Growing up, classes would drag on and on, mostly because my thoughts were elsewhere. I zoned in and out of lectures, entranced by other things, and only reeled back in by teachers calling on me to answer a question.
“Andrea, please pay attention,” they would say sternly when I looked at them blankly. They knew I hadn’t heard the question in the first place.
I was awful at taking tests. The hardest part was that I’d often run out of time and guess at the last minute, especially on multiple-choice exams. I graduated from high school with a poor GPA, and my confidence wasn’t too high. If this sounds like you, fret not—there’s a solution.
Once I got to college, I channeled all my energy into trying to be more strategic. I reflected on the areas that I excelled in. During my first semester, I took three courses: public speaking, religion, and an intro to the university. All three required in-class exams, but they were all essays. And for the most part, I did relatively well. That’s when I realized that in the past, teachers had complimented my writing skills. Sometimes other students even came to me for help with essays.
After that, I tried to only take college courses that involved writing. I looked through the website Rate My Professors to pick courses graded with essays rather than multiple-choice exams. This strategy worked for me because I was able to work at my own pace.
I sometimes emailed professors before the start of the semester, asking for a copy of the syllabus. Many times, they’d send it over. I would then dedicate a few long days to getting most of my writing assignments done ahead of time. I edited these essays throughout the semester, so my final papers were well executed.
This strategy was invaluable to my college experience, and I graduated with honors. Once, I even took seven courses at the same time. Applying these tips was the only way I was able to handle all the work. College taught me that flexibility and knowing yourself (as well as playing to your strengths) is the key to success.
You’re smart—you just have to discover which areas you’re strong in and put your focus there when you can.