Just some thoughts from the viewpoint of what I saw as a Battalion Officer when bad study habits placed midshipmen in academic jeopardy, plus what I've observed from those in our family of sponsored midshipmen who struggled. Work from this backwards and determine how best to organize yourself to be aware of bad habits or tendencies and capitalize on your strengths.
- Mids who sailed through high school by not studying much (reviewing material 10 minutes before school and acing the quiz) were shocked by the degree of difficulty, sheer volume of work expected and lack of time to get stuff done. They were completely demoralized and did not know how to discipline themselves to set priorities and invest hours
was a factor for many mids in front of academic boards. There are a million ways to not do homework, whether it's sneaking in video gaming, Facebook, talking/texting/IMing with the gf or bf, eating junk food, shooting the bull, etc. Attack big projects a bit at a time
as soon as they're assigned - brainstorm paper topics, get an outline done, do some advance research, start a folder. 15-20 minutes is enough time to get something done, don't piddle it away. Get the work done first, set limits on mindless stuff that doesn't move you forward. Figure out how long you can work effectively without a break, then schedule a break for a set amount of time doing something that flexes your mind in a different direction.
- Plebes think they have a plan to spend x hours on something, but then they get pulled away for company training, "mandatory fun," taking the duty for someone who's sick, any number of things, and those plans collapse. Time management is key to success, as well as prioritization. Start out with the assumption you can't leave something to the last minute
, because that last minute will be snatched away, and you're off to a good start.
- Writing on a college level
. Great to be able to text like the wind with every abbreviation known and spelling out the window, but articulate written English is a must for every naval officer. I saw midshipmen who were great at Calc and Chem labor to get C's for short papers.
fast, efficiently and with retention. Key.
- Taking good notes
. Either written or on a laptop.
skills -- anything that adds speed to typing papers, manipulating data, doing PowerPoint slides and other computer projects.
- Be organized. Capture syllabus assignments given out at the start of the semester, get due dates, quiz times, exam times organized on a calendar
and come up with a plan that also meshes in football weekends (little time on Saturdays), duty rotations, holidays, etc. Know when you have to push harder in preparation for when several things come due at once. You should never be surprised by a due date.
- Stress management
. You will be stressed. Understand how you deal with it and how you can talk yourself down, whether it's going for a run, allowing yourself 15 minutes to read a non-academic book or whatever. You will be cooped up in the pressure cooker with room-mates undergoing the same pressures, with nowhere to go.
- Learn how to ask for help
. Yes, yes, none of you needed much help if you are getting into an SA, but study groups are a wonderful survival tool. Profs offer EI (extra instruction). The minute you start thinking, "I have NO idea what's going on in this class," get yourself to EI. Profs know what you're going through, and seeing you at EI can make the difference in how they evaluate your effort. USNA also has an Academic Skills Center, which can assist midshipmen with writing skills, organizing a paper, time management and other skills. There is plenty of help available. Ditch any pride and survive.
- Good reading on this thread as to how people learn. Anything that reinforced the knowledge using different senses worked for me. I'd take written notes, then close my eyes to envision formulas or relationships, then go for a long run and talk through what I knew out loud to hear myself. Some mids tape lectures (if not classified) and play them back to reinforce the notes.
Good news, you will get so good at juggling all the academic/athletic/military performance demands, that you will be an ace at time management and setting priorities the rest of your life, critical to success as a military officer and in civilian employment. It's just painful at first, more or less so for some, depending on the skills, discipline and self-knowledge you come onboard with.
Good luck! Enjoy this time before you go. You will be so caught up in plebe summer and the start of the academic year, you won't come up for air until Thanksgiving. You will also have a great deal of fun. You put that many bright, stressed folks in the pressure cooker, and the results can be hilarious sometimes. The anticipation is the worst.