How To Succeed In College From Day 1: 17 Keys For College Success
Ahhhh, do I remember when I first got to college. It was literally one of the greatest moments of my life. I have never been so proud. I’ve never been so excited. And to be honest, I was a little anxious. I was thinking about all the people I would meet. And I was also thinking about all the work I would have to do. When I got to college, no one had a cheat sheet for me or manual on how to succeed. There was no college success course. I didn’t get any achievement or study tips for college. But still…I was here.
When I first got to SUNY Albany, I was told that around 50% to 70% of the people I started with, will not be there when I finish. Some people will fail out. Some people will move on. Some people will get kicked out. My goal was to make sure I was not in either one of those categories, if I can help it. And for the most part, we can always help it.
How To Succeed In College From Day 1: 17 Keys For College Success
1. Find faculty members you can build relationships with.
They can be your professors. They can be your residential directors. They can be your Deans, Campus Presidents or Advisors. The key, is to find faculty you can connect with and build a positive relationship with. You never know when you will need their guidance, help or support.
Plus, you never know what you can learn from them. Just like reading a blog post or simple saying about education can trigger motivation, faculty members have years of knowledge and experience that can easily nudge you in the right direction.
2. Become best friends with the library.
If you can study in your room, great! If you can study at home, great! For me, getting out of my usual environment and getting into an environment where studying was the only option, was huge. If you’re away at school, odds are your campus has a beautiful library. If you’re traveling from home to school, try to find a library in your community. The key here is to set yourself up for success when it comes to studying. Most times you study, half of the time is diluted with distractions. Eliminate distractions.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” –H. Jackson Brown Jr.
3. Focus on creating habits that will help you be successful.
For example, create your day around 3 or 5 things that will help improve your performance. Ask yourself:
What are some things that you must do today?
What assignments must you work on today?
What research must you do today?
What professors must you email, or office hours you must attend today? What time must you wake up before class so you can be alert and focused? What is your morning routine?
What is your evening routine to prepare you for another successful day?
If this is too big of a first step for you, start reading and studying the creation of positive habits and routines.
4. Don’t forget why you are in college.
When I first got to college I thought I was there to make friends, have fun, and do what I want. It took me some time and many failed classes to realize that I’m only in college to improve my life and the life of my future family. It took me some time but I realized that I’m in college to learn and to learn how to learn. I am in college to create new and better opportunities that I will be able to access for the rest of my life. Know your purpose for being in college. Your purpose is one of the things that will get you through the long nights, tough exams, and loud distractions.
5. Connect with people who are ambitious and getting good grades.
I was able to turn my academic experience around when I learned how to study, how to research and how to maximize my free time. I learned this all from spending time with my academically successful peers. I’m not saying you have to spend every second with them, but learn from them what you can. Then implement what will help you do better in school. So for every class you have, find one or two classmates who you think you can learn. Who knows, you might even make a new best friend.
6. Do not miss class.
This isn’t high school and catching up is even more difficult. Whatever scheduling conflicts you might have, do your best to make attending class your top priority. Many times the assignments, tasks and essays are directly related to the notes you’re taking. And if you’re absent, you obviously can’t use those notes. Showing up consistently, is a huge part of your college success and even success as a whole. This might seem like a no-brainer, but when I was in college I actually got different advice!
7. Learn how to manage your stress.
It would be foolish for me to say ‘don’t get stressed’. Stress is a part of your college experience. One of the most valuable things I learned in college was how to handle stress, time and my workload. Read books on stress management, take a free online course or schedule time with your counselor. When you can manage yourself, it just means that you’re learning yourself and you’re learning your limits. Another gift from the college experience.
“When you get to the end of the rope, tie a knot and hang on.” – Franklin D Roosevelt
8. Work on your writing.
No matter how good your writing is, your ability to express yourself on paper is a huge part of how you assessed in college. No matter how successful you were in high school, college is an entirely different level. Make sure to sign up for a Basic Composition or even Creative Writing course. See what free online college course you can take that will improve your writing skills.
9. Take a wide range of classes.
When I first got to college I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I didn’t know until my Junior year that I wanted to become an educator. Taking a wide range of courses allows you to explore your interest and maybe even tap into things you know nothing about. Allow yourself to figure it out and get interested in new things.
10. Get excited about something.
Develop your passion. What are you learning that excites you right now?
What are you not studying that you wish you were?
What have you always been good at?
When you close your eyes, what could you see yourself doing?
What do you think comes naturally to you? Have the courage to be true to yourself and to use your imagination. Focus on the becoming passionate about something.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –C.S. Lewis
11. Always do your best.
This is the key for your college success. At the end of each class, each semester, and each day ask yourself, ‘Did I do my best?’
When you get to the library, ask yourself, “Did I do my best?”
When you’re in class and the professor is engaging in a discussion with students, ask yourself, “Am I doing my best?”
If you want to commit to one thing during college, commit to doing your best. I’ve learned that you don’t need to have your entire life figured out to do great things. While you’re in college people will always what to know what you’re doing next. Next could be next year, next semester, your major or plans after graduation. And to be honest, you don’t really need to know the answer to any of those questions. Just know that if you commit to doing your best, odds are it’ll work out better than you ever could’ve expected.
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali
12. Meet your professors during their office hours.
This is a great time where you can build relationships, learn more about the class and improve your overall performance. As we mentioned earlier, it’s absolutely stunning how many students will never take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t be intimidated and always know that professors are in this because they love their students. Even if you really don’t like the class, just learning more about the person running the class will increase your engagement and level of interest.
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” –Nora Roberts
13. Work on yourself.
Become healthier. Become more active. Become a better reader. Become a better friend. Spend time by yourself and get to know who you are. Of course, you’re committed to doing great in all of your classes , but don’t forget to work on yourself.
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Mahatma Gandhi
14. Focus on one assignment at a time.
Don’t get caught up in the panic of GPAs and credits. Focus on nailing each assignment you get and the grades will take care of themselves. One paper at a time, my friend!
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill
15. Join organizations in your college.
Find organizations, clubs and groups that are aligned to what you believe in. Use this opportunity to take on leadership roles and develop a side of you that you might not even know existed. You might not see it now, but many of the people you meet in these organizations will be your network when you’re older. Get connected.
16. Take a class or join a club that will challenge your thinking.
Take the time to learn different perspective and to stretch yourself with different worldviews. Study philosophy. When we take classes and learn things that challenge how we already think and feel, we grow. Step outside of your academic and social comfort zone.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Dr Wayne Dyer
17. Have fun.
Learn to love learning. Meet new people. Enjoy your time. I’m not saying you have to party every night, because you will fail out. Still, make new friends, meet new people and create relationships of a lifetime. Learn to do what you LOVE!
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” –Steve Jobs
Jeff is available to present these ideas during a class, workshop, presentation or keynote.