I recently graduated from the University of San Diego in 3.5 years. During my last semester, I was a Student Success Coach, helping students who were struggling academically and in need of tools and resources to get back on track. This experience opened my eyes to the fact that things that may work for me, might not work the best for another student. Learning how to be more successful in college is a combination of trial and error, but what isn’t? I am happy to share 5 tips that may help you to be successful in college.
1. HAVE A PLANNER.
I cannot stress this enough. I swear that the $5-20 investment in a planner will be one of the best investments in your college career. We have all been there in the middle of the semester when everything, and I mean everything, piles up at once. You look at your syllabus or your prof announces the next paper or exam, and you think, “when did this get here?”
At the beginning of each semester, invest the time to input all of the assignments, papers, and exams that you have for each class into your planner.
This will make planning for the upcoming weeks much easier, as you can flip to a certain week and see what you are dealing with. Some weeks you might not have any exams or papers, which is great… But then you can flip to the next week and see a packed week following. A planner can help you to utilize your time on “off weeks” to prepare for a more intense week. This will save you from a lot of stress and help you to plan better.
**I realize the time it takes to input all of your class assignments, papers, and exams might be excessive for some. It was beneficial for me, but maybe not for you. I would encourage you to at least write in all of your exam dates and important papers/project dates.**
2. Get to know your professors.
This may be more of a challenge if you attend a larger school, but getting to know your professors or T.A.’s is worthwhile. It makes asking questions and getting help when you are struggling much easier. Your professors are on your team. They want to see you succeed and pass their class. Put in the work and establish a relationship with your professor.
Knowing your professors also makes asking for letters of recommendation and introductions much less nerve-wracking. This might not be something at the forefront of your mind yet, but eventually, you will need to ask someone to write a letter for you. Knowing your professors means that they know you too; You will be happy that you know a professor who will do that for you, and do it well!
3. Don’t read for 2 hours straight. Use this trick!
Who has fun reading 30+ pages out of a textbook? Not me. I used to sit down and read for 2 hours straight just to get it done, but by the end of the reading, I couldn’t remember what I even read. I learned a little trick that helped me stay engaged and attentive while I was reading boring textbook material.
Preview, Read Actively, Review.
First, preview all of the headings/subheadings of the chapter you are about to read; this gives your brain an idea of what you will be learning. Next, read actively. I recommend setting a timer and reading for 15-20 minutes. When the time is up, write down 3 things that you learned from that chunk of reading and review your notes. Take a 5-minute break, and then read for another 15-20 minutes.
This method helps you to stay focused on the content and retain more of the information that you are reading! It may sound like a lot more work, but trying to remember what you read for 2 hours straight is a lot more challenging. Trust me.
4. Use your campus resources.
Free tutors, academic advisors, math and writing centers, career development centers, mental health services… the list could go on. Your college has SO many resources available to you, but you have to take initiative and utilize them. Many colleges offer opportunities to meet with someone to help you strengthen your resume or your interview skills. You know what your school has to offer because you have most likely received 50 emails from them. Stop deleting those emails, and start getting yourself into the habit of letting people help you to succeed!
I want to single out mental health services. they are available to everyone and you should be using them!
College is a time filled with transition and challenge, and you are not alone. Many studies have found that the rate of anxiety and depression is increasing in college-aged students. Your college provides free services and you should absolutely talk to someone if you are feeling like you may be struggling with your mental health.
5. Take care of yourself. Sometimes that chapter you need to read can wait.
This is something I learned later than I wish I would have. While attending college, education is extremely important, for obvious reasons, as that is why you are there. But there are times when it is best to set the books aside for a few hours, so you can focus on what you and your body need.
You may find yourself skipping meals, workouts, and social events to get absolutely everything done. This will eventually cause you to burnout. You will get exhausted with school work by leaving out the things that give you the energy to be successful.
I encourage you to take short breaks while you are studying. Maybe set up a time to grab coffee with a friend. Try exercising, even just for 30 minutes; it is a beneficial way to keep your mind in tip-top shape. Or take a break to make yourself a nutritious snack or meal. To be successful, you need to take care of yourself.
Whether it is your first year on campus or your last, it’s never too late to develop new habits. I learned the reading trick during my last year, and I wish I would’ve known that sooner. Hopefully, you learned something new, and I encourage you to try some of these things if you haven’t been already! Best of luck to you and your success!
Have another tip that’s helped you? We’d love to hear it. Please share your tips in the comments below.