The new school year is nigh upon us, and with it comes a new generation of wet behind the ears college freshmen struggling to navigate their way to college success.
Compared to high school, which is relatively rigid and structured, college offers a lot more freedom with respect to scheduling classes and overall independence in the sense that one can essentially go to and from campus as they please. On the other hand, college also puts a lot more personal responsibility on the students to forge their own path to success, which can come as a shock to some freshmen.
As someone who personally did pretty terribly in college to start, but grew into a straight-A student by graduation, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on college success, and my hope with this article is to help new college students avoid the mistakes I made early on in my college career.
Step 1: Show up to your classes. ALL of them
Some of these tips are going to sound like no brainers to students who have their lives together, but this article isn’t for you, it’s for students who decidedly do not have their lives together, so please bear with me.
So yeah, you’re a new college student and it sounds oh so tempting to skip class just this one time to instead hang out with friends, sleep in a little longer or whatever other excuses your brain has cooked up to avoid having to sit through a long boring lecture about a subject you don’t care about. Resist that temptation. Rage against it and fight it with every fiber of your being.
There are plenty of reasons not to go to class every day, but there are so many more reasons you should. For one thing, you’re already paying for your courses so you might as well get your money’s worth and attend the damn things. Most if not all courses offer credit for attending class and penalize those who decide not to show up. It also helps you to be more engaged with the material and goes a long way in developing a professional relationship with your professor, who at the end of the day is there to help you succeed. That brings me to my next point.
Step 2: Introduce yourself to your professors on the 1st day and get on their good side
If a person knows your name and your face, they’re more likely to make a personal connection with you. Use this to your advantage and be the teacher’s pet that everyone in high school made fun of. From the start, you should be sitting in front of the class and actively participating in every class discussion. It’s proven that students who do this tend to perform better in their courses, so statistically speaking, you’re already on the road to success just by sitting in the front and asking questions. Don’t sit on your hands. Raise them!
At the end of your first class, stick around for a few minutes and introduce yourself to your professor to tell them a little about yourself and why you’re taking their course. It may sound silly, but this simple gesture can go a long way in building goodwill with your professor and getting them to sympathize with you down the road when you’re trying to submit a paper that’s just a few minutes late. Sometimes, it can really pay to be on a professor’s good side.
Step 3: Do all of your homework and take notes in class
Speaking of turning in assignments, that’s something you should really be on top of as a college student. Again, this might be a no brainer for some, but it can also be very tempting for others to skip a minor assignment here and there or not do the assigned readings for a given week. Don’t give in. It might not seem like a big deal to miss a few small assignments, but if you’re really aiming to get an A in your course, you really only have a 10 percent margin of error to work with. That means every point can be the difference between getting an A- or a B+. Don’t take a single point for granted. Get that A.
It’s also helpful to refer to the class schedule your course syllabus every week which will usually contain details about the assignments in any given week. Keep your syllabi handy and use them as nifty reminders of what homework is due each week.
Doing homework also goes back to a central point of this article, which is building a good relationship with your professor. If you’re a student who regularly misses assignments, you’re not likely to get much sympathy. Conversely, turning in all of your assignments on time shows you’re committed to your education and that won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by your professor.
Finally, if you’re not already, you should be taking notes by hand in class. Taking notes is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay engaged in class, it will help you to better retain the information, and notes can be a great study tool both throughout the semester and especially before exams.
Step 4: Studying. The EASY part!
If we’re being honest, and we are, it’s difficult to imagine a student following the previous three steps and still managing to fail their classes. If anything, you shouldn’t get less than a B. The truth is doing all of your homework, attending, and then participating in every class gets you most of the way to college success. Studying really is the easy part of all of this and there are simple ways to do it throughout the semester that don’t require too much of your precious time.
The first thing is to skim through your notes from a class 24 hours after the fact. Doing so is a great way to really refresh your memory of the materials and drill the important points from class into your brain and it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes.
Most professors also offer a study guide of some kind before exams. Make it a point to fill these study guides out and review them once or twice before you head into class for the exam. If you’ve followed the previous steps in this article, most courses shouldn’t require more than these two simple study tips to ace that exam.