|I realise the title might sound suggestive ;)|
With my horrible CAP of 3.3 (which I am not proud of but see no point in hiding), I am in no position to give any advice about school and studies. Still, being one who has done rather badly, I have certainly made enough mistakes to tell people what to avoid doing.
So... since finals are looming ahead and the ghosts of procrastinations past are catching up to me, I am once again regretting my past actions this semester. Hindsight is always 20/20, no?
*take this with a pinch of salt because nothing I say should be used as a definitive guide*
01. DON'T BE TOO SHY TO ASK SENIORS FOR ADVICE
Seniors have been there, done that. They know how each prof is like, which module is manageable, which ones have scarily steep bell curves, etc. They can tell you which modules you shouldn't take in the same semester unless you have a death wish, or how to study for certain modules. Don't be shy with asking seniors. Just don't go overboard and be too annoying.
02. BUT DON'T TAKE THEIR ADVICE WHOLESALE
I know this because I have made that mistake before.
What is easy to your senior may not be easy for you (especially if you have smart seniors). What works for them may not work for you. What they find interesting might bore the shit out of you (now that's an image).
When I was a super duper fresh freshie in Year 1 Sem 1, seniors told me NM2219 was manageable for a freshie. I took that module without even knowing what it was about... until the very first tutorial. The tutor asked "so how many of you plan to go into PR?" and I was all "huh what PR what?".
I TOOK A PR MODULE WITHOUT KNOWING IT WAS A PR MODULE. OR WHAT THE HECK IT WAS EVEN ABOUT. What was I even thinking??!
Luckily, I actually liked PR and enjoyed the content of that module. Not-so-luckily, I regret taking it so early on in my uni life because I was so blur and confused that I had no idea how to study for it and did rather badly (got a B-).
More importantly, this module was the foundation to other PR modules but I was unable to fully understand the concepts and forgot everything I learnt from that module.
03. DON'T MAJOR IN SOMETHING YOU DISLIKE
After receiving my utterly shit results one semester, I decided to ask Jindao for advice and he told me to take modules I enjoy. Even if others dislike it, even if others find it difficult, even if you are taking the module alone, sometimes interest is just more crucial. I realise it now.
When I had no interest for NM2302, churning out a few words for an assignment was such horrible torture. You can give me 10 weeks to do an assignment and I will be just as uninspired because it simply doesn't call out to me.
after studying for finals, I have a newfound appreciation for the module. Heh, my own fault for not studying previously, oops.
On the other hand, I love the NM3236 module. Ethics and PR merged into one module? Yes please. Studying for midterms was horrendous, of course, but it was made bearable because at least I enjoyed what I had to study. My interest for the topic will fuel me through the endless readings.
04. DON'T BE SHY TO CONSULT PROFS/TUTORS
This is a piece of advice I myself need to follow, because I am always so shy and awkward when it comes to consulting teachers. I always end up feeling like I'm pestering them, which I do not want to do, so I just keep my questions to myself.
The worst module I have ever ever taken was NM2103. Holy crap, I was a confused kid the entire time, even up till my final exams. I still have no idea what was going on throughout the entire semester at 2103. My experience with this module takes confusion to a whole new level.
On hindsight, I should've consulted the prof. I did ask seniors and friends for help, but the explanations weren't clear enough and it's never as certain as asking the prof who will be setting your exam questions anyway. Maybe if I bothered consulting the prof, I would've done better.
05. DON'T BE HAOLIAN OR OVERLY PESSIMISTIC
If you are doing well, don't get complacent and continue working hard. If you are doing badly, don't get demoralised but instead use it as motivation to work even harder. I have to remind myself this because it's so easy to fall into either trap.
Maybe I'm in the 75th percentile for midterms but woah, hold your horses, the module isn't over yet. I'll admit, it's tempting to see that '75th percentile' as a safety net and slack off a little but that's just going to bite you in the ass later on.
At the same time, I've been screwing up so much that it's also easy to lose hope and give up. It's even more difficult to continue believing things might improve, especially when there are people around you who are pretty vocal about their belief that if your CAP is shit up till now, it's just going to stay shit the rest of your uni life.
Well, I think that nothing will improve if you don't believe it will, so I'm just trying to tune out all the negativity.
06. DON'T BLINDLY CHOOSE MODULES
Some introspection and self-awareness is always good for you.
Different people study differently, so figure out what works best for you. Would a webcasted module really be the best if you know you will never watch the lectures until finals are approaching? Would a module with heavy class participation weightage work to your advantage? Different profs conduct modules differently, so figure out which style suits you best.
The best grade I have ever gotten was a B+ for NM1101, both IEM modules and NM2220. Apart from NM1101, what the other modules had in common was that they were all writing modules. IEM was about expository writing and NM2220 was about media writing. It took me 3 semesters to realise that perhaps modules that require writing skills would work better in my favour.
I also think I tend to do better when assessments are spread out over the semester, e.g. having several assignments and tests throughout the module as opposed to having one final exam with a very high weightage. This is probably because I procrastinate so much that the accumulation of my procrastination kills me towards the end, so it's better to clear assignments bit by bit along the way.
07. DON'T FORGET TO PLAN YOUR TIMETABLE
Choosing modules can get complicated because it is not only about the content, teaching style, marks allocation, etc. The big picture is your timetable, which you are stuck with for the rest of the semester so plan wisely.
Of course, there's the obvious advice: avoid having more than one exam per day, or having exams on consecutive days, unless you are sure you can handle it.
Lecture and tutorial venues are also important, since it is best to avoid back-to-back lessons at different parts of the campus. Shuttle bus timings can be frustrating, and it would be exhausting to rush around and worry about being late for tutorials every single week.
More importantly, find a timetable that suits you.
I once had a timetable with a free Wednesday, but I wasted every single free day slacking and sleeping away. I have so little self-control and I burn out so easily that a free day in the middle of the week ends up being a day for me to rest and recharge, which was the exact opposite of my original intention which was to study.
08. STATING THE MOST GLARINGLY OBVIOUS, BUT DO NOT PROCRASTINATE
Ha ha, as if this advice ever works. Probably the most obvious but also most useless advice to give or receive (I am starting to sound like Joey Tribbiani)
Every semester before finals, I realise how little time I have left to study so many things, and I wish I didn't procrastinate during the semester.
At the start of every semester, I tell myself that this sem I will do my readings before lecture and type of notes after each lecture. Bullshit. I break that promise the moment I attend my first lecture.
You realise how important this piece of advice can be, but to really carry it out requires so much self-control that I simply do not have. I would buy some self-control from the black market if I could.
Okay, that was basically a list of mistakes I have made since the very beginning of my NUS life, that I need to constantly remind myself to avoid.
Also, the title said "how to suck at school" but honestly, school is more than just studying. I told myself, if all I get from my 3 or 4 years in NUS is academic results, then I have failed university.
This is my chance to make friends, make memories, try new things, find out what I like, do more of what I like, y'know, the typical cheesy stuff. I am glad I got to experience life in Tembusu (although I did not make the most out of it), I am glad I have friends who brighten up my university life, I am glad to have joined Student Life Fair 2014 or CNM Society, and I am hoping to join more things in my last few semesters here at NUS.
Okay, it's four in the morning and I really should sleep soon before I oversleep for my last lesson of the semester. Pardon any typos, I shall proofread this another time (fun fact: I proofread my blog posts from time to time when I am bored).
May the bell curve be ever in your favour (unless you take the same modules as me, in which case please give chance).
/update: the rollercoaster ride that is my CAP is now 3.5 > 3.33 > 3.38 > 3.59 > 3.78 > 3.97. So yeah, don't give up just because of one or two semesters of shitty results!!!
Also, why are so many people reaching this post through Google?