A senior colleague in the department of Geography, Taraba State University Dr Vincent Nduka Ojeh has invited me to present a talk to mark his birthday celebration with students at Omas Royal Academy, Jalingo on the topic: “Basic Tips for Academic Excellence”. Dr Ojeh has, over the years, developed the habit of celebrating his birthdays with secondary school students to mark the world “Call to Earth” day. Over the years, he has used the occasion to share with the students vital tips on climate change and best practices for safeguarding the ecosystem, as well as the basic tips that will enhance their academic, personality and career developments. In the invitation call he put across to me for this presentation, Dr Ojeh said something that motivated me to develop an elaborate presentation for publication for a larger audience beyond his target students: “Bros, First Class is not rocket science, come and tell these students what the secret is.”
With these words, I have decided to give a deeper reflection on some of the vital tips that are required to propel one to academic excellence. Like Dr Ojeh rightly said, First Class is not rocket science. After graduating with a First Class bachelor’s degree in 2014, I have successfully mentored over a dozen students who have also replicated the same feat both in my discipline and in other fields of study. One thing that is obvious from the onset is that regardless of the discipline or institution, some basic tips are necessary to enable students attain this uncommon academic feat. This essay gives a brief rundown of some of these tips with a view to guiding students on how best to attain academic excellence. Students aspiring for academic excellence must, therefore, take special note of the following:
1. Avoid procrastination
This is one of the biggest obstacles to academic excellence. “There is still time” is one of the commonest excuses students give in their lackadaisical attitude to studies. Always endeavour to perform all academic tasks on time and don’t wait for the “last minute” as anything can come up and serve as obstacle when you are already out of time. Always read ahead of time and don’t wait for examination to come before you start reading. A serious student exhausts his syllables right ahead of time and only revises during exam, while the lacklustre sorts wait for examination timetable to start reading. At this point, tension is high, the brain is already tensed and confused, and understanding is extremely difficult. As a serious student desirous of making good grades, read ahead of time, reconcile all grey areas right on time and prepare for examination before it eventually arrives.
2. Always read your notes after school
At this point, the lecture is still fresh in your memory. Go through your notes once you reach home and freshen up. Reconcile your notes with your friends, make sure they’re up-to-date and ensure you seek clarification for all grey points from your study circle, the library sources or online resources. The mistake most students make is that they keep on taking notes and would never revisiting them afterwards until it is time for CA test or examination. Before that time comes, most salient points in the lectures have escaped their memories and reconciling the notes with the lectures becomes extremely difficult. Always go through your notes as the lecture is still fresh in your memory.
3. Read widely and consult extensively
Don’t limit yourself to lecture notes and hand-outs. Be hungry for knowledge and endeavour to know as much as is required of you. Consult extensively to enrich you knowledge base. Discuss with your friends, consult your lecturers, visit the library and explore internet resources etc. to ensure that you are truly vast in your discipline- and other related disciplines too. Knowledge has no bounds, and no knowledge is a waste, it’ll sure come handy someday. In today’s internet age, an unlimited volume of knowledge is deposited on the internet. Avail yourself the opportunity and explore extensively to satiate your academic and intellectual thirst.
4. Time management is of high essence
Equitable utilization and allocation of your time as a student is key to academic excellence. Sadly, most students lack this skill. As a student, you are faced with a lot of tasks- academics, social, religious, campus politics, business and lots of that. Allocate your time for these various tasks accordingly based on priority and always make up for lost time the best you can in the interest of your studies.
5. Take all your courses seriously
It doesn’t matter whether it is a core course, elective or GST course. As long as you register a course, it is your course! Regardless of its status, once you register a course, your performance in it has effect on your CGPA. The mistake most students make is to take core courses seriously, or courses with “strict” lecturers seriously at the expense of other courses. Remember that CGPA is cumulative and performance in each course invariably affects your overall performance.
6. Crossbreed ideas with your mates
Studying in a group makes understanding easier. Apart from your private studies, have a group of like minds that you crossbreed ideas and enhance perspectives on issues discussed in the class. Never allow others to dominate group discussions, always endeavour to contribute too and listen to others share their perspectives to the issues discussed as well. That way, you’ll learn from them and refine your knowledge on your previous erroneous perspectives. Make your study groups lively, i.e. a give-and-take sort of arrangement where every member contributes to the knowledge pool for the benefit of all. You don’t need to be stingy with knowledge, please share with others. Knowledge doesn’t finishes when it is shared, but rather increases and gets more refined.
7. Avoid bad companions that put social life before academics
Keeping bad friends on campus is one of the biggest obstacles to academic excellence. Like the saying goes: birds of a feather flock together! Associate with like minds and people with the same priorities. Colleagues who have different priorities have no business in your circle of friends. To get your priorities right, you must purge your circle of friends and ensure that you only associate with like minds. Remember, bad companions are a threat to your status as a student generally, not just your academic performance.
8. Shun examination malpractice and set for yourself a standard
Integrity is a virtue, imbibe it in your academic journey. At all cost, shun examination malpractice and avoid all occasions that might lead to it. Typically, poor preparation and keeping bad companions are the main motivations for examination malpractice. The effects of this act on your academic integrity are adverse. Once your lecturers know you as the type that indulges in examination malpractice, they are inclined to doubt all that they see in your script as a product of cheating and give you weak grades on the grounds of suspicion. Excellent grades are for students that are exceptionally good, and not for cheaters. Strive to be exceptional and keep your integrity intact by avoiding malpractice in all its manifestations.
9. Be punctual and disciplined
Avoid coming late to the class and seating where you’ll be distracted. Except it becomes absolutely necessary, always be punctual to your classes so that you get the best from the lectures. It is important also that your teachers know you as a serious student so that they can verge for you even in your absence. But when you are known to be unserious, the reverse is always the case, and the tendency is always there for them to generalize your lackadaisical attitude to studies even when you have a case.
“First Class: Basic Tips for Academic Excellence”
10. Attendance to lectures is non-negotiable
No matter how brilliant you think you are, attendance to lectures is sine qua non. Yes, some lecturers might truly have nothing new to teach you. But what happens in the event of an impromptu test? What if a lecturer decides to use attendance of the particular class you miss as his CA? As a student desirous of uncommon academic feats, you must make it a point of duty to attend all classes except in the case of eventualities.
11. Avoid having issues with your teachers and course mates
This is another great obstacle to academic excellence. As much as you can, avoid issues with your teachers, course representatives and fellow students. In the event that a misunderstanding ensues between you and a lecturer or students, always endeavour to resolve it and correct the impression immediately. Never leave the impression in your lecturers or fellow students that you are the arrogant type. You never can tell where you’ll need them to defend you in your absence.
12. Humility is a virtue
Arrogance is an obstacle to academic excellence. A humble student is naturally attractive to his lecturers. Conversely, all lecturers detest arrogant students and take away all occasions of grace from them. An arrogant student is, thus, on his own when he needs grace from his lecturers. Be teachable and let people advice you. Endeavour to take all positive advices seriously. Listen to people who have made it, have role models and emulate their lifestyles, read motivational books, watch motivational movies and equip yourself adequately with good counsel.
13. Be positive minded
Always tell yourself that you can make it. This keeps you constantly motivated and tells you that your aspiration is possible. Ban all negative vibes and sources of discouragement, and never give up until it becomes practically impossible. For instance: even in my final year, many kept telling me that First Class is not possible! I had to defy them and keep a positive mind. Many of my mentees have entered into First Class CGPA but in their final year. However, their relentless struggles in the past levels sustained their CGPA and provided it with adequate buffers to sustain the First Class eventually.
14. Social media addiction is a weakness, and so with all other addictions
In today’s internet age, the social media have emerged as the biggest distractions to students. Many students are on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter and the rest all day! Much as these present rich educational opportunities and complement one’s academic journey, addiction to them is disastrous and keeps one perpetually defocused. Today, students actively chat with friends on the social media during lectures and class presentations. There could be no other distraction as serious as this. To make the best out of the social media as one strives for academic excellence, avoid 24/7 dependence on the social media, draw boundaries accordingly and stick to them. There is, indeed, time for everything.
15. Overcome the endemic scourge of laziness
Laziness is a natural trait that is common to all human beings. To excel in your academics, you must be seen making deliberate effort to overcome it. The ability to overcome laziness distinguishes you from other students and makes you exceptional. Once you overcome laziness as a student, a substantial chunk of your academic huddles has been defeated for good.
Conclusively, it is important to note that everyone has his/her weak points that serve as impediments to their academic aspirations. While some of these are generic as discussed in the points above, some are uniquely peculiar to an individual’s immediate physical, economic and psycho-social environments. As a student aspiring for academic excellence, you must, as a matter of expedience, identify your own weaknesses and work assiduously towards overcoming them. This is the only way you can distinguish yourself from others and pave your way to academic excellence. May the Almighty God, the giver of knowledge and understanding help us to attain academic excellence in our various disciplines. I wish Dr Vincent Nduka Ojeh a wonderful birthday celebration and more fruitful years ahead in his meritorious service to humanity.
Tordue Simon Targema is a lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Taraba State University, Jalingo. Email: [email protected]