22 Ways to Succeed in College

Date of Publication: 

August, 2015

Researchers have identified certain things students can do to ensure success in college. Ironically students are often unaware of what these “persistence factors” – or keys to success – are and how much they really matter. Here are 22 basic things you can do to thrive in college.
1.   Find and get to know one adult on campus who knows who you are and who cares about your survival. One person is all it takes. It might be the leader of your freshman seminar class or some other professor, an academic advisor, or someone at the career or counseling center.
2.   Learn what helping resources your campus offers and where they are located. Most campuses have career planning offices, personal counseling centers, and academic skills centers, as well as many other resources.
3.   Understand why you are in college. Your college experience will be much more productive if you can identify specific goals you wish to accomplish.
4.   Set up a daily schedule and stick to it. When no one is around to tell you when to study or when to sleep, you need to do this for yourself. If you can't do it alone, find someone on campus who can help - perhaps someone in your academic skills or counseling center.
5.   If you are attending classes full time (12 - 15 hours per semester) don't work more than 15 hours a week. Most people begin a downhill slide in the quality of learning beyond 15 hours. Don't be one of them. If you need more money borrow it from a reliable source or talk to a financial aid officer.  Try to work on campus. Students who work on campus tend to do better in classes and are more likely to stay enrolled than those working off campus.
6.    Treat your academics as your job. Follow this rule of thumb: for every hour you spend in class or lecture, plan to spend 2.5 hours in outside study. Thus twelve hours of weekly class time will require 30 hours of additional study.
7.   Assess and improve your study habits. In integral part of your success in college involves assessing your own learning style, taking better notes in class, reading more efficiently, and doing better on tests. If your campus has an academic skills center (most do), visit it.
8.   Choose professors who involve you in the learning process. Attend classes in which you can actively participate. You will probably learn more, more easily and more enjoyably.
9.   Know how to use the campus library. The library isn't as formidable as it might seem, and it offers a wealth of information and resources.
10.   Improve your writing. Your writing skills will serve you well throughout your life if you take some pains now to improve and secure them. Write something every day - the more you write, the better you'll write. Remember writing is for life, not only for Eng. 101.
11.   Develop critical thinking skills. Challenge. Ask why. Look for unusual problems. There are few absolutely right and wrong answers in life, but some answers come closer to being more "truthful" than others.
12.   Find a great academic advisor and fight to keep him or her. The right advisor can be an invaluable source of support, guidance, and insight throughout your college years. It's common to switch your advisor, from the one you were initially assigned to one of your own choosing, after a semester or two or three, once you've gotten more familiar with your college's departments and faculty members.
13.   Visit the career center early – don’t wait till your senior year. Even if you think you have chosen your academic major, the career center may offer valuable information about careers and about yourself.
14.   Make one or two close friends among your peers. College represents a chance to form new and lasting ties. It also offers great diversity in terms of the people on your campus. Choose your friends for their own self-worth, and not for what they can do for you. Remember in college, as in life, you become like those with whom you associate.
15.   Learn how to be assertive. Standing up for yourself is an invaluable skill. You can learn how to respect the rights of others and have others learn to respect your rights.
16.   Get involved in a least one campus activity outside of the classroom. Work for the campus newspaper or radio station. Play intramural sports. Join a club. Most campus organizations are looking for new students. Check them out during orientation / new student registration periods.
17.   Take your health seriously. How much sleep you get, what you eat, whether you exercise, and the kinds of decisions you make about alcohol, drugs and sex all contribute to how well or unwell you feel. Get in to the habit of being good to yourself and you will be both a happier person and a more successful student.
18.   If you can't avoid stress, learn how to live with it. While stress is an inevitable part of modern life, there are many ways of dealing with it. Your counseling center can introduce you to techniques that will help you worry less and study more.
19.   Show up for class. Professors tend to test on what they discuss in class, as well as grade in part on the basis of class attendance (and participation). Take your new freedom seriously and responsibly.
20.   Remember that you are not alone. Thousands of other first year students are facing the same uncertainties as you are facing. There is strength in numbers, Find a support network and use it.
21.   Learn to appreciate yourself more, and to forgive yourself for mistakes you will make. Hey, you got this far, you can do the rest.
22.   Try to have realistic expectations. At first you may not make the same grades you made in high school. Or if you were a star athlete in high school, you might not be anything special in college. You can still expect the best from yourself and learn how to deliver it.