When I became a Christian at age 20, I began to understand that my mind really matters. (Beforehand, I didn’t engage in my studies and did just enough in school to get by.) It was then that I realized the importance of cultivating a well-informed, logical mind as well as building a coherent and defensible Christian worldview.
Now as an adjunct professor at Biola University, I hope to encourage my students to come to that same realization. So, in honor of the 100th episode of my Straight Thinking podcast, I offer my list of 100 academic commandments to help show students (and their parents) how to take full advantage of their school years and beyond.
In the classroom
1. Develop a positive attitude toward learning and the educational process.
2. Attend every class—and be on time.
3. If you must be absent, makeup any work you missed.
4. Always try to sit toward the front of the classroom (close to the instructor).
5. Come to class prepared (with textbook, laptop, notebook paper, and pen or pencil, etc.).
6. Take clear and complete notes.
7. Pay careful attention to the lectures.
8. Don’t let other students’ behavior distract you.
9. Actively think through the lecture and anticipate its direction.
10. Ask questions (during and after class) if you do not understand.
11. Participate in each class period (offer input, ask questions, volunteer for assignments).
12. Complete all reading and homework assignments.
13. Turn homework assignments in on time.
14. Recognize that for many professors, an imperfect paper turned in on time is better than a perfect paper turned in late.
15. Keep all graded assignments until the end of the semester.
16. Extend courtesy and respect to the instructor.
17. Build relationships with your instructors.
18. Find out what the instructor’s expectations are and then follow them diligently.
19. Demonstrate to the instructor that you care about education and are interested and enthusiastic about the class subject matter.
20. Show up prepared to take each exam (both academically and with proper materials).
21. For essay exams, memorize a basic outline prior to the test and then flesh out the details during the exam.
22. If you struggle in a class, discuss it with the instructor and consider seeing a tutor.
23. Record lectures if this helps in your studying.
24. Avoid excessive specialization in your education by pursuing a broad liberal arts education.
25. Master the content of the lecture notes during your study time.
26. Define key terms.
27. Create flash cards and master the course vocabulary.
28. Pay attention to important people, places, and dates.
29. Identify the key concepts.
30. Select a study partner and practice explaining key concepts to each other.
31. Form a study group.
32. Review your notes before the beginning of each class.
33. Reflect and philosophize on the subject matter.
34. Start your term papers early—never give in to procrastination.
35. Recognize that doing two hours of homework a night works wonders.
36. Be prepared to write clear and descriptive essays.
37. Make sure your essay flows logically, contains descriptive details, and exhibits good grammar and accurate spelling.
38. Organize your assignments by keeping a weekly and/or semester planner.
39. Find out what kind of exam the instructor will give and study accordingly.
40. Prepare for exams daily and weekly, don’t wait until the last minute and cram.
41. Prepare daily if the class involves pop quizzes.
42. Ask a librarian to teach you library and research skills.
43. Discover which study skill books have endured the test of time and master them.
44. Stay computer and technology savvy.
45. Utilize the internet in your research.
46. Take advantage of the excellent educational software on the market.
47. Utilize downtime (such as driving) by listening to educational CDs or podcasts.
Beyond the requirements
48. Pursue information, knowledge, and wisdom as a daily priority in life.
49. Make learning a lifetime goal, not just a temporary activity while you are in school.
50. Commit yourself to reaching your full academic potential.
51. Take responsibility for your education (don’t blame others).
52. Set academic goals, both short and long term.
53. Take courses that will challenge you.
54. Study under the most competent instructors.
55. Improvise, adapt, and overcome any problem.
56. Read more broadly than required.
57. Incorporate the great books of the Western world into your education.
58. Make reading a daily priority throughout your life.
59. Seek to develop cultural literacy.
60. Build an appreciation for the arts in your education.
61. Utilize a Socratic approach to learning.
62. Develop the physical, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of your life.
63. Pursue and take pride in academic honors and awards.
64. Seek after academic grants and scholarships.
65. Strive to strengthen the foundational elements of the educational process (reading, logic, speech, and writing).
66. Strengthen the deficient areas of your education.
67. Acknowledge that no one can master all fields of study; therefore find your strengths and focus on those areas.
68. Be prudent in planning for a career.
69. Consider how your education will impact your career or occupation.
70. Interview people who are working in the careers you are interested in studying.
71. Reflect upon how your education will impact your civic responsibilities as a citizen.
72. Do not evaluate your academic performance purely in terms of letter grades.
73. Strive to learn everything you can as a student, and let the letter grades take care of themselves.
74. Avoid students who are apathetic about school or the educational process.
75. Build relationships with students who share your moral and intellectual virtues.
76. Avoid spending excessive time on entertainment and amusement.
77. Offer your mind as a living sacrifice to the glory of God.
78. Incorporate the study of the Bible into your ongoing education.
79. Integrate your education with your Christian faith and worldview.
80. Think in terms of worldview.
81. Seek after both moral and intellectual virtues.
82. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind and give you wisdom and understanding.
83. Recognize that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
84. Recognize that in Jesus Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
85. Acknowledge that being uninformed and ignorant is not a Christian virtue.
86. Accept the importance of education according to the Christian world-and-life-view.
87. Make it your life’s goal to become a wise and noble soul.
88. Accept the fact that being the only intellectual animal on the planet has moral implications.
89. Acknowledge that abstract ideas have concrete consequences.
90. Recognize that education can function as an important equalizer in life.
91. Accept that all truth is ultimately God’s truth.
92. Don’t fear science.
93. Never engage in cheating, plagiarizing, or any other academic dishonesty.
94. Never use a bad argument to support Christian truth.
95. Be directly involved with your children’s education.
96. Create an intellectual environment for yourself and your children.
97. Plan educational vacations and field trips for your family.
98. Be an intellectual role model for your children and introduce them to others who can serve likewise.
99. Expose your children to sound Christian apologetics.
100. Teach your children to never, never, never give up.