Top 10 Tips for College Success

This post is partly for my clients who are about to go off to college this August and September, and is a compilation of what I know as a faculty member, past administrator who ran college student success programs, and once-upon-a-time student who learned much of this the hard way.

  1. For starters, know that college is truly different from high school. It is different in terms of rigor (the difficulty level and pace of the average class), and in terms of you being 100% responsible for yourself. Even if things seem manageable at first, don’t let your guard down in terms of giving your studies your all.
  2. Show up.  You will be tempted at times to cut class.  Don’t.  Missing class when there is no compelling reason to do so pushes students down the slippery slope toward struggle. Some faculty members test heavily toward lectures more so than readings. Borrowing others’ notes or reviewing PowerPoint class outlines isn’t the same as being there. Plus, professors notice when you aren’t present, even if they don’t formally take attendance. When it comes time at the end of the term to make decisions on borderline grades for those who missed frequently, guess what decision gets made?
  3. Keep current on reading and other assignments. Keeping up with reading reinforces what is happening in class. Also, when it comes time to study for an exam you don’t want to be catching up on reading; you want to be integrating and processing at a higher level. That is, if you want an A or a B in the class.
  4. Get a calendar and use it. Use it to plot out your class meeting times and locations, and the due dates for all tests and assignments. Consult your calendar frequently. Good time management skills will help you in college and in life after college, and are a habit of those who are highly successful.
  5. Learn how to study for college, as your high school habits likely won’t be sufficient. There are techniques for how to read and retain material, take notes in class, study for exams, and write sound papers.  Participate in how-to-study sessions at your college if they are offered, or check out a guidebook, like Becoming a Master Student. Also, join a study group.  This is also a great way to expand your friendships.
  6. Also, prioritize studying, and allot sufficient time to it on a regular basis. The generally recommended amount of time for studying per week is 2 hours for every credit hour you are enrolled in. If you are signed up for a typical 15-hour load this comes to 30 hours per week, plus your class time of approximately 15 hours, totaling 45 hours – more than a fulltime job!
  7. Don’t be anonymous with your professors, especially if you are attending a college with larger class sizes. Volunteer answers, comments or questions during lecture to show you are engaged. Visit your professor during her or his office hours. Push yourself to sit towards the front and make eye contact with your teacher. Having faculty who know you will help enormously as you close in on graduation and need recommendations for jobs and grad school. And while I’m at it, no web surfing or texting during class!
  8. Take advantage of all that your college has to offer. Utilize the gym and pool, join a club, become involved in volunteer work and service opportunities, pick up free condoms at the health center, consider internships and study abroad opportunities, etc. If you are female, definitely take a safety or self-defense class.
  9. Seek out help when needed. Most likely your college offers tutoring, counseling, a wide range of interesting workshops, and other forms of help and support, often for no charge. This is the only time in your life when so many things are free or low cost. Check out what all is available!
  10. Cultivate friends who are serious students and who will support you being a serious student. Hanging with a focused crowd of fellow students is an easy way to reinforce good habits, and learn new ones. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have fun and party; after all, that’s part of the college experience too! However, take steps to be safe and watch out for each other, especially in reinforcing the reason you are enrolled in college in the first place.
  11. If you follow these suggestions pretty faithfully, you will have mastered the keys to college success. I wish you an enjoyable and successful college experience!


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