How to Ace This College Semester

Students sitting on a lawn

With the Fall school semester rushing towards us, it’s a good idea to center yourself and prepare for what lies ahead. With a little help from the WMC, you can crush the upcoming school year!

Get to know your classmates

Making friends in your classes is not only beneficial for your social-life, it will come in handy if or when you have to take absences from your class. Get your classmate’s contact info so that you can have a connection to course content if you can’t attend class. Getting your classmate’s help with notes and assignments will make a world of difference as you move through the semester.

Keep a balanced diet

You can’t properly learn or live your best life if your dietary decisions are making you feel gross. Remember to eat full meals- no, not just snack foods- that are balanced with beneficial vitamins and proteins to help your body and brain function. This article from verywellfit has some excellent nutritional tips for college students.

Avoid overdoing it with caffeinated beverages

According to this article from Gooroo, caffeine can help to improve and maintain memory; however, how well you function with caffeine in your system depends on what kind of caffeine you consume. For example, drinks with a lot of sugar such as energy drinks can have an adverse effect on your emotional and physical state as the sugar and caffeine can combine in your body to create a negative interaction. Avoid sugary caffeinated drinks and have a glass of water with each cup of tea or coffee.

Be active in your classes 

Take notes, pay attention, and ask questions during class. The worst thing you could do for your grade is to take a passive approach; simply sitting in class and hoping to absorb the information through osmosis is not only unrealistic, it’s ultimately unproductive. Stay mentally engaged through class so that you actually learn the material rather than just experiencing it.

Have confidence in yourself and use the tools at your disposal. Don’t forget to rest and seek help if you need it. Remember that this is your college experience, and you can make it as easy or as difficult as you want!


Study Smarter, Not Harder

Student life is hard enough without the frustration of trying to find study methods that actually work. Methods like highlighting words and cramming are favored amongst students, despite the fact that they generally don’t work- and this is likely because we’re expected to study but rarely told how to. 

If you’re confused about how to begin the process of studying, these tips are not only helpful, they are proven to work! 

Pre-Studying Questions

Ask yourself a few questions before you begin; 

  1. How does your brain work? For example, are you a visual learner, an auditory learner, etc.?
  2. What study methods worked best for you in the past? 
  3. What material are you studying (rhetoric, math, history, etc.), and what study method can you use to absorb this material best?

With the answers to your questions in hand, define your learning style and use it to find the studying methodology for you.

The Tricks of the Trade

Find the best place, the best music, and the best food 

It is scientifically proven that place and space have a big impact on how you learn and remember information. Choose a space that is comfortable, yet conducive to work.

Put on music and/or TV that can serve as ‘background’ noise, rather than a distraction, and keep food on hand so your brain doesn’t pull the old “well, I guess I have to go make some food anyways,” trick on you. 


An oldie, but a goodie. This type of studying is used to commit information to memory, whether the information is data or broader concepts. This form of pre-testing is a strategy known as “retrieval practice” in which recalling information aids the process of learning. 

Flashcards are typically “cards” that can be physical or virtual with a term on one side and information on the other. The goal when using flashcards is to link the term and the information by looking only at the term and attempting to remember the information without turning the card over. 


Note-taking can be very useful, particularly when studying long texts that you are being asked to comprehend. You can utilize various note-taking forms such as outlining or listing to make a note of key points you’d like to remember.


Utilize color coordination, formatting, and note-taking methods to create a study sheet that you can continuously reference during your sessions. This method is helpful for visual learners as well as those who have to synthesize and remember a hefty amount of info. 

You can use this method to not only organize your notes but as one big flashcard as well. Take another sheet of paper and use it to obscure the information on your study sheet while trying to recall the facts you’ve written. Move the paper down the sheet, from concept to concept, as you recall and study your notes.

Last but not least, reward yourself!

Do not overwhelm yourself by trying to learn everything at once. Instead, make a ‘study schedule’ and stick to it, taking regular breaks in between. 

Cramming not only does not work for long-term memory, but it can also lead to frustration and anxiety before and during an exam or project. Make sure to treat yourself, and your brain well. 

Don’t let stress invade your study habits. With a little planning, you can crush your next project or exam by knowing what studying methods work best for you and your field. 


Check out this resource for a treasure trove of proven study methods.

Six Essay Writing Tips That Actually Work

You have an essay due in two days, you’ve barely considered your subject matter, and you don’t know how to start writing. Do you:  

  1. Panic?
  2. Forget about it, I have plenty of time (. . .I think)
  3. Read these tips and get that essay done?

If I were you, I’d pick C. With these tips, you’ll be off and writing in no time!

1. Write a thesis statement first. 

A thesis statement is your essay’s main argument, claim, or idea. A good essay will be organized around supporting this statement, so it makes sense to first craft your thesis statement and build your essay around it. 

Your thesis statement should address what you will be talking about in your paper and should summarize your main argument or point. This may seem difficult, but keep in mind that a thesis statement is not a summary of everything written in the essay compounded into one sentence (this is how run-on sentences are born). Your thesis statement should be your main argument; nothing more, nothing less.

2. “Schedule” your essay

Consider these two questions: 

  • How much time do you have until your deadline?
  • How much work would you need to do on your essay for it to be done in that time? 

Let’s say you have five days to write a five-page paper; you can decide to write 2 and a half pages in two days or one page per day to have the paper completed in time. 

Whatever amount of work you ‘assign’ yourself, make sure you commit to doing that work! Trust me- when the deadline rolls around, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you have your essay completed on schedule. 

3. Got sources? Get more. 

In the art of essay-writing, it’s always better to have a surplus of sources that can serve to support your thesis statement. Thoroughly read your sources and supporting material and take note of how they can fit into your essay to support your main points. 

Many writers recommend utilizing the 60/40 approach(hyper link)  to quoting and paraphrasing; 60% of your work should be in your own words, while 40% should consist of supporting sources. 

4. Body first, conclusion and introduction last.  

The introduction and conclusion of a paper are simply a succinct summarizing of what you are going to express in the body of your essay, so writing the body first will simply save you time when writing these last two sections. You can also avoid the pitfall of plotting out points in your introduction and conclusion that may never make it into the actual body. 

5. Keep your language formal and professional 

Please, I beg you, no “you guys” or, “I think”s. Do as I, an ENL grad student, do and use an online thesaurus for synonyms to replace simplistic words in your text. Avoid the first person and 

don’t address the instructor directly. Unless, of course, they specified that you should. 

6. Understand your audience. 

This is perhaps the most crucial advice I could give you. Understanding who you are writing your essay is incredibly important to how you tailor your language, your format, and even your narrative style. Different instructors require different types of writing; I would not write the same essay for a biology professor as I would for a history professor.

 If you are writing for an audience outside of academia, this point becomes even more salient. Whether or not your audience absorbs and understands your message depends entirely on how you express it to them. Understand who you are writing for and ‘adapt’ to them, so to speak. 

Hopefully, these tips will guide you as you write and polish your multiliteracy endeavors. Happy writing!