100 Tips for How to be Successful in College
The college years are full of new experiences, growth and preparation for the rest of your life. They will also go by in the blink of an eye, so enjoy them as much as possible. Make the most of them with these tips for how to be successful in college.
- Sit Close to the Front - Teachers appreciate students who look like they’re in class on purpose. Show them you take it seriously by taking a seat in the front.
- Look Friendly - If you were standing in front of the room, what kind of faces would you be drawn to? The smiling ones! Consider your facial expressions in class and try to look interested and upbeat.
- Actively Engage - Ask thoughtful questions, actively participate in discussions, look excited about activities, and show with your body language that you are there to learn and grow.
- Go to Office Hours - Office hours can be a game-changer when it comes to succeeding in a class. Your professor will be sitting there whether anyone shows up or not. They will definitely appreciate having someone to talk to! Don’t wait until you’re behind or confused by the coursework to stop by, and feel free to attend more than once.
- Give Yourself Time - Don’t wait until the last minute to do assignments and study for tests. If you don’t plan ahead, work will bottleneck and the stress of cramming isn’t good for anyone.
- Be Original - It can be tempting to copy work or trade answers with someone who has been in the class already. Remember: the person doing the work is doing the learning. Leave college with as much information as you can.
- Do Your Best - Give it your all. You won’t be able to be perfect, so allow yourself to be human. But at the end of the day, leave knowing you gave it 100%.
- Buy Used - Books are so much cheaper pre-owned. And that’s not all! You can buy gently-used furniture for your dorm room and sell items you don’t need to someone else who needs them.
- Ask for Help - Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If that’s going to office hours, reaching out to other students to form a study group, scheduling an appointment with a school counselor, or talking to friends and family about how you’re feeling. Your mental health is more important than anything at school so never fear seeking out extra support.
- Be Open - Sure, you’ll show up at college with preconceived notions about life, but stay open-minded to learning new things, considering new possibilities, and even transforming what you believe in some cases. New experiences challenge us and allow us to grow.
- Form Your Own Opinions - At the end of the day, you’re accountable for your choices and actions, so make sure you behave in a way that matches your values.
Groups and Clubs
- Engage - Now is the chance to get involved and make friendships that you could potentially have for the rest of your life. By joining up with other people who have the same interests as you, the campus will feel a lot smaller and you’ll feel more at home.
- Try New Things - Sure, it can be comforting to stay in the same type of groups you’re used to, but give yourself a goal for how many events, clubs or groups you’ll join over your four years in college that will be something totally new for you.
- Use the Buddy System - If you’re shy or experience social anxiety, find a buddy! This can be your roommate or someone you connect with from your hometown. Sign up for new experiences together. Once you’re there, you’ll meet new people and it won’t be as nerve-wracking.
- Show Up - Sometimes, the best thing to do is just show up. Sign up for something new and just show up. Got invited to a get-together? Just show up. Tell yourself you can leave if you want, you can stop at any time, just commit to showing up.
- Consider Your Future - Make choices that you’ll be proud of down the road. Or, consider activities that will allow you to form friendships and network with individuals who will be an asset for your dream career.
- Volunteer - Join a group of students on a mission to do good in the community. Volunteer at an assisted living residence or a local classroom. Don’t be afraid to jump into your surrounding community.
- Stay Focused - Group, clubs and social involvement can be a full-time job. Just remember what you’re there to really do — and that’s to learn. Stay focused.
- Choose Wisely - If the social aspect is distracting, make changes to redirect and get back on track. If you’ve found yourself in a group that you feel starts to derail your focus and your plans in a negative way, then choose to make a change. They say we are only as successful as our six closest friends. Choose your friends wisely.
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- Look Early - Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for internships. Usually, the most compelling options will have lots of candidates.
- Ask Around - If you’re not sure or you’d like a longer list, start asking others who are a few years ahead of you or ask graduates in your department to learn about more options. Look online and use social media, too.
- Make a List - Don’t just pick one. Make a list of options, just like you did for colleges. Yes, you’ll have some that will be your preference, but that’s just from an outsider’s perspective. Sometimes life surprises you and a back-up choice may end up being the best experience ever.
- Cold Calls - Start calling companies you’d be interested in. Just because they don’t have an internship advertised or listed doesn’t mean they don’t offer them or wouldn’t make room for the right candidate. Everyone had to learn at some point.
- Network - Ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? It may not be entirely true, but there is truth to the importance of networking. Look for people you know who could have connections or relationships at a company that has an internship you are interested in.
- Use the Internet - Yes, Google it. Do your own research. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you.
- Try Several - You don’t have to choose just one. If an internship shows you that you’re barking up the wrong tree, try another one. The purpose of an internship is to experience your ideal profession and decide on aspects of your future. There are times when realizing you’re going the wrong direction is the best lesson. Or, explore several areas you are curious about and allow the internships to give you clarity.
- Do Your Research - Similar to internships, you’ll want to research your professional aspirations, such as the companies you could work at, the types of jobs they offer, what kind of education they are looking for and what the employees have on their LinkedIn profiles. Look for commonalities or areas you can focus more to be the best fit.
- Attend Job Fairs - Your college will host some job fairs, but there are likely others happening around you. Attend them. LinkedIn also has a feature where you can turn on your GPS and connect with people nearby, an excellent tool for connecting with people at job fairs. Bring printed resumes and get ready to hand them out. Networking tips: shake hands, make eye contact, talk confidently and take your time. These relationships can lead to internships, and internships can lead to job offers.
- Join Professional Associations - Ask your professors what national and local associations relate to your major and join them. These groups will serve as a networking resource to guide you throughout your college years and well into your professional life.
- Research Online - The internet is your friend. Research everything about the companies you are interested in. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for an interview. In addition, expect future employers to look you up online. Consider establishing an online presence for your professional portfolio early on.
- Consider Income - The elephant in the room, but it’s so important. You’ll want to think about the kind of life you want down the road. What kind of house, cars, vacations, savings, etc. It’s not shallow; it’s important to visualize your future. Then, run the numbers. What kind of salary will it take to support that lifestyle? While it’ll take you years to work up to that, you’ll want to pick a profession that can get you there eventually.
- Get Experience - Use your part-time jobs and club involvement to give you valuable experience for your future. If you’re interested in going into interior design, try to get a part-time job as an assistant at an interior design company or at a home furnishings store. Learn however you can.
- Build Your Resume Over Time - Remember that scene in Friends when Rachel is applying for jobs and doesn’t have enough experience on her resume? You don’t want to feel that way. Make sure to use every opportunity to gain experiences that you can use to build your resume.
- Use LinkedIn - It’s not just for senior level executives. You can start a LinkedIn profile in college and add to it as you go. Add any contact you meet along the way that you’d like to keep in touch with.
- Hire a Financial Advisor - Financial education and decisions can be confusing, especially if you didn’t grow up learning or talking about money. Seek out a financial advisor to meet with and better understand how to set yourself up for a profitable future. Ask community members for resources and financial classes offered to students or residents.
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- Eat Well - This may be the first time in your life when you are 100% responsible for how you eat and take care of yourself. Sure, you won’t be perfect, and you shouldn’t set unrealistic expectations on yourself. Have fun and be young. But, set limits and use moderation. Food is the cornerstone of your health, so nourish your body and mind.
- Exercise - If you’re not already in sports or an activity, make time to get your body moving. You only get one body for life. Prioritize your health and that includes exercising. Switch to yoga or pilates in times of high stress, but keep moving. Exercise is a form of self-respect. Strong in body = strong in mind.
- Take Breaks - When school is overwhelming or friendships are giving you anxiety, step away and take a break. Go home for the weekend or take some time to go for long walks or a hike to a beautiful view. Visit the ocean and smell the salty ocean air. Taking a break will help you realign and reaffirm your focus and goals.
- Pay Attention - Look around you. Watch your surroundings. Not just because there are people out there that you’ll need to stay away from, but also because the beauty of the world is all around you. Soak it in like a sponge. These are rare times and special years in your life unlike any other season you will ever have again.
- Listen to Others - They say we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen. Learn. Let others talk. You’ll be able to learn so much about people and the world by listening to all of the new people that are around you.
- Consider Therapy - A mind is a complicated machine. If a car needs tuning from time to time, so do our mind and heart. Counselors on site can help you work through overwhelming feelings and most insurance plans offer therapy sessions as well. There’s no shame in the self-care game.
- Get Help - If you’re stuck on something, get help. If you’re trying to accomplish a challenging task, ask for help. If you need a workout buddy, ask for help. It’s okay to need other people. In fact, most people love being needed and will be happy to help.
- Consider Your Circle - Birds of a feather flock together. A cliché that still rings true. Don’t feel like your circle is set in stone. You can always broaden your horizons and cast a wider net. You start to become like the people you surround yourself with, so consider who you want to be.
- Make Changes - If something isn’t working for you, reflect and make changes. Many people have a roommate that just doesn’t work out. Or they sign up for a class that isn’t a fit and need to drop it. An estimated 75% of students change their major at least once. Be flexible and see your education as a journey in self-discovery.
- Take Care of Yourself - College will end. Classes will end. But you will always be you and you’ll have your body and mind for the rest of your life. Prioritize your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health.
Phew! You made it through. Now, you’re ready to go out there and chase your dreams. Good luck!