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Back to School

Nearly everyone who has been out of school for more than a few years can benefit from a basic skills refresher. Below are some resources to help you get on your feet quickly, whether you are a resident, international, or distance-learning student.

All Students

  • Foundations of Graduate School Writing (website with videos) GWC, mandatory for all new students
  • Workshops (in-person, webinar, video, and online modules) GWC and Dudley Knox Library
    Choose from over 30 workshops based on your needs, including these back-to-school fundamentals:
    • Basics of Academic Writing I and II
    • Building Blocks of Academic Papers
    • Joining the Academic Conversation
    • Making the Grade: How to Take Notes and Ace Tests
    • Organization: The Secret to Clear Writing
    • Paraphrasing and Quoting Like a Pro
    • Reading with Intent I and II
    • Unlocking the Brain: Tips for Writer’s Block

International Students

As international students studying in the US, some of you may be more comfortable writing in English than others. Suggestions for success include drafting papers early, working to first develop a strong thesis and supporting arguments, and then smoothing out the English in subsequent drafts. Also, practice English wherever possible, not just in class or with your American classmates. This will be one of your biggest aids to better writing. Finally, ask for help early and often; we are here for you.

Distance Learners

When graduate students first begin a distance-learning program, the never-ending workload can come as a shock. Distance learners often have scores of other responsibilities in their lives—demanding work schedules, growing families, and ongoing community obligations—so at first it may be difficult to strike the right balance. The Naval Postgraduate School specializes in distance learning and has developed tools especially for our multi-tasking students.

A graduate course's syllabus and rubric encourages you to think critically—to look beyond the obvious. Graduate school improves your ability to create, critique, and synthesize arguments. As a military officer, you are responsible for people’s lives, so it is critically important that you objectively recognize your own biases and assumptions, as well as distinguish strong arguments from weaker ones. These resources can help you develop these skills. 

Taking lecture notes is not a passive exercise. You need to literally “lean in” to the lecturer to engage mentally with the concepts he or she is sharing. Key to this is taking notes by hand; studies have shown that writing down your notes versus typing increases both memory and understanding. Also look for the GWC's workshop "Making the Grade: How to Take Notes and Ace Tests," offered during the first few weeks of each quarter.

Strong presentation skills help you communicate your ideas clearly in academia and are crucial in leadership roles. Your speaking and presentation skills may determine whether your ideas, or the ideas and plans of the organization you represent, will be adopted. Compelling presentations require clear motivation, good organizational planning, and practice.

Active reading can save time by first reducing a piece of scholarly writing to its essential ingredients. When you read actively, you extract an author’s thesis and outline before reading the piece from beginning to end. Knowing the author’s intent up front allows you to focus on the quality of their arguments and evidence, and helps you read efficiently to solve the problem at hand.

From saying goodbye to the cramming myth and concentrating on what you know to acknowledging your nerves and rewriting questions on scratch paper, a combination of action and relaxation makes you ready to ace your tests! Also look for GWC's workshop "Making the Grade: How to Take Notes and Ace Tests," offered during the first few weeks of each term.

It can be challenging to manage your class schedule and reserve time for study and writing, not to mention for family and recreation. Without a good plan, you may find yourself scrambling to keep up. Many resources are available to help you manage productivity. Some are as simple as making lists and daily reminders, while some rely on incorporating technology or motivation exercises. Find the method that works best for you.