Prepare for Class

Learning Objectives

  • Identify effective mental and physical strategies to prepare for an individual class session

Identifying Ways to Physically and Mentally Prepare for Class

Kai feels like he is struggling through his first semester of college. He works long hours at a job every night, lives at home, and helps care for his younger sister. When he gets home from work, he is ready for bed and is often too tired for homework or studying. He has trouble focusing in class and occasionally drifts off during lectures. Kai knows he needs to change some of his habits, but he feels too overwhelmed to know where to start.

Lots of students like Kai have to balance a lot of responsibilities, such as work, school, and family. Such competing demands can make it hard to get the most out of class time and assignments. The effort you put in to succeed in college will pay off, though, and there are ways that you can physically and mentally prepare to excel in class.

Eat Healthy Meals and Snacks

Sometimes students get so busy that they skip meals like breakfast or lunch and then resort to junk food and coffee or caffeinated drinks to get them through. While a candy bar and soda might give you a temporary boost, you’ll soon feel tired and hungry again. Eating healthy meals and snacks that contain lean protein, vegetables, and fruits will give you the energy needed to accomplish all of your daily tasks.

Exercise Regularly

Similarly to healthy eating, exercising can give you energy throughout the day. Physical activity can also help prevent you from getting sick, which can lead to missed classes and work and lower grades. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Three young men playing basketball in an urban park

Get Enough Sleep

Sleeping is like recharging your personal battery each night for the next day. However, studies show that on some campuses like the University of Alabama, 60 percent of the student population doesn’t get adequate sleep. Although some students will need slightly more or less sleep, most should aim for eight hours every night. Along with getting enough sleep, students can practice healthy habits to sleep soundly, like avoiding caffeinated beverages before they go to bed and reading instead of using electronic devices before bed to help the body start to relax.[1]

Manage Stress

According to a recent American Psychological Association (APA) study, more than half of college students who used their school’s counseling services cited anxiety as the reason they sought help. Other stress points included relationship and academic problems. Stress management will look different for each student. For some students, the solution might include exercising. Other students might want to make time each week to meditate, go out with friends, spend time with pets, listen to music, or work on arts-and-crafts projects. Regardless of which activities you enjoy, it’s important to make time for stress management in your schedule.[2]

Talk to Guidance Counselors or Instructors

Guidance counselors and instructors are good resources to help you learn strategies for being successful both in and out of the classroom. For example, your guidance counselor might suggest dropping a class if you are currently taking too many, or your instructor might be able to give you additional studying resources for any concepts you find difficult, so you can catch up for future classes.

Sometimes student success can be as simple as changing your mindset. For example, if you identify what makes you happy and brings you positive thoughts, you might generate more motivation and enthusiasm for schoolwork and class time. The following video discusses other small goals students can set in order to succeed.

You can view the transcript for “How to Balance School and Work: 5 Strategies for Academic Success” here (opens in new window).


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  1. "Sleepy Students Emphasize Studies, Social Activity to Detriment of Health, According to UA Study." UA News. 20 Aug 2014. Web. 10 Feb 2016.
  2. "College Students: Coping with Stress and Anxiety on Campus." American Psychiatric Association Blogs. 27 Aug 2015. Web. 10 Feb 2016.