Topic outline

  • Course Introduction

    This course is designed to equip you with the basic academic, professional, and personal skills you will need to be successful in college. You are probably already familiar with some of the skills and topics that will be covered here; other concepts may be brand-new to you. For example, perhaps you have already learned some effective test-taking strategies that work well for you, but you have never heard of the concept of learning styles. Or, you may be familiar with your learning style, but you want to improve your listening skills and learn how to adapt your learning style to a new academic environment.

    Each student will have a different skill set when he or she starts this course. The point of this course is to give you--a new college student or a person considering a college education--a purposeful, thorough overview of the many tools and skills needed for undergraduate success, as well as to help you understand how you can improve each of these skills over time. Keep in mind that the terms skills, tools, and resources can refer to academic, social, psychological, and emotional skills and techniques as well as physical objects such as books and supplies.

    You may be tempted to consider some of the broad learning outcomes that are outlined in this course as unimportant for your immediate success in college. For example, you may wonder whether it is really worth your time to think about your long-term career goals or your exercise habits at the very beginning of your college experience. However, having a sense of purpose that motivates you and a lifestyle that supports your ability to focus on your academic goals are the basic building blocks of success in college and beyond.

    The first unit of this course will help you determine your goals for your college education. In other words, you will have the opportunity to thoughtfully answer the question, why am I pursuing an undergraduate degree? Knowing the answer to this question will help you stay motivated when you encounter challenges during your college experience. In units 2 and 3 of this course, you will learn how to manage your personal space and time in order to maximize your ability to learn, and in units 4 through 8 of this course, you will explore the learning process itself and the different skills and tools you can use to improve your academic performance. Unit 9 focuses on tests and test-taking, a subject that can cause great anxiety for many students, and units 10 and 11 provide you with general strategies for effectively communicating with college instructors as well as managing stress, anxiety, and other factors that affect your academic goals and overall health during college. Being a college student can present unique and new challenges to your health, and staying healthy, both physically and mentally, are crucial components of your success. Unit 12 of this course addresses the importance of your social life to your college success, and Unit 13, the final unit of this course, equips you with some tools to help prepare you for a career after college.

    By the end of this course, you will have gained a comprehensive overview of the skills, tools, and resources you will need for a successful, healthy, and happy college experience. You will understand how to apply the concepts discussed in this course to your individual academic and personal goals, and to practice the skills you have learned by testing them in specific college courses that you plan to take or are already taking. Finally, you will possess a strong starting point for applying your newfound skills to your job search and your career beyond college.

    Pages: 2
  • Unit 1: Building and Working Towards Educational Goals

    The first unit of this course will help you clarify your individual educational goals and formulate plans to work toward those goals. You will define your own values as they relate to your plans for college, and then you will create a set of specific goals that match your values. Creating both general and specific educational goals and plans will help you understand your academic pathway and identify direct ways to achieve your educational goals. In short, you will have a chance to consider why you are in college (or why you should consider enrolling in college), what you want to get out of the college experience, and how you can design a plan that helps you get there.

    Don't worry too much about whether the goals you set now could change later in your college experience. At this point in your education, the main point is to set out some thoughtful goals and start working towards them, rather than wandering through your college experience without any goals at all - or, worse yet, working towards goals that somebody else has set for you.

    Pages: 2
  • Unit 2: Creating a Physical and Mental Space for Studying

    This unit explores ways you can organize your space in order to create optimal study environments. In the past, you may not have given this topic much thought - maybe you studied in front of the TV, while hanging out with friends, or on your bed at home. Or, maybe you had a great study space, but now you are in a new environment! This unit will introduce you to the theory behind picking an effective, distraction-free study space, and explain why studying there consistently will make a difference in efficiently completing your academic work. Additionally, this unit will provide you with some strategies for minimizing distractions, especially if you live with family, friends, or roommates.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 3: Create an Effective Time Management Plan

    This unit will help you create a reasonable time-management plan that emphasizes an appropriate amount of time for you to spend on school-related work. One of the most interesting activities in this unit will help you accurately identify how you spend the hours in your week. If you work through the diagnostic questionnaires included in this unit honestly, you may be surprised to learn how much time you spend doing (or not doing) ordinary activities. Many peoples' first estimates about where their time goes are inaccurate, so do not be surprised if you have to adjust your first guess.

    One of the most difficult life lessons to learn is that, as adults, we simply will not have enough time for everything we want to do. This unit will help you come up with a realistic plan that prioritizes the things that are most important to you based on the values and goals you have already identified and schedule time to ensure that you can accomplish them. Next, you will learn about strategies for sticking to your schedule in the face of distractions, frustration, procrastination, and non-academic personal commitments. Finally, you will see how two basic tools - a calendar planner and a daily to-do list - can be powerful assets in your time-management plan.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 4: Reading to Learn

    At first glance, you may think that the topic of this unit - reading - is unnecessary. You may think you already know everything there is to know about reading. After all, if you have successfully completed the previous units of this course, you are doing it quite well right now! However, before you skip to the next unit, consider how often you will be asked to read something in college. The truth is, if you approach every reading assignment you receive in college by reading one word after another, you will probably never finish in time.

    The amount of reading material a college student is responsible for requires types of reading skills that are different from what you likely have been taught in elementary, middle, and high school. This unit will explain how you can learn more in less time during your reading sessions by scanning the body of a text and taking notes before you read, identifying the most important passages to read closely, and then reviewing the important material afterwards.

    Reading comprehension is actually a skill that you can improve upon for a lifetime. As you read this unit, keep in mind that the goal of effective learning is not to read the text as quickly as possible, but rather to read it as effectively as possible. If, in the past, you have not been able to remember the main points of a text after reading it, you can use the skills presented in this unit to ensure that the time you spend reading future assignments is used in a valuable way.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 5: Learning Styles and Learning Processes

    This unit focuses on the higher-level concepts of critical thinking and creative thinking, which are major components of college-level learning. Critical thinking is a level of thinking that requires more effort than simple memorization of facts or solving problems that have a right and a wrong answer. It requires you to make value judgments, either based on personal opinions you have formed, or based on additional information about a situation. In particular, a problem with more than one correct answer, or no correct answer, requires critical thinking to solve. A college-level education will include - and require - much more of this type of thinking than you may be used to, but the effort will be well worth it and very rewarding!

    This unit also introduces you to the various styles of learning that exist and helps you explore which style works best for you, how to use your predominant learning style, and how to improve your ability to use other learning styles. You may have heard about different learning styles before, or perhaps this concept is completely new to you. Each person processes information differently, and knowing how your own mind works is a powerful piece of information that can improve your study skills. Other people in your learning environment - teachers, students, co-workers, and writers, for example - may not always provide new information in the format that you like best. But once you have identified your own learning needs, you can better translate new information into a format that is easiest for you to understand and remember.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 6: Listen, Take Notes, Read, and Study

    The five most basic building blocks of learning in college - and elsewhere - are reading, writing, listening, taking notes, and studying. You have already learned how to improve your reading skills in Unit 4 and explored your learning style in Unit 5. This unit introduces you to concepts that will also improve the learning skills you use during class, including listening and taking notes during instruction and discussion. You almost certainly already know how to practice these skills to some extent, but this unit provides you with tools to practice these skills more efficiently.

    Like any other skill, the key to improving your effectiveness in listening, taking notes, reading, and studying is to understand each skill better. Just as a baseball player or golfer will not get better at hitting the ball by continuing to swing poorly over and over, you will not become a better listener by continuing to listen poorly! The athlete needs to look at his swing, get advice on how to swing better, and practice the better swing. Even professional athletes analyze their performance in order to improve, so no matter how good you already are at the skills covered in this unit, you can always work on these skills in order to become a better student.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 7: Academic Writing and Research in College

    This unit addresses a very important topic: college-level writing. Improved writing is one of the major, universal skills that you will take away from a college experience, and it will likely be the skill you use most in your post-college life. Consider for a minute the many ways in which your writing is the first impression people have of you: for example, when you compose emails, write thank-you notes to your parents' friends, complete job applications, draft the report your supervisor forwards to the CEO, or post to your blog or personal website. Good writing will distinguish you dramatically from your peers and bring you terrific advantages in the long term.

    Yet, college writing is a very specific kind of writing, with its own set of rules and requirements that are different from any writing you will probably do before or after college. College writing is designed to teach you about methodical thinking. Writing out a problem, organizing the pieces of the solution to the problem, and then describing the solution clearly for the reader requires you, the writer, to think carefully about the problem itself. So, good writing is both a goal in itself and a tool you will use to reach other goals.

    Writing in college is often also designed to teach you about academic research, provide you with opportunities to conduct research, and teach you how to present the results of research. In some classes, you might write about research you physically do - such as lab research in a biology or psychology class - but in other classes researchmeans reading what many other people think about a topic, then coming to your own conclusion on it. This unit covers the basic process for doing this second form of research, including the important issue of how to find quality information and trusted resources on the Internet.

    In sum, this unit of the course will help you understand the steps you need to follow to become a better academic writer.

    Pages: 2
  • Unit 8: Using and Improving Your Memory Skills

    This short unit focuses exclusively on improving your memory skills. Memorization is an interesting problem for the college student because, unlike in high school, just knowing a list of facts is unlikely to be the end goal of your learning. You will need to memorize information in college, but primarily so that you have access to this information in order to perform the higher-level thinking skills that will be discussed in Unit 5 of this course.

    Because memorization is a common study skill for high school subjects, you may already have specific strategies that you employ. Nonetheless, as with the other critical undergraduate skills of listening, note-taking, reading, and writing, you can improve your memorization skills by studying the advanced memorization techniques discussed in this unit.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 9: Be Ready For Tests and Test Anxiety

    This unit will present you with strategies you can use to study for tests, reduce or eliminate stress related to test-taking - commonly called test anxiety - and increase your skills in taking tests.

    The weeks and days before a test are a great time to remind yourself of an important point: being a college student is voluntary! Put another way, you are in college because it will help you achieve the goals you set out at the beginning of this course. If you approach tests as an opportunity to see how well you are doing, rather than as a punishment or trial, you will find it easier for you to have a positive attitude about the process. Nearly every student has experienced test anxiety at some point, so if it happens to you, do not see it as a sign of failure. Instead, learn the strategies presented in this unit so that when test anxiety appears, you will have the emotional tools to manage it. 

    One of the most effective strategies for avoiding excessive anxiety during an exam is being well-prepared for the exam itself. Feeling confident about the material comes from studying effectively and often, and from feeling healthy and well-rested on the exam day. This unit also covers strategies for actually taking a test, including understanding the different question types, which questions to answer first, and other useful tips.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 10: Interacting with Instructors and Classes

    This unit focuses on how to engage in the learning process through interactions with your instructors and other students.Interacting with the instructor and other students leads to a full educational experience. Whether you are attending a class online, sitting in a lecture hall, or participating in a small group study, you will find that by being actively engaged with your instructor and fellow students, you will be on the path to a more successful college experience.

    Pages: 2
  • Unit 11: Managing Your Health and Stress

    You may be aware that poor health can be a major cause of stress, but did you know that prolonged stress can also cause bad health? Especially if being a college student coincides with your first experience living away from your parents, or if you are balancing school with work or your own family life, college can present new and stressful academic, social, and financial challenges. Managing your responsibilities well includes managing the stress they may cause you, and this unit provides you with proven strategies for stress management that can help.

    For some people, one of the biggest challenges about stress is recognizing the symptoms of stress before they are out of control. Others struggle with identifying the causes of their stress. This unit will present you with strategies to help you realize when you are feeling stress and pinpoint the cause of that stress. It will also give you techniques for managing and reducing stress, both in the short- and the long-term.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 12: The Social World of College

    This unit focuses on the social dimension of college. The social aspects of college enhance the learning that goes on inside the classroom. Navigating the social aspects and student body diversity of college has a large impact on your academic success.

    Page: 1Quiz: 1
  • Unit 13: Your Career After College

    The time to think about what you will do after college is now! You may have already given this considerable thought in Unit 1, but the final unit of this course will give you some practical guidelines for preparing the specific tools and elements of a successful job search, as well as the knowledge you need to organize yourself for your entire career, not just your first job.

    Pages: 2
  • Course Evaluation Survey

    Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course at the link below. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course.

    Link: Course Evaluation Survey (HTML)

    Your feedback will focus our efforts to continually improve our course design, content, technology, and general ease-of-use. Additionally, your input will be considered alongside our consulting professors' evaluation of the course during its next round of peer review. As always, please report urgent course experience concerns to contact@saylor.org and/or our Discourse forums.

  • Final Exam

    Quiz: 1