6 Great Tips for Working Smart Not Hard in College

At College Mate, we advocate for hard work and perseverance to get the results you want. Read the textbook. Stay up all night studying. Edit your paper a thousand times before submitting it. And be prepared for class.

But that’s not always possible is it? Even the best students fall behind and need shortcuts to catch up and get the ball rolling again. So with that in mind, here are six great tips to help you work smart and stay on top of your game.

1 – Read the PowerPoint Slides

Your professors want you to read your textbook – even we want you to read the textbook. But let’s be real: have you seen the size of those things? Reading the whole textbook is a goal you should work towards, but not one that’s always possible. When that happens, consider looking up the PowerPoint slides for the textbook.

Even when your professors don’t provide these, the textbook publishers may have a website where you can retrieve them. If that fails as well, then just google PowerPoint slides for the textbook, and the specific chapter.

Some other lecturer at a university 3000 miles away has likely already gone through the trouble of turning the chapters into slides, and posted them online.

2 – Google Homework Answers

Of course you should do your homework yourself. This provides you with much needed practice, and helps you to understand the material better. But who doesn’t get stumped from time to time? We’ve also all had that one professor who thought their class was the only one we had all semester, and assigned us way too much homework.

There’s a remedy for that. Copy and paste the problem or question into the Google search bar. We can almost guarantee that someone somewhere has already worked on the same or a similar assignment, and has the answers waiting for you.

Never forget to look over the answers yourself. Use “reverse engineering” to figure it out for yourself. The point is to get you through the homework faster: not to skip the whole process of learning.

3 – Pay Attention to the Coursework/Assignment Outline

Has someone ever asked you to do something without fully explaining what they need? Then after spending forever and a day working your butt off, they tell you, you really didn’t need to go through all that trouble. As you’ll find out, that happens a lot in class as well.

Whenever your instructor assigns a project, ask for an outline. This should include the main topics you need to cover, how the information should be organized, what formatting style you should use, how the project will be graded, and the impact it has on your overall grade.

This saves you a lot of time, and prevents you from going through any unnecessary trouble. Don’t go submitting a 20-page research paper, when the professor only wanted a 3-page essay.

4 – Use the Cop-Out Route to Write Summaries

In our post – 6 Quick Tips for Writing a Summary – we included a cop-out route for making the summary writing process as easy as possible. This is also a great way to make notes for studying later on.

So how do you do it? In a well-written document, each section starts with an introduction that sums up the main points. Likewise, each paragraph should have what is called a ‘main point’, ‘main idea’, or ‘topic sentence’ at the beginning or end of the paragraph.

Find each topic sentence, throw them together, re-word them, and ta-da! Just like that, you’re done.

5 – Automate your Citations

As previously mentioned, one of the important things you need to know when completing work for professors is what formatting style to use. This decides how the project will look, and how information is organized. But most importantly, it dictates how you give due credit to external sources.

There are three main formats or styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago. Different professors and classes can require different formats, and trying to remember the individual rules for each one can be a real headache.

OWL Purdue can help refresh your memory as far as the formatting is concerned. For the citations, try using automatic citation programs, like Citation Machine.

6 – College Mate Tips

College Mate is a great resource for information on how to make your college experience easier, and more enjoyable. We provide tips on everything from how to boost your GPA to how to make the best of Tinder.

We’ve built a community of fellow college students and graduates who provide expert advice that worked for them, and that we know can work for you. So subscribe for more great tips, or follow our Facebook page.

College is more than a rat race with a piece of paper at the end. It’s a journey of self-discovery, professional growth, and personal fulfillment – and these tips will help get you there when you need it most.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. It’s great to see this article. Actually it’s great to see the whole College Mate blog!
    But, as a university academic, I feel obliged to add caveats to points 1) and 2) in this post, in case students find themselves in trouble.

    1) I agree that it isn’t always possible to do all the reading every week. (I was a student whilst working and raising kids, so there were a lot of weeks that it was impossible!) But with ever-increasing competition in the tertiary education sector, more and more pressure is on lecturers to add value not found in the text book. This has two implications for students: Firstly, yes, definitely read the slides. Always. They are likely to include additional points, such as pre-test information and/or links to other resources, etc. Secondly, this extra material doesn’t replace the text book – it’s complementary. So even if there’s less scope to include text book points in the slides, that doesn’t mean the text book content is less important – but classes aren’t long enough for lecturers to repeat everything you should have read before class.
    So, if you are short on time, you should at least read the summary at the end of each chapter. An improvement on that is to scan the chapter in the same way as the article suggests for doing Cop Out summaries.

    2) Be aware that paraphrasing someone else’s work is still plagiarism. Unequivocally. We read a lot of assignments, and we can see clues that students can’t; and the consequences of being caught can be very serious. Another problem is that answers found online might look similar, but if the paper you submit does not match the specific question given by your professor, you will lose marks for missing the point. Some students unnecessarily fail by submitting irrelevant work.
    The whole experience is likely to be a lot less risky, and a far better formative experience, if you instead focus on recommendation 3). The question requirements should suggest a structure for your answer – convert them into (temporary) headings, and then fill in all the gaps. Trust yourself. By all means use what you find on Google, but it should take up less than 10% of your paper, and even if you paraphrase instead of quoting, you still have to cite your sources. References add credibility, so don’t be afraid to use them!

    That said, I suspect that students who read hints and tips are likely to be self-motivated and very good achievers. I wish you well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Dr. Kerri. We’re glad you found the College Mate blog, and that you felt inspired enough to share some insight. Feel free to pitch us a post if you find the time.

      These shortcuts are meant to assist students on a pinch for time, not to replace everyday best practices.

      Not all textbooks have summaries at the end, and some summarize what the main topics were, but not what the main points to remember were.

      The article also didn’t go against citations for paraphrasing. We mentioned automated citations as a way for students to give credit due. Paraphrasing was a tip for writing summaries, not writing whole research papers.

      Interesting points though! Always great to hear from the academic community. I thought you were a practicing doctor, rather than an academic.

      Thanks again for dropping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Alex. Thanks for your response. I was already aware that you have an Ethics post somewhere and that your content is consistently awesome, so I have no doubt that your post meant well. The moment took me because I’ve seen many students misinterpret things! However, in this context, please delete my comment – those who follow your page will obviously be switched on, and will not need my clarifying ramble.
        PS: I look forward to seeing your work in my Reader. You are setting a great example for the students who follow you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would love to keep your comment, actually. It’s important that students get the reminder. I know how hardheaded even I could be back then haha.

        And thank you! I do try to lead by example. Too many of us, especially in the blogosphere, are too focused on the talk and not the walk.

        I love that you checked our ethics page. We’ve had to enforce it a time or two! Sometimes to the detriment of our bank account, but integrity is priceless.

        Feel free to pitch us an article. I know students here can benefit from your wisdom, for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, and if you know any students that would be interested in participating in our monthly writing contest, feel free to send them our way. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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