Just a few items to note lately....
Preflight: Draining fuel. Several applicants have not been draining from the fuel strainer (aka gasgolater). When asked about it they claim they didn't know about it. Its on the Cessna preflight checklist under NOSE, Item number 2.
Some of the older Cessna airplanes may have a belly drain. It was an option in some of the 1978 models and also available by STC. This is the lowest point in the fuel system. If there is water or crap in the fuel system it can be found here. On the 1997 and newer Cessnas there are at least 13 fuel drains. Oh, please drain plenty of gas, not just a little bit. If the gas is clean you can dump it back into the tank. Otherwise dispose of it per your flight school or airport policy.
I have also noticed people not moving the flight controls during the walk around. Please check the freedom of movement. They should move smoothly. Also listen for any noises. I once found a frozen pulley just by the sound the cable made as it ran over it.
On the Before takeoff checklist and checking the flight controls. Please box the yoke/stick checking all four stops for smooth operation and correct operation (thumbs up, aileron up). Also check the rudder for freedom of movement. People have been doing a good job with the yoke/stick but forget the rudder.
Before takeoff briefing: The briefing is a good idea but I have been noticing that they are getting longer and longer. So Long as I don't think they are really what you would do Question, have you ever actually practiced all those things you say you would do? Im guessing not. In the event of an engine failure at 200 feet are you really going to establish best glide, shut off the fuel selector, pull the mixture, extend the flaps, declare an emergency, turn off the master and mags, crack the door open and tighten the seat belt? Have you even tried doing this?
My VFR takeoff briefing is simple. "I will rotate at XX, climb at XX (Vy). If I have a problem I will abort. In the air I will push the nose down and establish best glide and hit the softest thing in front of me." I am mostly focusing on flying the airplane. If you are doing all that other stuff, your focus will not be on flying the airplane and that's where it should be! Bob Hoover once said..."Fly the airplane as far into the crash as you can."