How to Be a Successful College Student

Three Parts:Doing Well in ClassEnjoying the Social ScenePreparing for Graduation

College can be an overwhelming experience, with so much to do and seemingly little time to do it all. In order to make the most of your time in college, you will need to do well in class, take advantage of extracurricular opportunities, and prepare yourself for life after graduation. Going to college can be a fun and exciting time, especially if you are committed to being successful.

Part 1
Doing Well in Class

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    Go to class. Don't rely on a "magic number" of classes you can miss and still do well. Each missed class represents missed content and missed discussion. Some professors weigh participation into your final grade calculation. Even if attendance isn't required, however, you will make a good impression on your professor and TA if you show up to class.[1]
    • Only miss class if you are genuinely sick—too sick to get anything worthwhile out of the lecture.
    • If you need some incentive, consider the cost of each class hour. The average yearly cost of tuition at a public university is $9,139.[2] Given a 15-week semester with 4 classes each semester, you pay over $25 per class hour for the privilege of being taught. Not going to class is basically the same as setting twenty-five bucks on fire. Would you do that?
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    Take notes. Your memory is never as good as you think it is. There will probably be plenty of things taking up space in your mind while at school. Taking good notes will keep you engaged in classroom activities (lectures and discussion) and give you a good basis when studying for exams.
    • For classes that are organized around clear, logically ordered topics, such as history or biology, the Cornell method can help you prioritize the most important information.
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    Participate in class. Ask questions of your instructors, give answers if they ask questions, and contribute to discussion sections. Taking an active part in the class will keep you involved with the material, and help you better understand what the instructor needs you to know.[3]
    • Sitting in front, or at least not in the back, will make it easier to pay attention and put you front and center for the professor to see.
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    Take time to study. Success in college relies on you preparing outside of class, so spend time reviewing your notes and reading the textbook for each session. When you study, find a quiet space and cut off outside distractions. A good rule of thumb is to spend two hours studying for each hour you spend in class.[4]
    • Study groups—working with other students in your class—can be helpful, but also go off-track easily. Make sure you find a study group that reviews the material, and spends most of its time actually studying, rather than chatting.
    • Don't cram! Part of being a successful college student is doing more than passing tests; it's retaining the useful information for the real world. When you cram, you might remember enough to pass your exam, but chances are high that you'll forget most of it in a day or two. When you're spending tens of thousands of dollars to learn this stuff, actually remembering it for later is a smart investment.[5][6]
    • Spacing out your study sessions over a few days is the best way to make sure you remember the material later.[7] Rather than spending a 9-hour marathon studying for a test, for example, start a few days early and study for 1-2 hours each day for 3 or 4 days in a row. If you can plan well ahead of time, it's even better to space your studying out over a period of weeks.[8]
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    Avoid procrastinating. No professor ever complained about her students finishing an assignment early. Setting aside time to complete one task will give ease your stress level, and make it more likely to complete others on time.
    • On occasion, you may need to stay up all night to finish an assignment. Procrastinating will only make doing so more likely, and doing work early can help you get more regular sleep.
    • Set yourself regular performance goals, such as writing 200 words a day on your essay or studying six math problems. These small goals seem easy to do so you're less likely to procrastinate on them. However, the accomplishments will pile up fast.[9]
    • Try to avoid guilting yourself into your work. Extrinsic motivation, such as "I ought to do this so my parents don't get mad at me," isn't as strong as intrinsic motivation, such as "I want to do well on that exam so that my good grades will help me get into medical school." Setting positive goals for yourself and reminding yourself that your work will help you achieve them can help crush procrastination.[10]
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    Communicate with your instructor. Your professors want you to do well in class, so feel free to ask questions about the material. Every professor has open office hours, so stop by to introduce yourself, ask about the class, or discuss your grades. This can allow them to learn more about you, your strengths and weaknesses, and provide better feedback for improving your work.[11]
    • Don't forget about your TAs. Many of them are quite knowledgeable about the subject as well. In a large class it will likely be them, not the professor, doing most of the grading.
    • It's best if you can set the foundation for communication early. If the first time your professor hears from you is the night before your midterm exam halfway through the semester, she may not take you as seriously as she would have if you'd come early and often to ask questions.
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    Be confident. Most students' attitude towards a class dictates their success. Believe you can learn the material and be successful, and you will increase your chances of succeeding. Don't think about how difficult things are, but how you are going to overcome those difficulties.[12]
    • If you're naturally shy or worried about sharing your opinions in class, remind yourself that your professor wants you to learn. In general, classrooms are a "safe space" for people to share their opinions, ask questions, and have discussions. Try not to worry about sounding silly if you ask a question—chances are, many of your classmates have the same question but are too afraid to ask. You can be the trailblazer!

Part 2
Enjoying the Social Scene

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    Get involved in a team or club. You won't always be able to follow your passions in the classroom. Find groups and activities that you enjoy, or maybe involve practical applications for your academic work. These events are also a great way to meet new people and make friends.
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    Attend on-campus events. Colleges have access to a nearly unmatched variety of cultural, intellectual, and athletic events that are available to students. Take advantage of these, and take part in the cultural life of the school, some of which you may never have the opportunity to do again.
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    Organize your time. Unlike in high school, no one will be tracking you and your activities in college, so you will have to do that yourself. Give each event and assignment a priority based on timing, and its importance to achieving your ultimate goals. Your schedule should not just be about academic work, so include time for personal activities and interests.
    • One thing you may discover is that your schedule is too overloaded between class, work, social events, and other activities. Organizing your schedule can sometimes mean knowing when to cut things out.
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    Make friends. Studies suggest that being a freshman is incredibly stressful. It can do a number on your mental health.[13] One of the best ways to make sure you're successful in college is to make friends with a variety of diverse people—and to commit to hanging out with them.
    • Making a strong social network in college is also linked to better work performance later in life.
    • This doesn't mean you should spend every night partying and ditching class and homework. Instead, strive for a healthy balance. You can even get your friends involved in class and other school activities, such as a sport or debate team.
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    Decide whether (and when) to participate in Greek Life. At many colleges and universities, Greek life—a system of fraternities and sororities students can join—is a major part of student experience. While being part of Greek life can have many benefits, such as socialization and support networks, it can also involve a significant time commitment. This can be particularly stressful your freshman year, when you are already adjusting to many new experiences. Some experts recommend that you wait until your sophomore year to "rush" or join a fraternity or sorority. That way, you'll already have a firm academic foundation.[14]

Part 3
Preparing for Graduation

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    Choose the right classes. Pick courses that interest you, and make you excited to learn. This will lead you to interesting and rewarding work, rather than simply chasing easy classes.[15]
    • Avoid picking a major right away. Unless you are completely sure that you want to go into a particular field, there is no benefit to declaring right away. Sample classes in a variety of fields, and learn what kind of work each major requires.[16]
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    Keep track of your progress. You want to graduate on time, so make sure you have fulfilled all requirements for the school and your major. You will need to have enough credit hours, and high enough grades. Keep an eye out for non-academic items like physical fitness requirements.
    • Most colleges and universities have a "degree progress" calculator you can find online, but if not, talk with your adviser.
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    Don't go for the "easy A." College should be difficult, and you should be prepared to deal with failure, or at least not succeeding as much as you did in high school. Your life after college will not be about the grades you got in school, but the ways you learned to deal with disappointment.[17]
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    Use your school's career services office. Every school has one. Find out what kinds of work graduates from your school and your major go into. These places can also provide help with creating a resume, filling out job applications, and other helpful hints for what comes next.[18]
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    Find internships and other professional work. If possible, find something that will let you apply what you are learning in a work environment. You can gain valuable professional experience for afterwards.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate