The Study Dude—Tasks to Do Before You Start an Academic Degree

The Study Dude—Tasks to Do Before You Start an Academic Degree


So, you want to start an academic program? You may also want to perform your best, even becoming the top student.  This is quite possible, but you’ll need to prepare.

Here are ten tasks to do before you start a university or college program:

Choose a university.

Research universities that specialize in your chosen degree path.  In the US, Yale has an excellent drama school, while MIT has a great economics program.  McGill University in Canada is known for its outstanding medical school.  The University of Calgary has a well-established business school.  But ensure you have funds for accommodations or a roommate.  Or to save money, live at your parents’ home.  Living in dorms may often be counterproductive as they can serve as party houses.

Apply to the most elite universities, if grades permit, and especially to the American ones if you have a talent for sports.  Some universities give free education.  Others will provide you more significant opportunities in life.  For example, Westpoint University in the USA, a military university, has produced America’s top leaders, such as Mike Pompeo, former head of the CIA and Trump’s Secretary of State.  Just make sure you get an extensive scholarship or can otherwise afford tuition and accommodations.  For instance, Duke University in the USA offers merit scholarships that cover tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board–for four years–for select incoming undergraduate students.

Apply to online universities if you are not opting to be physically present.  For instance, you may have an anxiety disorder, autism, or other types of disability that make in-class studies less ideal.  Or you may have extensive work and family obligations.  If so, rest assured that Athabasca University is considered the best online university in Canada.

Access financing.

Set up a student bank account.  You’ll need someplace to deposit your student loans, scholarships, and bursaries.

Once you do this, apply for scholarships and bursaries.

Apply for a student loan.  Apply as early as you possibly can.  You’ll want to apply at least four months in advance, although this might be pushing it.  Ideally, you can submit your application eight months in advance or whenever the application first becomes available.

Stock up on supplies and equipment.

Stock up on supplies, ideally in bulk.  Just before the September school start date, supplies will go on sale.  Ensure you access the school supply sales, especially for lined paper.  Stock up on as many stacks of paper and supplies ad you can.  Also, buy lots of cue cards and a cue card holder.  Cue cards are ideal aids for exam studies and paper writing.

Research phone apps to help you schedule classes, manage cue cards, timing breaks, etc.  You’ll need a wall calendar and an electronic calendar to keep track of due dates and examination dates.

Make sure you have all the required technology.  You’ll need a computer and a printer, at minimum.

Get a desk, chair, and desk light.  The bigger the desk, the better, as you can have all your books and supplies within arm’s reach.  But small desks work, too.  A desk light is essential, especially when it comes to late-night studies.

Buy and learn how to use the easiest-to-use calculators.  The simplest to use calculators are ones that enable you to enter the equations in the exact order they are presented, which includes straightforward use of brackets.  Usually, the cheapest calculators have this ability.  Still, they have a short life span, so buy two calculators, using one as a backup.  Finally, read the calculator manual cover to cover until you are fully confident in using all its features.

Do reading prep.

Read an easy-to-understand grammar book.  Read the most straightforward grammar book you can find.  Often, books written most simply are the most well-thought-out books—and the easiest to learn from.  But practice each grammar tip until you are fully confident in your grammar skills.

Read a book on how to write academically.  Particularly read books on how to write academically, scientifically, and generally.

Read at least one book on study tips.  Great students learn systems for studying, and the better the techniques you know, the more straight A’s become a game you’ve come to master.

Do library and bookstore prep.

Visit the library and learn how to use the library systems.

Go to the university bookstores and flip through books in various disciplines until you find ones that would interest you.  Then, pick classes with the best textbooks—ideally ones with fully worked-out solutions to problem sets.

Engage in study prep.

Spend the summer before university studying.  Read at least two chapters from each assigned textbook before starting your academic program.  Read and study ten hours a day, taking a five- to fifteen-minute break every half hour to forty-five minutes.  Use a timer.  This will get you in the headspace for the high demands of the university.

Know when to work.

Avoid taking on a job in your first semester but do consider a co-op where you work and study at the same time once you’ve begun achieving high grades.  In a co-op, you may study for a year in school and then work for a semester.  Computer science students and engineering students are some of many who can significantly benefit from a co-op education.

Choose your classes.

Start with a lighter load.  Do not choose five science or math courses in your first semester unless you are a straight-A student with a serious 24-7 work ethic.  Instead, mix hard sciences with soft sciences.  Even consider taking only three classes during your first semester, which often qualifies as full-time studies.

Get the university calendar that lists all the classes as soon as it becomes available.  Then, study it intensively for classes you’d like to explore in your first semester.

Research the professors’ ratings online before you enroll in their classes.  The university may have ratings, or you can look at Rate My Professor online.  Only enroll in professors’ classes that have the highest ratings.  And be sure to register on the first hour the enrollment becomes available for that semester.

Locate your classrooms.

If you are about to attend an online university, know how to use the online system and where to find all your classes well before your start date.  If not, go to the physical university and locate your classrooms two weeks before your start date.

Wisely choose a degree program. 

Choose the ideal academic discipline.  At some point, you will have to choose an academic discipline.  But do your research first.  After all, you’ll want an academic discipline and subsequent career that you’re passionate about.  The more passionate you are about your degree and employment, the more likely you’ll flourish academically and in the workplace.  So, go online and take a Myers-Briggs personality test.  Once you have your personality type, Google which careers would suit your personality.  Enter the professions on a spreadsheet.  Then, go to a job portal site like and search for each occupation.  On the job portal, you’ll see things like pay, educational requirements, skills needed, and demand for the position.  And if you want to earn six figures, take note of the more senior roles and the maximum pay they offer.

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