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How to be a Successful College Student

Most first year students do not know what it takes to be a successful college student. They know the difference between good and bad grades, but there is so much more to being a successful college student.

So what do successful students look like? Successful students…

  • Are responsible and active. Stay in control of your life, never miss classes, and don’t fall behind in your studies.
  • Have set educational goals. If you know why you are in college, you will be motivated by these goals!
  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions… you should initiate a partnership with your professors!
  • Are organized. You should plan out a quiet place and time to study.
  • Are good at time management. Follow a daily schedule and try to study at least 20 hours a week!
  • Know how to study. Successful students know all the tips and tricks to optimal studying.
  • Turn in assignments that look neat and sharp. Take the time to produce a final product that looks good, and reflects your hard work.

Now let’s take a look at common issues that hinder success. Unsuccessful students normally…

  • Lack educational goals. Not having any goals will discourage you from studying and working on assignments.
  • Lack motivation
  • Are poor at time management.
  • Procrastinates
  • Are unable to apply concepts to different situations
  • Are unable to complete tasks
  • Are excessively dependent. Depending on your professor to tell you everything you need to know for an exam is a recipe for failure. Be responsible for your own learning!
  • Fears failure

So where do you start? How do you become a more successful student? All you have to do is be more proactive and have good habits! The things you do on a regular basis will separate you from the more unorganized, scattered, and struggling students.

There are a lot of students that study regularly, but don’t actually know that they can improve. You have to be active and not passive! Active students are a lot more successful, and get better grades!

A passive student:

  • Reads the textbooks
  • Reviews notes

An active student:

  • Reviews notes and
  • Creates concept maps
  • Creates cheat sheets and study guides
  • Creates practice tests

What if it’s too late to be that proactive student? How do you know that you need help? I used to be unorganized and struggled all the time, and I didn’t even realize that I was hindering my own success. Now that I look back on my old habits, I was a horrible student. I always procrastinated, crammed for test the nights before, and ALWAYS asked my professor about what was going to be on tests.

I never really thought about how bad my habits were… so how should students identify when they need help? What are the early warning signs?

  • Bad grades, obviously. If your grades aren’t as high as you want them then there’s a sign you should get help.
  • You feel like you’re falling behind and can’t catch up. Courses always have cumulative concepts, so if you fall behind early you’re bound to fail later on.
  • You’re worried that you won’t pass the class.

And remember, if you ever find yourself unsure of where to start or even if you want to just improve your habits, come to the Academic Support Center! College is hard and it’s supposed to be hard, but we’re here to help.


Tommy Cheung