Campus Life 101: Adjusting to College Academics

Getting familiar with GW’s many resources available to students is key to academic success.

(William Atkins/GW Today)
August 24, 2018

Campus Life 101 is a new series from GW Today that offers tips on the basics of navigating life at college, from staying safe to adjusting to college academics and managing stress.

By Tatyana Hopkins

For incoming students, college is not simply going “back to school.”

The transition is often challenging and typically requires students to adjust their academic routines in order to make the best of opportunities for advancement. The George Washington University offers numerous campus resources to help students achieve their academic goals, said Director of Student Support and Family Engagement Tracy Arwari.

“There is an opportunity every semester to be successful,” Dr. Arwari said. “It's really about being proactive.”

Over the summer, GW Libraries and Academic Innovation has collaborated with departments across campus to launch the Academic Commons website, which connects students with academic support and services. Academic Commons supports the academic experience by linking students to a wide range of resources including tools to find the best study spaces on campus, tips on study skills and information on research and career planning. Students can also connect to personalized study assistance for writing, languages and more than 50 other courses.

Dr. Arwari offers some advice on how students can think ahead and be strategic as they strive for academic success:

Get to know campus

Dr. Arwari said it is difficult for students to take advantage of the resources available to them if they are not first familiar with where those resources are. There are and to help students navigate GW’s campus.There are maps and apps to help students navigate GW’s campus.

Manage your time

Once students complete their class schedules, they should read syllabuses early and note due dates of assignments on a calendar. Many professors upload course information to BlackBoard before the start of the semester. Academic Commons suggests students pick a scheduling tool then create a schedule by using time-blocking, which sets aside time to complete specific projects. 

“Set realistic expectation, cut yourself a little bit of slack and keep everything in balance,” Dr. Arwari said. 

Know how to study

What sets college learning apart from anything before it, said Dr. Anwari, is that “you're responsible for your learning.” 

She said students should be prepared to do most of their learning outside of the classroom and go to class ready to apply the material they have studied. 

Students should not expect one cramming session the night before an exam to prepare them, instead they should be studying in the weeks leading up to the exam. Academic Commons offers three effective study methods including quizzing yourself on material rather than just reading, having multiple short study sessions as opposed to longer ones and answering different types of questions about the material. 

But remember, good studying starts with good note taking. Keep your notes simple. They should reflect only the most important material. Use keywords and short sentences.  Notes should also be organized in a way that connects information from class and reading assignments to information presumably on tests and the exams. Explore various ways to organize notes.  

Know when and where to ask for help

“Students should recognize that they are not on their own,” Dr. Arwari said. “There are a number of people who are more than happy to help out. We want to encourage students to advocate for themselves, but also know that sometimes that can be challenging. Reach out to your resident adviser, to your academic adviser and to those around you to get connected to resources.”

Academic Commons, offers a “one-stop-shop” for the university’s academic services. Through Academic Commons students can access free peer coaching for more than 50 STEM and non-STEM courses, find study spaces, learn about fellowship opportunities and connect to other services they need.

Cut yourself some slack

"Academic success is not just academic,” Dr. Arwari said. “It’s about thinking about who you are as a person and your holistic wellness." She suggests students join student organizations to build a sense of community and account for them on their schedule in order to keep their assignments and priorities in check.

Medical and counseling services are available to all students at the Colonial Health Center. The CARE Network also offers students and staff the opportunity to share their concerns about students who may need various services.  

“Use the resources and the people around you,” said Dr. Arwari, “and take care of yourself.”

Student Life