18 Tips to Be a Successful Student in College 

If you’re getting ready to start college for the first time, you might feel like someone just served you a big heaping plate of … pressure.

Pressure to choose a major.

Pressure to get good grades. 

Pressure to make the next four years “the best years of your life.” 

Starting college is exciting, but we get it — it can be A LOT.

You may be wondering if you have what it takes to be a successful student. And, If you’re a parent of a college bound student, you too may want to know how you can help your student succeed.  

Having a successful college experience obviously includes more studying than ever before and getting good grades. Just as importantly though are healthy habits, stress management, learning about yourself, and having some fun too! 

Here are a few tips to help you boost your college success.

1. Have a Good Organizational System

Student life can mean juggling multiple classes, homework assignments, due dates, extracurricular activities, work and so much more. It’s a lot to keep track of! Reduce some of the stress of it all with good organizational habits to help you manage everything on your plate. 

Organize your thoughts, make notes, and keep track of your responsibilities by using journals, calendars and planners. There are a variety of organizational tools out there, including paper versions and digital versions. There’s no right or wrong way to get organized – it’s what works best for you.

There is no shortage in the variety of best college planners, whether they’re coiled, hardbound or discbound; including Blue Sky and Erin Condren and of course, you can find a wide selection on Etsy.

2. Be Self-Disciplined 

You may experience more freedom now than ever before. Yay! But there is a lot to do during your college years, so you’ll have to practice more self-discipline now than ever before.  

Being self-disciplined means, you are in the habit of doing what you need to do, even if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes you won’t be in the mood to study, but you’ll do it anyway because you don’t want to get behind in a class, or it will save time prepping for an exam.

While it can be challenging in the moment, building self-discipline is like building a muscle — the more you work it, the stronger it gets!

3. Develop Healthy Habits 

Think of your health as a three-legged stool. The first leg is nutrition, the second leg is exercise, and the third leg is sleep. You need all three to support a healthy lifestyle and strengthen your mind and body for your college journey.

Understandably, eating on the run between classes and late nights studying (and partying) will happen, but healthier habits should prevail.

When you eat a healthy diet, get more sleep at night, and get plenty of physical activity, you can significantly increase your levels of energy and focus — two things you need when it comes to studying for the big exam! 

4. Know Your Study Strengths 

Are you a morning bird or a night owl? You don’t have to follow a traditional schedule. Instead, effective studying can mean blocking out study time when you feel the most energized and productive. 

Similarly, you can sharpen your study skills by understanding your personal learning style. Knowing if you are a visual or auditory or more hands-on kind of learner, will help you develop routines that play to your strengths. For instance, if you are an auditory learner, it may help you to record lectures and listen to them later or study flashcards out loud with a friend. 

5. Avoid Multitasking 

It may seem counterintuitive, but multitasking actually hurts your productivity. Instead, focus all your attention on one task at a time.

When you practice deep concentration on one task for an extended period, you can enter a state of mindfulness or “flow state.” Being in flow or “in the zone” is when you are fully immersed in the task at hand and feel a sense of joyful calm in the present moment. 

One way to get into a state of flow is to set a timer for 30, 45, or 60 minutes and focus all your attention on the task until the timer goes off. Give yourself a short break, then start again! 

6. Practice Good Time Management 

One way to be a successful student is to track how you spend your time. Consider taking time each evening to plan the following day. Prioritize your tasks, assign time limits to tasks, and then try to stick to your schedule.  

Don’t forget to include brain breaks! Breaks help you process and retain information, boost creativity, and ultimately increase productivity.

7. Create Your Ideal Study Space 

You will study best when you are in a relaxed, distraction-free space. Set up a study zone with good lighting, plenty of supplies, and a comfortable chair. Include little things that help make studying more enjoyable for you, such as playing music or keeping light snacks on hand.

Perhaps you live with roommates or in a cramped dorm. If studying at home isn’t always an option, find a secluded nook in the library to make your own. Many college campuses also offer “quiet rooms” you can book in advance for study sessions.

8. Find (Or Create) A Study Group 

Never underestimate the power in numbers! Get a few peers together for a study group. You can quiz each other, swap notes, and have a little fun while you’re at it. 

Studying in a group may help you get a more well-rounded view of the material, combat procrastination, learn new study skills, and beat monotony. And who knows, you may make some great new friends in the process! 

9. Show Up to Class Prepared 

You will get much more out of your classes when you actively participate in your learning. Show up to classes with complete homework, an idea of what you hope to learn in that day’s lesson, and some questions to ask the professor. At the very least, take a few minutes before class to review the previous class material. 

10. Take Good Notes

Good notetaking doesn’t mean writing down everything the professor says. Aim to jot down the key points using headers, sub headers, and bulleted lists so you can easily jog your memory later.

And there’s nothing wrong with taking notes the old-fashioned way! Writing your notes by hand can lead to greater retention of the information versus typing the notes on a laptop. Not to mention all the potential distractions a laptop can bring! 

11. Ask Lots of Questions

Don’t hesitate to ask questions when you don’t understand something or want a professor to elaborate on a topic. College is a significant financial investment; you owe it to yourself to garner as much knowledge as possible from the experience. 

Also, learning is a give-and-take. When your raise questions in class, you could help spark interesting conversations to help everyone get more out of the lecture.

12.Talk to Your Professors Outside of Class

Take the last tip to the next level and chat with your professors after class. Share your thoughts on the lecture, ask further questions and dive into deeper conversations.

When you make the effort to get to know your professors outside of class, through informal meetings or research projects for example, you can enhance your learning experience. This can also be a way to expand your network as well as open the door to possible future opportunities like internships and other work experiences.

13. Choose Your Friends Wisely

You may have heard the quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Studies by social scientists measuring the influence of peer groups on obesity, smoking, and happiness levels have proven the old adage to be true.  

The same goes for college success. When you choose friends who are goal-oriented and motivated, you may be more goal-oriented and motivated too. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who skip class, don’t study, and party a lot, their bad habits may rub off on you. 

14. Break up Assignments into Small Chunks 

While putting off starting that term paper that isn’t due for three months may be tempting, you will eliminate so much stress by breaking up the work into small chunks to be completed over time.

When facing a big assignment, write down a list of everything you need to do. Next, schedule specific dates and times to attack each item on the to-do list. The sooner you start, the less the impending deadline will hang over your head, and the less “big” the assignment will feel. 

15. Evaluate Your Priorities 

College student success means protecting your time. Make it a habit to regularly evaluate your priorities to ensure you are giving your time to things that align with your goals.

Between your classes, campus activities, a part-time job, and your social life, it can be very easy to overcommit yourself. Don’t be afraid to quit things or say “no” to things that are sucking time away from your bigger priorities. 

16. Keep a Positive Attitude 

Positivity is powerful. Thinking positively means avoiding absolutes and exaggerations, accepting that it’s okay to make mistakes, and looking for the positives in tough situations.  

Try to catch negative thoughts as they arise and look for ways to put a positive spin on whatever is getting you down. How can you learn and grow from the experience? It’s okay to be down in the dumps for a little bit, but the sooner you can dust yourself off and keep going, the more successful you will be. 

17. Write Down and Visualize Your Goals 

Did you know you are more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down? Make it a habit of writing down your short and long-term goals regularly. Writing down your goals and vividly imagining yourself achieving them is strongly linked to successful outcomes. 

18. Make Time for Fun 

Even if you love all your classes, non-stop work can lead to burnout. Don’t forget to make time for friends and to unwind — even if you have to literally schedule it! 

Students who make time for fun tend to be happier, less stressed, more resilient and get better grades.

Giving yourself some downtime may mean saying no to new commitments, and that’s okay! Don’t forget to look at the big picture when it comes to prioritizing your well-being and long-term success. 

College Success Ahead

Going to college is a big investment of time and money. The pressure is definitely on as you figure out how to juggle the many priorities in front of you, including the work of graduating on time.

You can do this! Jumpstart your college success by getting organized, and better managing your time, your mindset, and your health.

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