Being a G.I. Bill student means that you will be out of your comfort zone. You are going back to school, where you haven’t been in a very long time. Once you start going to class, you might end up feeling like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. But don’t worry, we’ve come up with 4 steps of how to succeed in college.
The key to succeeding in college is developing good habits. You’ve already done this once in the military, learning how to make sure you got up on time, dressed in the right uniform, and speak properly. Now it’s just time to shift the discipline you managed to apply for years to a new domain.
Here are our 4 simple steps of how to succeed in college.
1.) Go to class
You may say “of course,” but it’s more than half the battle of succeeding in college. At the beginning of your education it’s easy to encourage yourself to attend, but once things get going it may become harder to convince yourself to go. You may find yourself taking an excruciatingly boring course, or one that crosses the line into being mentally painful. You could end up having a jerk of a professor who you can’t stand.
Life also tends to get in the way. Sometimes kids get sick or your car has trouble. Maybe you might just enjoy the long-awaited opportunity to sleep in every day.
This applies to online courses, as well. While you’re not literally “attending,” participation is vitally important. Do your weekly discussion questions. Take the time to give thoughtful replies to your classmates if that’s a requirement.
Try to get to class no matter what’s going on. Attendance counts for points. These points add up. For some classes, it’s a large portion of your grade. Who knows, by going to class, you may actually even learn something of use in your future career.
2.) Never ever plagiarize
Imagine you have to write a paper on Ode to a Grecian Urn (for example) and you hit a wall. You might not know what to say, you might be just plain tired, or you may have totally forgotten about the assignment. Whatever it is, you don’t want to write it. So maybe you think about hitting the internet and copying and pasting a paper together.
Don’t do this. Ever.
Most schools will expel you if they find out, and believe me, they will find out. As a part of your application process, you probably signed a pledge about academic integrity stating that you would not plagiarize. Technology has made it incredibly easy to spot plagiarism. Some schools expect you to submit all papers into turnitin.com, which coughs up a percentage that shows how much of your paper matches what’s in the site’s massive database.
Learn how to paraphrase and how to properly cite your sources. Don’t shy away from either. Both of these are skills that improve the more you use them.
Academic integrity is as important as integrity was during your military career. You are going to school to help you on your way to a better future. Don’t take shortcuts. At the end of the day, you’ll only be shortchanging yourself.
3.) Use academic resources
Schools often require you to learn how to do things you don’t know off hand, especially when it comes to writing. While you can’t copy and paste, that doesn’t mean that others can’t still help you out.
Struggling with grammar? Start using grammarly.com. Grammarly is a free service that you can use to help edit your papers. You can use it online or as an application integrated into your word processing program. Not only will it identify issues and suggest fixes, it will explain why their suggestion may be a better fit. If you pay attention to these explanations and follow them, you’ll find your writing will begin to improve.
If you find yourself struggling, you can also subscribe to Grammarly’s premium service for a fee. You will get more advanced help, including vocabulary assistance and help with sentence structure. There are a range of price plans available. Not everyone will need the premium service, but it is a good idea if you’re finding academic writing very difficult.
If your degree program requires you to use MLA, AMA, Chicago, or APA formatting, the Purdue OWL is there for you. It’s not the prettiest website, but it’s pretty easy to find what you need to know about citations, regencies, and formatting. Every subject page includes matter-of-fact examples. There’s no fluff here. Keep it open in a window as you write your papers so you can easily pull it up when you need it.
Your school probably provides its own tutoring services for various subjects, including writing and math. Your student counselor can provide you with their contact info and you will probably get it as a part of your welcome packet before you even go to your first class. These tutoring centers provide personalized help for subjects you’re struggling with. Don’t feel bad going to them for help. They exist because plenty of people feel like you do.
4.) Write things down
Many veterans probably remember being told frequently that they needed to be writing things down. A lot of units state that a pen and paper are a part of their daily uniform. There’s a good reason for this, as taking notes is a great way to remember.
Want to make sure you know when your homework assignment is due? Write it down. Using a daily or weekly planner is a good idea. If your phone is the best way to make sure you’re keeping track of things, then use your phone.
Most professors will not accept late work. A lot of work is turned in digitally and the assignments will close after the due date passes. Write things down. This will help you know when to work on assignments, when to answer online forum questions and when you need to study for tests.
Missing due dates is a nerve-wracking experience. After you finish school, you may find yourself having the occasional nightmare of missing the due date of an important paper.
Going to school is going to be an experience full of challenges. It may start out slow, but exhaustion and life are going to make it hard to succeed. Develop good habits from the start and it’s going to be much easier when the road starts getting tough.
Kathryn Zurmehly served as an Army Officer for five years, reaching the rank of Captain (O-3) and learning a bit along the way.