Monday, January 8, 2018

The Secrets of Academic Success: A Student Guide - Secret #1 (Sp18)

There are some things about academic success that you may not know.
But your professors know.
The University support staff knows.
However, you as a student may not know. So, what are the secrets?

In a recent book titled The Secret, the author promises to reveal to you the “The Secret to everything - the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, [and] youth.”

Well, I can’t promise all that. But, I do think I have some information (some “secrets”) that just might help you with academic success. What I share with you below applies not only to my courses, but to all your courses. What you’ll learn here will certainly help you in my classes and, more than likely, it will help you in your other classes as well.

What follows are some secrets that I learned as an undergraduate student, as a graduate student and as a professor. I’d like to share these with you.

Secret #1 (Well, kinda a secret)

There is nothing more fundamental than the fundamentals.

Former MIT prof and Chesapeake, VA resident, Randy Pausch wrote a little book that I'd highly recommend. Pausch’s book is called The Last Lecture. You may want to see the YouTube video of Pausch’s Last Lecture. If you can't watch the full lecture below, please at least see the first 10 minutes or so.  Note that this video has been viewed over 16 million times.

You may also want to check out a short clip of Dr. Pausch over on

This prof. makes many important points in the video and his book, but one of the most important is about the role of fundamentals in education. Pausch learned this lesson early in life from a grade school football coach. “Fundamentals. That was a great gift Coach Graham gave us. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. As a college professor, I’ve seen this as one lesson so many kids ignore, always to their detriment: You’ve got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work.”

Here we are not playing football, but the same idea applies. Here we are not learning the basics of blocking, but the basics of studying, the basics of learning.

There are few good study skills sources that I’d recommend sources that are online. I especially like “Influencing teachers.” I’d also recommend the following study fundamentals pages from the Study Guides and Strategies site:

So, after reading the above, you may say “those are not secrets, I knew that already.”  I’d argue that there is a difference between knowledge and practice. You may “know” them, but are you practicing them? If you know these and consistently practice these, then you have the fundamentals down. If you don’t, then please don’t skip past these. Take them seriously. Practice these fundamentals, “otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work.” Practice them. “Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.”

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