By Paul Culp, MA (Oxon.), CFT, GCDF, CCSP

Not surprisingly, one commandment for college success can relate closely to another. If you haven’t read our Fourth Commandment, please do, because the habit we forbade in that one relates closely to the target of this one.

The Fifth Commandment for College Success: 

Thou shalt not cram.

Cramming and procrastination often go hand in hand, but sometimes cramming results not from dread of studying, or from poor time management, but from a flawed conception of which study methods are effective.

While it might make sense theoretically to try to pour all the knowledge into the mind just before the test, it’s a fact that the brain can process and retain only so much information at once. The most effective way to prepare for tests is to go over the material in small portions, building up to the test over a period of days or, preferably, weeks, with plenty of repetition. This gives the intellect time to assimilate the material fully and relate facts to each other in a manner that enhances comprehension and retention.

The gradualist approach to test preparation has the added advantage of affording the student the opportunity to get a reasonable amount of rest the night before an assessment. We recommend having one last look at the material before turning in, and another the day of the test. And go easy on the coffee and sports drinks; taking them to excess is begging for jitters and nervous diarrhea.  

One of my professors, Dr. Y, claimed that in his undergraduate years he never studied for tests at all, that he simply kept up with things on a day-to-day basis and then went and shot pool the night before the test. Then again, it was Dr. Y who assigned Wordsworth’s Prelude, which ran 200-plus pages in a 3,000 page anthology (if ever any poet deserved to be named Longfellow, it was Wordsworth), and gave test questions that required the student to remember the page number for a particular passage. The Billiards Method might not be as tactically sound for the rest of us as it was for Dr. Y, but the general idea—study steadily and go into the arena well rested and relaxed—is eminently sensible. 

As for Wordsworth, well, the guy rowed a boat across a lake. I remember that much.

That’s your fifth commandment for college success. The sixth is like unto it and giveth life. Please join us for that next time, and be sure to read the first four.

Getting into the college of your choice and finding the wherewithal to pay for it is wonderful. That’s what The Coaching Educator is here to help you do. But that’s not the only reason we’re here. We also try to be expert in all things related to college success, and to pass that knowledge on to our student/clients and our readers. The quest for college success begins with the college search process and continues until you take your diploma and shake hands with the president.

To learn more about our philosophy and capabilities, be sure to watch our free webinars, listen to our podcasts, sign up for our four-week College App Boot Camp, consider our Ultimate Programs and our special services for athletes and performing-arts students, and book a consultation to hear what we can do for you and how we do it. Keep reading this blog, and look for us on social media (see links below) as we keep our clients and admirers advised of new developments in our effort to help students get into and succeed at the right school.

Paul Culp is certified as a global career development facilitator and writes about college admissions, college costs, financial aid, and college life in general for The Coaching Educator team. A former journalist and corporate ghostwriter who now operates Shenandoah Proofreading, Editing & Composition Services (SPECS), he has also been a humanities teacher at all levels from university down to sixth grade. Paul has degrees from Oxford University, Jacksonville State University, and Samford University, and also is certified as a fitness trainer.

Image courtesy of One in Prayer.

Recommended Reading About College Success

Culp, Paul. “Beyond Tuition, Fees, and Books: The Other Costs of College,” The Coaching Educator, 7 June 2018, http://tce.local/2018/06/07/beyond-tuition-fees-and-books-the-other-costs-of-college/

Culp, Paul.”Getting to Grips With Test Anxiety,” The Coaching Educator, 28 November 2018, http://tce.local/2018/11/28/getting-to-grips-with-test-anxiety/

Culp, Paul. “More Than Half of American College Students Leave Without a Degree. Here’s Why,” The Coaching Educator, 8 September 2018, http://tce.local/2018/09/08/more-than-half-of-american-college-students-leave-without-a-degree-heres-why/

Culp, Paul “The Myth and Madness of Multitasking,” The Coaching Educator, 18 November 2018, http://tce.local/2018/11/18/the-myth-and-madness-of-multitasking/

Culp, Paul. “The Prez, the Prov, the Profs, the Veep, and the Redge: Who’s Who on Campus,” The Coaching Educator, 17 December 2018, http://tce.local/2018/12/17/the-prez-the-prov-the-profs-the-veeps-and-the-redge-whos-who-on-campus/

Culp, Paul. “Remedial Nation: The Ghastly State of College Preparedness,” The Coaching Educator, 19 January 2019, http://tce.local/2019/01/19/remedial-nation-the-ghastly-state-of-college-preparedness/

Culp, Paul. “These Go to Eleven: Our All-Star Lineup of College Illnesses,” The Coaching Educator, 19 October 2019, http://tce.local/2018/10/09/these-go-to-eleven-our-all-star-lineup-of-college-illnesses/

Culp, Paul. “What the Cap and Gown Mean and Why They Matter,” The Coaching Educator, 21 December 2018, http://tce.local/2018/12/21/what-the-cap-and-gown-mean-and-why-they-matter/

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