2 “Secrets to Scholastic Success” for High School and College Students (Pass it on!)

Stacks of books

While high school and college students are on my mind, I thought I’d share these two secrets that, I believe, are secrets to scholastic success.

Pass them along to the student you love. 🙂

1. Go to office hours.

Going to your teacher’s or professor’s office hours can change your life.

At the very least, you’ll improve your grade. At the most, you’ll learn something that will enlarge and encourage you. That’s a pretty good range of possible results.  The chance that your professor will share personalized insight and instruction is like gold offered every week during office hours. Take the gold! It will be more valuable to you than your diploma.

I did not know how amazingly powerful this one little habit could be until I was teaching at Penn State University and saw for myself that students who attended office hours got better grades than they would have otherwise.

It’s a simple formula, and I saw it work in real time.

Besides, I discovered that I liked the office-hour students the best. I found myself rooting for them. I was happy when their papers improved and when they “got” a concept that we discussed during office hours.  To make up for my shortcomings as a biased teacher, I’ve been passionately disclosing the secret to becoming one of the favorites ever since.

Here are a few helpful Office Hours Rules and Regulations:

  1. Do not go to office hours to ask for a higher grade or to whine about anything. That’s not what office hours are for. Besides, there are so many articles going around about “whiney, incompetent students  who can’t handle a B-” and every teacher/ professor is prepared to resent the whiner. You are forewarned.
  2. Do go to office hours with a genuine question about the content of the course. If you don’t have a genuine question, you haven’t engaged in the content enough. Open your text book, take some notes in class, and you’ll discover a question or two.
  3. Do go to office hours in search of specific feedback on your work. Bring along the working outline for the paper that is due next week. Bring along a paragraph that you don’t quite love yet. Bring two math problems and extra scrap paper, prepared to work them out with your professor, side-by-side.

Whatever you do, just go. Stop in and say, “Hi! Thank you for the lecture today!” Then take it from there.

2. Read Picture Books.

If you’re not in the homeschool world and/ or if you do not work at the local library, you might not know that your library is stacked with accurate, well-researched, and memorable picture books (and chapter books, for that matter) about every topic under the sun.

Homeschoolers call them “living books” because they take incorporate facts into stories, into real life. Many of us opt for living books over textbooks 90% of the time.  Not only are living books far more accessible than your textbooks, but they’ll also help your textbooks make sense.

For example, if you are an English major and you are about to embark on a new Shakespeare play, first read a good quality picture book rendition. This will get you acquainted with the characters, setting, and plot.  It will take you 2 minutes to reserve the book through your libary’s online service, 5 minutes to pick it up from the library, and 10 minutes to read the book. That 17 minutes will spare you from being confused and overwhelmed when you begin reading the play the day before your 5-page response is due. That’s 17 minutes well-spent.

Or, if you are a geology major, camp out for 45 minutes in the “Rocks and Minerals” section of the children’s library and gain some of the scope, terminology, and ideas that you’ll need to thrive in your 101 class.

‘Same’s true for history, anatomy, poetry, chemistry, foreign studies, business, animal sciences, agriculture, math, philosophy, and every other subject you may pursue.

Picture books will prepare the soil of your mind so that more complex ideas and details have somewhere to land, go deep, and thrive.

I’ve spent countless hours hunched over textbooks, highlighting and index-carding my way to a B.S. in Biology, a B.A. in English and a M.A. in English Literature.  And yet I feel as if I’ve gained a more enduring and fruitful education from reading beautiful picture books to my children.

Don’t miss out on enriching your education with personalized insights from your professors and your picture books.

(photo credit: http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/)




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