The following suggestions are based on my seven-year experience as a seminary student.
They are written particularly for seminary students, but may be more broadly application for
students enrolled in other programs of higher education.

Getting Organized

1.   Organize your class and study schedule.  Mark all due dates on your calendar.
Adjust some dates if you have two papers due at the same time.

2.   Make a list of all assignments and post them above your desk.  These are the
priority items for the quarter.  Check them off as you complete the projects.

3.   Schedule your reading.  Don't save it for the last week.  Ask your professor if the
reading is for familiarity or precision.  Will you be examined on the material you have read?

4.   If you are taking a language, plan to devote about 50% of your study time to that subject.

5.   Since you have enrolled in an intensive academic program, make your studies a           
priority. Many students find it best to limit  themselves to one extra-curricular activity opportunity
and limited outside work.  

6.   Study hard during the week.  Rise early and study late.  But take Saturday afternoon and
Sunday morning off to Spend time with friends and family.  Be balanced.  Include a program of
physical exercise.  This will help with tension and keep your mind alert.

7.   Get to know your advisor or major professor.  Look for informal opportunities to get to know
your teachers better (lunch, school picnics, campus activities).


Hitting the Books

1.   Plan your schedule to allow blocks of time for papers.

2.   Establish study priorities.  Complete assigned work first!  If your Greek assignment is due
tomorrow, complete it before beginning other projects or reading.

3.   Don't separate your studies from your devotional and spiritual life.  Do your studies
devotionally -- with God's help, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

4.   Read and study with an open mind.  Don't be afraid to consider new ideas.  Be open, not
resistant, to a new concept or truth.  Be teachable.

5.   When you are reading, know what you are looking for.  Study with purpose.  Have your
objectives clearly in mind.

6.   Take study breaks.  After an hour of study, get up and clear your mind.  Talk to your friend
or spouse.  Make some tea. Then hit the books again!

7.   Use a highlighter when you read.  This will save you much time when you read the material
again in review for an exam.

8.   Take notes when doing research.  Use 4x6 cards.  After your research is completed, you
can shuffle the cards and arrange the material logically.

9.   Use the library.  Consult the journals, reserve materials, micro-film collection, etc...  Be a
researcher.  And be sure to document your research carefully with footnotes or endnotes.

10.  Don't wait until finals week to begin preparing for exams.  Spend an hour each week
reviewing your class notes and material.  Prepare summaries which can be used to study
during finals week.


Attending Class

1.   Be on time!  Develop the habit of being punctual.  It demonstrates to your professor and
others that you are dependable and that you value their time.

2.   Ask questions!  Clarification questions are appropriate anytime. Ask for additional
information when the professor pauses at a natural breaking point in the lecture.

3.   Professors really appreciate questions that will benefit the majority of the students in the
class.  If it is a matter of personal concern or special interest, see the professor after class.

4.   Some people ask questions in such a way that they pass judgment on the point that the
prof has just made.  Instead, Ask for a clarification or elaboration on the point.  Maintain a
teachable spirit as you interact with controversial  issues.  Don't claim Psalm 119:99a as your
life verse!

5.   Students sometimes expect the professor to be a walking commentary on the Bible.  There
are probably some issues the prof is not prepared to address and even a few things the
professor doesn't know (cf. Psalm 35:11b).

6.   Help the professor to get to know your name and a little bit about you.  Initiate a personal
relationship by speaking with him before or after class.  Don't let the class conclude without
giving the professor ample opportunity to get to know you.

7.   Some profs invite their students to address them on a first name basis. Others are not as
comfortable with this informality. Be sensitive to the different preferences.  What one professor  
prefers may not apply in another class.


Writing Papers

1.   Prepare a title page with your name and campus box number on it.  Professors would    
rather not have to look up your box number in order to return your paper.

2.   If the paper is more than a few pages, a table of contents is in order.  This will help the
professor overview your paper before reading it.

3.   Know what is required before you begin your paper.  Read the directions in the course
syllabus.  Ask questions if it is not clear.  Follow the directions.

4.   Introductions are always appropriate.  State you topic, explain your approach, tell why it will
be worthwhile reading your paper.

5.   Most papers of any significant length are improved by including an outline in the text of your
paper.  Include major points and sub points.  This will enable the prof to see your organization
and development.

6.   Include footnotes (or endnotes) if your paper requires research.  Biblical references should
always be in the text, not in footnotes.  A research paper should always include a bibliography.

7.   “How Long, O Lord (Psa. 13:1)?”  Write a paper that is sufficient to cover the subject
without going beyond the generally expected requirements of the course. Don't turn a term
paper into a thesis!  On the other hand, don't plan on doing a major paper in an evening.  Do
work that reflects sincere interest in the subject matter, not in just passing the course.

8.   Most profs want class assignments submitted on time.  Being punctual with your homework
reflects your faithfulness in all areas of life.  If you are late in turning in an assignment, attach a
note of explanation, but don't ask for  favors.  It is unfair to your classmates to expect the
professor to give you a special dispensation.

9.   Turn your paper in at the beginning of class on the date due. If you turn in the paper later,
leave it in the professor's campus mail box.

10.  Before asking the professor, "How should I write this paper?," read the syllabus carefully.  If
you don't understand the directions ask for clarification on specific points.  Generally, if you
follow the directions given in the syllabus, you will do well.


Taking Exams

1.   The key to passing any exam is to know what you will be asked.  If your professor does not
offer to tell you what you are responsible for and will be tested on, ask for specifics.  “What are
his instructional objectives?”  “Are the exams on lectures, reading, or both?”

2.   Recognize that your exams are designed to be a learning experience.  Don't fuss and fume
over the answers you miss.  Study out the question and learn the correct answer.  If an
incorrect answer gives you a chance to learn the correct answer, then the exam is
accomplishing one of its purposes.

3.   Appreciate the fact that every exam is a subjective evaluation -- both in the preparation of it
and in the grading process.  It is simply one person's fallible measure of how well you have
accomplished a particular course objective.  Another professor's evaluation might be different.  
Recognize that God is the One who will ultimately evaluate your efforts.  His judgment will be
perfect.

4.   If you find that your points have not been calculated correctly, resubmit your exam with a
written explanation of your concern.  This will give the prof and opportunity to check your
answer and make a correction if necessary.


Receiving Grades

1.   The best way to be happy with your grades is to always strive for excellence. Always do
your best in light of your time and present limitations.  If you have done your best, that's all you
can do.

2.   Don't compare yourself with others.  Just compare yourself with your past.  Are you
maintaining?  Are you improving?

3.   Recognize that all evaluation this side of heaven is to some degree subjective.  Grades are
necessary in an academic institution, but ultimately it is the Lord who will reward you.  If you
have done your best, then the Lord will say, "Well done," even if the professor only gave you a
"C".
How to Flourish as a Student:
Practical Study Suggestions

J. Carl Laney