Tips for Freshman.jpgSucceeding in Your Freshman Year

Christina Sanders

College is different from high school. Many college freshmen are living away from family for the first time and discovering much of their success academically depends upon themselves. Of course, studying and mastering college level course work can be challenging, and it isn’t always clear to new students what resources are available to help them. However, the American Heritage website provides a plethora of advice, resources and even games to help them succeed not only in American Heritage but their entire academic career. Here is a quick look at some of the advice offered.

Navigating Textbooks

One of the first things a freshman does when they arrive at BYU is purchase their first textbooks. Hundreds of pages of academic texts can seem daunting, but with the following tips you’ll discover what amazing learning tools textbooks can be.

  • The book’s title, chapter headings, summaries, key-term definitions and pictures all provide a starting point for you to know what it is you are supposed to be learning. Read through those before starting on the actual text.
  • Read through the text before you begin highlighting and then only highlight key phrases, not entire sentences.
  • Evaluate how well you understood the text by quizzing yourself with the section questions or summarizing what you just read.
  • Relate what you have read to class discussions and personal observations. Apply what you’ve learned to the “real world.”

From Classroom to Lecture Hall:Eight Strategies to Becoming an Effective Listener

  • Find areas of the lecture that interest you. It will be easier to pay attention.
  • Judge the content of the lecture not the delivery. You’re learning won’t be hampered by small errors.
  • Don’t make judgments on information until your comprehension is complete.
  • Listen for central ideas and watch for organizational strategies.
  • Vary your note-taking method depending on the situation and only write down essential information.
  • Stay involved with the speaker.
  • Fight any distractions you may have.
  • Exercise your mind with difficult material. Build up your brain’s learning capacity.

So you’re part of a study group…now what?

Study groups can be an effective way to prepare for exams, get extra help understanding material and make friends. Here are some ideas to get the study group going once you’ve met together.

  • Assign people to teach and lead a discussion about each topic the group wants to cover. Make new assignments at the end of the meeting, so everyone will come prepared.
  • Have everyone create questions about the material to test the group.
  • Pretend you are the professor and come up with potential exam questions.
  • Create songs, movements or chants that help you remember information.
  • Bring two study groups together to prepare for mid-terms and final exams.

It’s About Attitude not Ability


"It's not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest." –Carol Dweck, psychology professor at Stanford.

Research has shown that every time someone learns something new a new neuronal pathway is formed in the brain, making the person smarter. In other words you don’t need to be naturally good at a subject to be able to understand it. Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln were all spurned for lacking talent, though someone looking back at their amazing achievements would have never guessed it. These famous examples achieved success through perseverance despite obstacles. Students who are willing to face an academic challenge can also achieve success because as they provide their brains with opportunities to grow, they improve their learning performance. Of course, an attitude of facing challenges has to be developed. Here are some things to try:

  • Recognize when you’re thinking that you won’t be able to overcome a challenge and fight those thoughts.It’s possible that some academic challenges are more deterring than others. 
  • Pay attention to which challenges are easier for you to overcome and which challenges tend to hold you back. 
  • Try to take on new challenges daily.

For specific help with American Heritage, games or additional learning tips go to