Advertising
Advertising

23 Things Top Students Do

23 Things Top Students Do

They are the ones you catch out of the corner of your eye. They get their exam back, calmly flip through the few (if any) errors they made, and swiftly place their 94% into their bag.

That’s right, I’m talking about the top students who make it look so easy.

What we don’t realize is that under the surface there is a collection of positive habits and mindsets that make that person so successful in class. Not just a few, but an accumulation of many habits that combine to produce high-level academic performance.

Here are 23 habits of top students that you can use as tips to do better in school:

1. They don’t always do all of their homework.

In college, homework assignments generally make up 5-20% of your grade, but can be the biggest time-suck for most students. Yes, working problems is one of the best ways to turn new concepts into working knowledge, but a large majority of those problems that take you hours and hours to work through, you’ll never see on an exam.

2. They never “read through” the textbook.

150128-themetapicture.com-MathNotebook

    Per time spent, reading the textbook is one of the least effective methods for learning new material. Top students use the examples and practice problems, but otherwise use Google, lecture notes, and old exams for study materials.

    3. They Google EVERYTHING.

    It’s like an automatic reaction. New concept = go to Google for a quick explanation. Don’t think just because your professor gives you a textbook and some examples on the blackboard that you’re limited to that information. You have a massive free search engine at your fingertips, so make use of it.

    4. They test themselves frequently.

    Testing yourself strengthens your brain’s connections to new material, and gives you immediate and clear feedback on whether you know something or not. Bottom line, repeated self-testing significantly improves long-term retention of new material. 

    5. They study in short bursts, not long marathons.

    Advertising

    150128-cheezburger.com-IntenseFocus

      Studying in short bursts tends to help you focus intensely because you know there is at least a short break coming.

      This also fits in nicely with our Ultradian Rhythm, the natural activity/rest cycle of our bodies, which makes studying continuously for multiple hours on end counterproductive.

      6. They reverse-engineer solved problems.

      It’s one thing to follow and memorize a set of steps to solve a calculus problem. It’s an entirely different thing to understand what a derivative is, be able to take derivates of complex functions, know when to use the chain rule vs. the product rule, etc. The problem with simply following the steps the professor provided, or the textbook outlines, is that you’re only achieving a surface-level knowledge of the problem. Top students, instead, take solved problems and work backwards, from solution to question, asking “why.”

      Why did this get this value?
      Why did they simplify this expression?
      Why did they use that type of derivative rule?

      By following this process, you begin to understand the interconnections of the concept, and how to directly apply that to a problem. This “working knowledge” of a concept is key to performing well on exams, especially on problems that you haven’t seen before.

      7. They don’t own a highlighter.

      150128-lolsheaven.com-highlighting

        Highlighting anything = unengaged reading. If you want to note something that stands out, underline and write a corresponding note to go along with it. Or better yet, write yourself a note summarizing the item in your own words.

        8. They sleep–a lot.

        The daily routines of top performers, in any field, are characterized by periods of intense work (4-6 hours per day) followed by significant quantities of high-quality sleep (9 hours per night). You see this trend in top violin prodigies and chess champions, as well as elite athletes. The idea is to alternate periods of intense work with rest, so that you create tons of new connections in your nervous system, and then allow adequate time to assimilate those gains.

        9. They engage themselves by asking questions.

        What happens if I tell you, “Thomas Jefferson almost single-handedly drafted the Delcaration of Independence in 1776.”?

        You might say “Hmm.. that’s interesting”, try to remember it for later, maybe even write down a note or two.

        Advertising

        But what if I ask you, “Who was Thomas Jefferson?” What changes?

        You start searching your memory, sifting through images of old guys, founding fathers, thinking about the Declaration of Independence. You come up with your own narrative, and then realize that you have gaps.

        When was he around again?
        And why was he so important?

        You’ll probably find yourself going to Google to fill in the gaps. Through that process your learning will be much more deeply seated in your brain than anything your history teacher ever told you about him. That’s the power of asking questions.

        10. They make the best out of lecture.

        150128-lolsheaven-boringlecture-spongebob

          Yes, your professor sucks. Yes, lectures are boring. Yes, it’s either too fast so you can’t keep up and miss all the important stuff, or it’s way too slow and you start zoning out because you already understand everything.

          The best students look at this this way: I’m going to be there no matter what, so what’s the best use of my time while I’m in the classroom? Ask questions, bring the textbook and look stuff up, focus on the important practice problems to copy down in your notes, try to anticipate what the professor is going to say, make note of anything they put emphasis on as a potential exam topic. All of these things make the time you have to spend in lecture more productive and engaging. And that’s less time you have to spend studying later on.

          11. They over-learn.

          School is hard enough, with the amount of studying and homework you have to do. And on top of all of that Facebooking you have to get done? It might seem ridiculous to suggest learning more than you have to.

          What!? Are you insane!?

          But this is precisely what top students do. And paradoxically, they end up spending less time trying to understand how to do homework problems, and less time studying for exams because of it. Because when you “over-learn” past what’s presented in class, you build a better framework for the subject.

          Advertising

          Think of trying to remember some details about Abraham Lincoln’s life. You try to remember the dates of the Civil War, or what he said in the Emancipation Proclamation. You study the same facts over and over and over again… but it’s just boring, and you quickly forget. But what if you knew his whole life’s story? About how Lincoln suffered from bouts of depression, and his relationship with his wife suffered? You start to learn that the dude was human, and you start to relate to the things he did and the struggles he went through. Now you’ve constructed a story in your head. And studies show that humans learn best through stories. So yes, it’s more information, but your brain knows what to do with it now that all those random facts are linked together. More learning, but less rote memorization and struggling to remember random facts.

          12. They immediately study their exam mistakes.

          feels-bad-man_o_4130797

            Most students get their exam grade back, flip through to see if the professor made any mistakes they can argue about, and then promptly shove it into their notebook, never to be seen again until the mad scramble at the end of the semester to study for the final.

            Instead, top students ignore what they got right, and use their mistakes as an indicator of what to improve on.

            13. They’re busy with work and side projects.

            Yes, to do well in a course, you need to focus and put in the hours. But like many geniuses throughout history have shown, involvement in a diverse set of subjects, activities, and skill sets keeps you active, and provides you with a rich and diverse set of mental models to pull from.

            Also, as they say, “If you need to get something done, give it to the busy person.” If you stay active in multiple areas, you don’t have time to procrastinate, and are forced to be efficient with your study time. This generally translates into quicker learning and better performance throughout the semester.

            14. They use lecture as a detective mission.

            Though completely unaware of this fact, your professor has tells. Yes, like in poker. Tells during lecture will hint at particular types of concepts and problems that will be emphasized on the midterm or final exam. The best students pay attention to topics professors spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time on and make note. Chances are you’ll see something related on the final.

            15. They don’t wait for motivation to strike.

            Motivation comes and goes, but studying for a degree requires persistence and consistency. Just like Olympic athletes train even on their worst days, the best students figure out how to get their coursework done when it’s the last thing they want to do.

            16. They practice under test conditions.

            150128-themetapicture.com-last5minsofexam

              The old adage “practice makes perfect” isn’t totally true. Deliberate practice under the right conditions, with the correct mindset, is more like it. Instead of reading through all of the lecture notes and redoing old homework problems, top students make themselves practice exams, and rehearse their exam performance, under time pressure and in similar conditions (no notes, uncomfortable chair, quiet room, etc.) to what they’ll see on test day.

              Advertising

              17. They use old exams.

              Professors aren’t the most inventive folk. Along with coming up with lecture material and departmental responsibilities, they’re also primarily concerned with research. So typically midterms and final exams more or less look alike for similar courses year-to-year and even across universities. Because of this, old exams are a gold mine of opportunity for figuring out what problems you should be able to solve and study from.

              18. They make their own study guides.

              150128-memegenerator.net-studyguide

                The best students don’t simply use the study guide the teacher provides, they create their own.

                Creating the study guide is half the battle, requiring you to go through your notes, consolidate them, and organize them in a way that you understand–all valuable study activities. You’ll also be able to use your equations sheet much more effectively on the exam itself (if allowed) because you know exactly where everything is.

                19. They actually write on paper.

                Writing out notes on a laptop is efficient. Too efficient. Because it’s so easy to quickly type out exactly what the professor is saying, you don’t have to do the work of trying to figure out how to consolidate the information into your own shorthand. Some also believe that the act of writing helps retain more information.

                20. They use the 80/20 rule.

                Yes, some students who get good grades do every reading assignment, finish every practice problem, and attend every study session they can get their hands on. But these students are missing the point. There will always be an endless amount of information you could learn given the time and effort, but having the ability to discern what is worth learning will truly set you apart.

                Top students identify the 20% of concepts they need to learn deeply, in order to determine 80% of their final grade. They focus intently on those few things, and simply ignore the rest. This is a formula for high performance, without hours and hours of busywork. And it translates seamlessly into the real world too.

                21. They don’t complain.

                whenever-sombody-complains-about-the-zoo_o_1073996

                  Complaining simply has no place in the smart student’s repertoire. If something sucks, change it or ignore it, but don’t waste your time, energy, and mental state talking about it. Got a crappy professor? Either switch class sections or focus on teaching yourself. Horrible textbook? Find alternate resources (Google is free in case you hadn’t heard).

                  22. They learn by doing.

                  Any technical subject can only truly be internalized through use. Just like learning a new language, learning to be fluent in algebra or calculus requires active application of rules and formulas. Top students know there is a big difference between knowledge, and applied knowledge.

                  23. They take personal responsibility for learning the material.

                  The best students understand that they, and only they are truly responsible for their own education. So waiting to be spoon-fed by your professor and doing the homework assignments will never be enough. Despite your school’s best intentions, they’ll never be as committed to your academic success as you can be.

                  Featured photo credit: IMG_8744/TechCrunch via flickr.com

                  More by this author

                  7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It The 3 Things Elon Musk Knows About School That All Students Should Copy 10 Ways for Students to Crush It Next Semester 20 Funny Things Everyone Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter 10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

                  Trending in Productivity

                  1 10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful 2 30 Essential Core Values for Living the Life You Want 3 What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It 4 How to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success 5 Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus

                  Read Next

                  Advertising
                  Advertising
                  Advertising

                  Last Updated on January 24, 2020

                  10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

                  10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

                  Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

                  Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

                  Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

                  • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
                  • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
                  • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

                  Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

                  Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

                  Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

                  That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

                  1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

                  I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

                  Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

                  Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

                  Advertising

                  2. Be Grateful for What You Have

                  Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

                  Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,[1]

                  “I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

                  3. Smile

                  Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

                  Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.[2]

                  Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

                  Can you smile again?

                  4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

                  Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[3]

                  If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

                  This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

                  Advertising

                  Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

                  5. Exercise Daily

                  One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

                  Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[4] He said,

                  ‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

                  He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

                  6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

                  Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

                  Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

                  So how do you manage your time effectively?

                  Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

                  “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

                  And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:[5]

                  • Monday – Management
                  • Tuesdays – Product
                  • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
                  • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
                  • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
                  • Saturdays – Taking off
                  • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

                  No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

                  7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

                  Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

                  Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

                  Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

                  “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

                  Be intentional about your daily goals!

                  8. Seek Inspiration

                  It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

                  A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

                  Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

                  Advertising

                  Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,[7]

                  “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

                  9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

                  I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

                  However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

                  10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

                  Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

                  “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

                  It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

                  Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

                  The Bottom Line

                  Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

                  More About Habits

                  Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

                  Advertising

                  Reference

                  Read Next