The Secret to College Success – Part One of Three

Finally, it’s time to relax! After all, you have already been accepted to a great college. You have moved into your dorm room. You have met your roommate. You have managed to find your way to your classes. You have figured out the best places to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You have college mastered! But wait…I have to read the first two chapters by when? I have to write two five-page papers by when? Our first major exam is when? Just in case you thought college was going to be one big party, you had better think again. College is going to be tough—especially if you have not fine-tuned three important skills during your high school years. The three most important skills for college success are:

  • Reading skills
  • Writing skills
  • Study skills

After all, these skills are the means by which you acquire information and then transmit your understanding of that information to your teachers.

Starting with this article and with two more articles to follow, we will go over these three elements of college success, and offer tips on how to improve them.

Five Tips on How to Improve Your College Reading Skills.

Tip Number One: Take An Interest in What You Are Reading

The truth is, your brain is pretty picky. It is only going to do what it wants to do, regardless of what you ask it to do. So, when you are reading a book about a subject in which you have no interest, it is very unlikely that you will absorb enough information to ace your exam. Considering that you have to commit this time to reading whether you like it or not, it makes sense to take an interest in what you’re reading. To do that, you can employ a few tricks. First, if the chapter has study questions at the end, then read those first. Knowing what you are looking for should make the reading far more interesting. Second, try to personalize the material. Find some relevance to your life. You tend to be more interested in things that you can relate to than things that are remote and distant from your everyday life. Third, ask yourself three questions that are likely to be answered in the chapter. By seeking specific answers to specific questions, your brain tends to be much more engaged in what it is reading. 

Tip Number Two: Conduct a Brief Survey Prior to Reading

Before you read the textbook chapter, take no more than one minute to flip through the pages in order to gather as much information as you can in a very short period of time. Specifically, look at section headings, pictures and graphs, anything in bold or enlarged print, and anything else that stands out from the body of the text. Also, if time allows, read the first sentence of each paragraph. By providing yourself with an overview, you will tend to gain more interest and also dramatically improve comprehension. This technique is called “survey.” You can think of it as being like building a frame of the house before attaching the walls, the doors, the windows, and the floors. In this analogy, facts and figures found in the textbook chapter are like all these parts of the house. They are much more likely to make sense if you start with a strong foundation.

Tip Number Three: Learn to Read Faster

Reading is much more than the movement of your eyes across a line of text. Reading is also about comprehension. Unfortunately, the physical movement of your eyes is the slowest part of the process. Gaining comprehension happens far faster. Or, more accurately, your brain is capable of gaining comprehension far faster than your eyes are capable of moving across a line of text. With practice, you can learn to make far fewer stops across a line of text, thus speeding up the acquisition of knowledge.  This will make you happy because you will finish reading assignments quicker. It will make your brain happy because it is acquiring information at a pace that is more conducive to learning. To start learning to make fewer stops across a line of text, try to focus on two words at a time rather than one. If you master this skill, you will literally double your reading speed, while operating well within the bounds of comprehension. With practice, you can train your eyes to stop only 3 to 4 times per line, thus tripling or even quadrupling your reading speed. Yes it can be done! It is not as difficult as you think.

Tip Number Four:  Use Multiple Parts of Your Brain

Different parts of your brain are responsible for receiving and interpreting signals sent from your five senses. The more parts of your brain that are involved in comprehending written material, the more successful your comprehension will be. So, instead of merely reading something, try reciting it as well. This is as simple as saying things out loud a few times. In addition, try writing things down. Writing involves your sense of touch and vision. This is one reason why graphic organizers are so successful. Not only do you have to think about how information is organized, you have to physically write it, or type it, which then involves other parts of the brain.

Tip Number Five: Use A Graphic Organizer to Summarize a Chapter’s Contents

As referenced in Tip Number Four above, use of a graphic organizer is a powerful comprehension and memorization tool. Use of a graphic organizer requires you to understand that all information has a similar structure: general ideas, main points, and details. Typically, the general idea is found in the chapter title. The main points are subtopics, and can often be found in bold print within a chapter. Details are individual units of information that support main points. In a graphic organizer, you simply identify the main points, and write the associated details below them. By doing this, you gain a far greater understanding of how information is presented in a textbook chapter which improves both comprehension and retention.

Neil Chyten

neil@ncglobaledu.com

Next Week: Five Tips on How to Improve Your College Writing Skills.

About Neil Chyten: Neil Chyten is the founder and president of NC Global Education, Inc. He is also the creator and author of the RANDD Reading and Study Skills System, as well as several books on test preparation, writing, and college counseling.    

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