Engineering Student Success


Photo: Brenda Ahearn/University of Michigan, College of Engineering, Communications and Marketing


The EAC recognizes that students may need support in classes here at the University of Michigan.  We have collected a number of strategies to help students succeed, and encourage them to try these tactics out for a variety of classes.  In addition, this TedEx video provides some insight into how the brain effectively studies and stores long-term information.  We encourage students to talk with their EAC Advisor about what works best, or additional options.

Space Repetition

Action steps:

Spaced repetition is a powerful technique that involves spacing out your study sessions over time to enhance long-term retention. To effectively implement this tip, create a study schedule that revisits the material at increasing intervals. Start with shorter intervals and gradually increase the time between review sessions. This method optimizes your brain’s ability to remember information by reinforcing it periodically. Remember to use tools like flashcards or spaced repetition apps (i.e Anki Flashcards) to automate this process and make it more efficient. Consistency is key, so stick to your schedule for the best results.

  • Identify the material you need to study.
  • Break the material into smaller chunks or flashcards.
  • Use a space repetition software like Anki or Quizlet.
  • Start with shorter intervals between review sessions (e.g., 1 day) and gradually increase the intervals as you master the material.
  • Regularly review and revise the material according to the spaced repetition schedule.

Using a Topic/Lesson Tracker

A topic or lesson tracker is a visual tool to monitor your progress and ensure comprehensive coverage of your study material. Create a tracker that outlines the topics or lessons you’ve covered, marking them off as you complete them. This visual representation not only helps you stay organized but also provides a sense of accomplishment as you work through your study plan. Regularly update your tracker and use it as a motivational tool to visualize your academic journey and the milestones you’ve achieved.

Action Steps:

  • Create a topic or lesson tracker spreadsheet or notebook.
  • Divide the tracker into sections for each subject or topic.
  • Record the date you studied each topic or lesson.
  • Include a column for notes or comments on your understanding or any questions you have.
  • Regularly update the tracker as you progress through your studies.
Homework/Exam Analysis

Take a proactive approach to homework and exams by not just completing them but analyzing your mistakes and areas of struggle. Identify patterns of error and focus on improving those specific areas. This method turns these assessments into a valuable learning tool rather than just a task to be completed. Consider creating a “mistakes log” where you document errors, their corrections, and strategies to avoid similar mistakes in the future. This reflective practice can significantly enhance your understanding and application of concepts beyond the immediate assignment. If you’re struggling to determine the solutions to mistakes made or improve your experience using the answer key, try attending office hours/contacting your Professor/GSI for additional help.

Action Steps:

  • Review your homework assignments after receiving the final grade for them.
  • Identify any mistakes or areas where you struggled.
  • Analyze why you made mistakes and how you can improve.
  • Make note of any recurring patterns or concepts you find challenging.
  • Find help or additional resources for areas where you need clarification.
  • Attempt to solve problems you missed or found challenging. Alternatively, you can find similar example problems to solve. For general classes, a useful tool is problem roulette.

Study Groups

Work with other students through study groups to gain different perspectives and insights. Explaining concepts to others can deepen your understanding, doing this can reveal gaps in your knowledge or areas of weakness. Choose study partners with different strengths to create a well-rounded learning environment. Working with students can also provide additional motivation on low days. Be mindful that when working in groups there isn’t an imbalance of support, this can lead to strain between group members and cause a lack of learning. Finally, if you struggle to form groups because of a concern about a lack of authenticity in your work remember it’s okay to ask for help, no one makes it through university alone.

Action Steps:

  • Form a study group with classmates who are motivated and focused.
  • Agree on specific goals and objectives for each study session.
  • Assign roles within the group, such as note-taker, questioner, or timekeeper.
  • Discuss challenging concepts and share different perspectives.
  • Quiz each other on the material to reinforce learning.
Retrieval Practice

Actively retrieve information from memory rather than just passively reviewing notes. Use flashcards, self-quizzing, or mock exams to reinforce your ability to recall information. This practice enhances long-term retention and improves your performance during assessments. Experiment with different types of retrieval exercises, such as creating concept maps from memory or writing down key points without referring to your notes. The more actively you engage with the material, the stronger your memory recall will become.

Action Steps:

  • Create practice quizzes or flashcards based on the material you’re studying.
  • Test yourself regularly on the material without referring to notes or textbooks.
  • Use active recall techniques to retrieve information from memory.
  • Focus on understanding the underlying concepts rather than memorizing facts.
  • Review your performance and identify areas where you need further study or practice.

Office Hours

Office Hours are an important tool to enhance your learning experience, however, you must utilize this tool the right way to gain the most benefits from it. You can utilize office hours effectively by attempting to understand/learn the topic before asking about it. Trying to make those connections yourself before someone else explains it improves understanding. This can look like, attempting a problem, coming up with specific areas where you get stuck, asking about them rather than deciding the problem is too difficult to attempt, and then just asking how to do the entire problem.

Useful Resources (Study Spaces, Balance/Time Management…)

Here are some useful resources that should make applying these study skills easier

Study Spaces

Finding the right environment to study in is just as important as any part of the study process. Below are a few places to study on campus, some of which can be reserved for individuals or groups

Balance/Time Management

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin. The most common way students fail to prepare is by limiting the amount of time they have to study. This lack of time is typically due to poor balance and time management. To improve balance and time management you need to understand the fundamental key of prioritization. Give your highest priorities the most time, effort, and attention.