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Learning how to learn and how to succeed in College

I teach a number of subjects. I am from the old school where students studied to learn, not to pass a test. For 15 years I taught at several universities part time. Without exaggeration I would say that a good 40-45% of college students drop out during the first year. This is not because they are incapable of learning, it is because they have not been taught how to learn. They expect that the pat on the shoulder and the sugar coated, "That's all right, I'm sure you're going to do better next time," is going to be the professor's response to poor work.

Being successful in college is a simple as this: do what you have to do, when you have to do it and do it well. You cannot produce what I have come to call 'overnight wonders.' Written work has to be well formatted, contain credible support and be well written. Of course that means you have to know what you are talking about, which in turn means you have to study. Unlike the kiddy sports in elementary school where every student gets a trophy whether s/he runs a good race or a bad one, does not apply at university.


One thing I feel parents should realize, is that preparing for the SAT demands a lot of extra work. My students have to memorize 10 tenses in the English language and their functions. Most people labor under the illusion there are only three tenses in English. If that were so, we would be speaking a dialect, not a language; this means that much feared word 'homework' is required to pass well and is worth considering. I review the grammar and the writing portions of the examination almost daily and assign homework to cover these areas. I can assure you that unless you know the 'Perfect Tenses" you are bound to lose at least a few points in the grammar section.

Vocabulary is another important area. You cannot match words; select the correct word in a sentence or understand certain parts of the written work unless you work on these areas yourself in addition to what is on the test. This area of study requires written exercises. Additionally, students should never skim over a word in their reading assignments that they cannot define. For their sins, it will probably show up on the SAT.

The SAT was initially designed to test people who were seriously studying grammar in school, not perfunctory attempts many experience nowadays. Since the time allotted to this area of study has decreased significantly in schools, many students are not prepared for the SAT. If students knew what the SAT assumes they know, we university professors would be overjoyed. Often we receive essays that are written by people whose command of English is at a much lower level than it should be for a prospective college student.

Parents, it is very important to realize that your son/daughter is not going to take three tutoring lessons and pass the SAT at a level that would please you. This is particularly so, because as I said previously, the SAT assumes that they have had four solid years of reading, writing, critiquing, grammar,and analysis. That doesn't happen very often. I would suggest therefore, that you give your son/daughter at least three months head start on studying for the test. Failing the test is bad for his/her morale and yours; it is also very expensive.

Good luck!
Bonita E., Ph.D.


Bonita E.

Teaching students all over the world

100+ hours