Mind-set, consistent pace and continuous enthusiasm are the most important properties you could have, with maybe intelligence coming up close behind!
We all start a new project with excitement and great ideas of achievement, but maintaining an unrealistic impetus can be draining and negative, as it does take organisation and hard work! Depending on your chosen subject and what type of practical or written assignments you will need to produce, the organisation of your home life, as well as personal space, time and costs will be important.
My specific area of education is photography and I know my students begin with fervour, and rush to produce their first assignments with great enthusiasm but then this enthusiasm starts to wane as they find they need to put in consistent and genuine work! Any feedback they get is honest and fair and is judged to sustain their interest rather than diminish it. Any good course tutor should try to encourage you to continue your studies. The worst courses will take your money, promise much and hope that you do not ask for help e.g. send you your second set of course material after harsh feedback and hope that you drop out, and if your next set of material being sent to you is dependent on your assignment submissions, you can see they are on to a winner. I ensure that my students get all their course material regardless of practical submissions. Get as much as you can from your course and tutor; ask questions however silly you think they are – you have paid for it, after all. Make sure you are aware of what you are entitled to.
Points to help you get the best from your studies:
Find a space you can call your own to place course material and any books, files and papers. You may need to spread out occasionally, and a cluttered multi use table will not help to crystallise your thoughts.
If you need to use a computer, and there are few courses that don’t require this these days, ensure that no one else can tamper with your work. Have folders specific for your work or better still have a USB stick or external hard-drive to save your work on. Extensive written work should always be backed up; don’t get lazy about this, statistically, you will lose your work at some point and it would be a shame to waste all that time and effort.
Work out a timetable to pace yourself, maybe plan to work on your course the same time each week or every few days. Make sure you are not tired: the last thing a student wants to do after a hard day at work is hit the books, but it is all too easy to let one day drift into another and then you forget to do it altogether. If practical work is involved, be firm with yourself to get it done. My students often cheat by finding pictures they shot on holiday or they have in the album. They learn nothing other than how to cut corners, but they don’t get away with it!!
If you have set dates to get work in, put these dates on the calendar on the wall or on your computer and maybe with a reminder date a week or so before to give you a nudge if you can only work with deadlines.
Decide before you start how much you want to get done and reward yourself when you achieve it. Give yourself breaks as a reward. Make sure if you are working at the computer that you look around the room or actually get up and stretch your legs every hour or so to stop eye strain and muscle strain. Try to do something entirely different, this is particularly important if you are cramming for an exam. Don’t panic, either: nerves and high blood pressure will not help you learn or remember.
It is better to use a computer to produce your written work if you can, make sure you use spell check and grammar check but don’t take this for granted. A word might be spelt correctly but mean the wrong thing e.g. won and one, and this won’t be flagged up! Get someone else to read your work and see if they understand it, if they do you are on the right track. Lay your work out neatly to aid the tutor’s reading process and keep hand written work and its paper clean.
Finally, and most importantly, always read assignments and instructions at least three times and don’t do what you think they ask for, do what they do actually require or you will be penalised. You will be asked to do the work again, or worse, you will lose marks or not gain marks at all! If you’re not sure or don’t understand, ask!
Above all, enjoy your subject or there is no point taking a course at all! Good luck.