignments. In some cases the first midterm is the easiest and so if you found that too hard to manage, professors might recommend you drop the course. However, if you indicate you’re still interested in studying more of the material, they’re likely to direct you to more effective studying strategies and better ways to tackle the midterms/assignments. If it’s a small class or a seminar, it’s more polite to communicate with the professor before you drop the course (rather than just dropping it and disappearing). In smaller class settings professors are much more aware of their students and although they expect a few to drop the course, letting them know your reasons (either in person or via email) will not only help them but also help you, in case you’d like to take the class next year.   2)  90% of my learning now happens in class, all because I do my readings! Soha also points out that she overlooked most of her weekly readings in her first year which was a big mistake. Fortunately she’s made it a point to stay on top of it this year. In bigger classes it's easy to just sit there without reading any of the material. The first one or two classes may be easy to understand without that background knowledge but overtime you start losing interest in class and daydreaming, mainly because you can’t relate to the material. However, once you start doing your readings not only is the material more interesting but you find yourself wanting to ask questions and discuss points. The whole “I’ll read it at home” doesn’t even need to happen because most of the learning just happens in class -- as it should!   3) Go to midterm review sessions! Maybe it was  a great midterm and maybe it didn’t go so well. Either way many of us find an excuse to miss the midterm review session that our professors and tutorial assistants hold -- we don’t see the immediate benefit. However, Soha highlights these review sessions as  one of the most efficient resources in helping her achieve her academic success. You might think you made certain kinds of errors or you might think you wrote certain kinds of answers, but count on the review session for a few shocks and surprises. Personally when I went to review my midterm for one of my courses last semester -- I was shocked at the amount of silly errors I had made. We all think we’re super aware and alert after a double shot espresso but I had lost marks in the most careless ways. For example, for three 3 questions I had actually circled the wrong MCQ on the scantron. The answer was pretty clear -- I needed more sleep before the midterm. By identifying specific patterns in my errors and tackling them for the next midterm I was able to improve my performance. And it all started by attending a twenty minute session of going through my paper and talking to my tutorial assistants. One of the solutions was even just as simple as get more sleep! What's your takeway from Soha's experience? Do you find these methods effective? Let us know!

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