8 Secrets of Top Classroom Learners

By Cindy Chambers, PR Director

Being a strong face-to-face student isn’t easy. After all, adult learners juggle a variety of challenges and responsibilities, and 6 p.m. doesn’t bring an end to any of them. After a long day of work – whether that work is primarily physical or mental — it’s challenging to summon the energy required to engage and learn. But as a classroom instructor for nearly a decade, I’ve noticed that some students rise and shine better than others. Today, I’ll share the secrets of their success, and urge you to apply them to your own efforts. Chances are, they’ll make your academic journey better than you ever thought possible!


1. Disengage from the day before starting your night.  

Whether you’ve left the office with a deadline looming, or left the house with a toddler crying, making the switch from “real life” to “school life” can be difficult. As you drive to class, do your best to leave the things you left behind, truly behind. Put in a favorite CD and sing along; chat with a friend on the phone; or just mentally compose yourself for the class ahead.


2. Wake up your brain    

Studies show that even brains on auto-mode after a full day can be awakened with just a few simple tricks. Caffeine (in moderation) has been shown to boost brain power; if you need to make a run through Starbuck’s, it might be the perfect day to do so! Peppermint — whether in the form of candy, mints, or chewing gum – can wake up more than just your mouth: It’s also been shown to boost test scores. And listening to classical music or comedy before class does more than just entertain – it can even change brain waves, making you more alert and open to learning.

3. Be prepared.

The best students come to class ready to learn, with the proper textbook, completed homework, and necessary materials at their fingertips. If it’s the first night of class, they have checked the Bethel On-Campus website for any additional instructions before heading to school. In many cases, the best students will contact the facilitator well in advance, to introduce them-selves and discuss any concerns they may have. In fact, just sending a “Hi, my name is …” email to the instructor through the Profile section is a great way to stand out in a group of otherwise unfamiliar student.


4. Arrive before you have to.

Almost without exception, the best students come to class early. Sometimes they take the time to eat dinner at their desk; sometimes they sit and chat with classmates. While not every student has the luxury of arriving early, those who do tend to be more relaxed than those who don’t. And, if they’re running late, they unfailingly let somebody know.

5. Fully participate.

We like to think that teachers don’t “play favorites,” and every instructor tries to avoid it. But it’s hard not to take a shine to a student who is truly engaged. Think of it: Would you feel more favorable about a student who is slumped down in the seat, secretly sending text messages, or a student who is sitting up straight, smiling, and adding content to the conversation? The best students are pre-pared to participate, and have the mindset and body language to go along with it.


6. Make connections.

The best students really bond with their cohort members. They exchange more than advice about homework – they share life events, stay in touch throughout the week, and are there to support one other, in class and out. Some of the deepest friendships ever formed have started in a classroom, and the best students remain engaged, energized, and enhanced by their “Bethel buddies.”

7. See criticism as a learning opportunity.

No one enjoys criticism. But the best students recognize the value of respectful reinforcement and guidance. Top students know they are in class to learn, and realize that the teacher is there to offer opportunities for growth. They take constructive criticism in the spirit in which it’s offered; apply it to their work; and grow because of it.

8. Ask for help.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best students ask the most questions. They reach out for help to classmates, instructors, advisors, and trusted mentors. They stay late to talk with the facilitator when necessary. They use all the resources available at Bethel University to shift from student to scholar during their academic journey. And when they graduate, they’ve earned far more than a diploma – they’ve gained valuable knowledge that can be applied to make their futures even brighter.