I’m starting a course as an eye specialist. It’s my first time at college and I’m worried that I won’t be able to cope with the work. My family is supporting me and I don’t want to let them down. What should I do? 

 Well done on getting a place to study eye care at college. My first comment is that the people who run the college think that you have the attributes to be a successful person. By giving you a place they have trust in you. 

However, in my 20 years as an educator in an eye care university school I have seen many students take a very poor approach to their studies once they start the course. Many end up with poor grades, grades lower than they could have got, or have been thrown out because of a poor attitude and or poor exam grades. 

 Here’s what I learned during my time studying for five degrees and two diplomas. 

 Start preparing for your exams in class one on day one of your course. I noticed that many students had no future concept. They reminded me of the people I wait in line with when I’m catching a local bus. We wait for some minutes, the bus comes and as they get on then they look for their money to pay for a ticket. No future concept that when the bus arrives they will need money. Similarly, some students have no future concept of exams and are very poorly prepared when they arrive. 

 On day one find out when the exam period is. You might not be able to get the exact dates but you will be able to get the dates of the weeks the end-of-year exams will be held by your college.  

 Turn up to everything. Every class, every lab, every clinic, every extra session, every evening lecture. 

 Make friends with your classmates. Remember that when you qualify you will be looking for a job and some of your classmates may open a practice or have a family member with a practice. 

 Talk to visiting clinicians and sales reps. Remember, that when you qualify you will be looking for a job and some of the visiting clinicians may have a practice and the sales reps may know of job vacancies. 

 Form a study group with one or two classmates. I formed a study group with two people who were slightly brighter than me and they helped me understand the concept of colour vision deficiency. They understood what the lecturers said and explained it to me in ‘student’ words. In return, I helped them with some concepts they struggled with. I mentioned this to a colleague recently and she said there was no reason why the study group couldn’t continue even when people leave college. There is always more learning that is needed. 

 Review your notes every evening and at the weekends. Look up words you don’t know and write down their meaning. Interact with the words. Asked your study group about concepts you don’t understand.  

 Make appointments with staff and go and see them to ask questions your study group friends couldn’t answer. 

 Get hold of past exam questions and write out model answers and ask your study group to mark them. Perhaps see if the lecturers will mark them.  

 Start all your assignments as soon as you get them. I will speak about anti-procrastination techniques in another item. Before you hand in an assignment with a written narrative read it aloud to your study group or to yourself. Clumsy language is often easier to hear than to see. Plan to hand in a week ahead of the deadline. Then if something goes wrong, you have a week to repair it. 

 When you get to exam preparation, there should be nothing or very little, that you don’t understand. When you do your revision there shouldn’t be anything new to you. Make sure you know the meaning of every word. Exams are hard enough without you having to guess the meaning of a word in a question.  

 If you can do this, you will get better exam marks than your classmates. Remember, you are competing with them for jobs. 

 If you can do this, you will pass your exams and you and your family will be proud. 

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