Student Success Boot Camp

01 May 2015 Written by  By John Parker, PHD
Published in May 2015 Articles

This summer I am offering a three-hour study skills workshop, called the Student Success Boot Camp that is designed to give college-bound students a set of skills that will enable them to achieve academic excellence to the limit of their ability.

The materials have not only proven to be life changing for a number of students, but the insights came from my own road to academic success.

I was a founding partner of a Los Angelesbased management-consulting firm. My clients included government officials and high-level executives from multi-national corporations, but my favorite clients have always been college bound students. My parents wanted their children to take advantage of educational opportunities that hadn’t been available when they were young.

My youthful dreams took me down other pathways than academics. I played semi-pro winter ball with the Los Angeles Angels until injuring my arm and then focused my energies on becoming a licensed pilot and forming my own rock band. The Viet Nam War came along just as I began thinking of going to college. I served four years in the United States Air Force, married Trisha, started a family, and then finally enrolled in college.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for the academic life. At the end of my first term, I got a letter from the dean’s office informing me that if my grades didn’t improve, I would not be invited to return for a third semester. It occurred to me that perhaps I was simply not intelligent enough to succeed in college. Fortunately, a wise academic advisor changed my life by sharing with me a few simple study skills techniques. It turned out that I was smart enough to do the work; the advisor simply helped me to understand what “do the work” actually meant.

I developed a keen interest in the processes and methods leading to academic success. I put into practice the things I had learned from my advisor, added some of my own, with the result that I received another letter from the dean at the end of the next term, this time informing me that I had made the Dean’s List. I had moved from Probation to Dean’s List in a single term. One of my professors was suspicious of my success and said that he had assigned a student to watch me take an exam, then came to me, and told me he was baffled by how I was able to score 98% on the test. I asked him if he was accusing me of cheating and he confessed that he was simply confused. “I took the test myself,” he said, “and I only scored 96%.” I finished his final exam in eight minutes. It was multiple choice and because of the way I had studied, I could tell from the answers what the questions were without actually reading them. The professor simply smiled when I handed in the answer sheet. He knew by then just what I was doing.

As further evidence of the remarkable change that had taken place, I was able to graduate with my undergraduate degree in only two years. I graduated with highest honors together with the Outstanding Undergraduate Student and the offer of a Teaching Assistantship while I worked on my Master’s Degree. I continued to develop and use my study techniques so I was able to complete course requirements for my master’s work in one year and was voted Outstanding Graduate Student. My success wasn’t primarily due to what I had learned but because I had actually learned to learn.

My school success served to expand my confidence into other areas of life, as well. A major university recruited me to work on my doctoral degree and offered me a summer job conducting Study Skills workshops for the university. By that time, I had probably become a leading authority concerning methods of academic success and discovered that school had been attempting to teach study skills using ineffective and poorly designed texts and methods. I substituted my own methods for their ponderous and clumsy materials, and before long the success of students who took my study skills workshops began attracting attention, and several other colleges and universities began using my materials. I eventually assembled the course into a book, The Student Success Workbook, which turned into a popular reference work.

I have recently found myself missing the dynamic interaction with students. I also missed the payoff of actually making a profound difference in the lives of a number of students. Last Christmas, for example, one of my workshop participants called me up to thank me for changing her life. She had become a successful business executive and credited my course to putting her on the road to success.

Academic success is one of the main predictors for achieving the Good Life. High school dropouts, for example, average just over $20,000 per year in wages. High school graduates average $30,000 per year. College graduates with baccalaureate degrees average as much as $60,000 per year, and those with master’s degrees as much as $70,000 per year. Success can be measured by more than mere take-home pay; college graduates are four times more likely to be employed than high school graduates.

This summer I am reviving my study skills workshop and have named it the Student Success Boot Camp. I have condensed the presentation into a three-hour format and have updated the materials, so it will be more effective than ever.

There are not many opportunities in a lifetime to spend three hours on an activity that will certainly make our life better and that may, in fact, be responsible for completely altering the course of our lives. Participants in my Student Success Boot Camp will have a great advantage over their peers. College bound students who wish to succeed should sign up. Parents should obviously ensure that they do so.

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