Tips on How to be Successful in College: Inside the Classroom
Congratulations, you made your college decision! Now you can tell friends and family what your plan is for the future! However, if your family and friends are anything like mine, once you start college in the fall a new line of questioning begins. What do you want to do, or what is your career path? Do you have an internship, or have you done any career shadowing? Are you earning straight A's? When are you studying abroad? These inquiries can cause anxiety, and lead you to feel overwhelmed. Fear not! Listed below are tips on how to be academically successful in college. A post later this week will highlight how to be successful in college outside the classroom.
Time Management: Don't Procrastinate
College life is busy, and it can seem like a paper or project deadline is far away, but trust me, time flies. It's best to get organized from day one. During your first week of classes, your professors will share syllabi with you. The syllabus for each class outlines things like: classroom expectations, assignments, grading scale, instructors' office hours, and required readings. While this information can seem overwhelming, one great way to stay organized with your assignments and workload is to use a planner.
You can choose a calendar/planner app. that works for you, or go old-school and buy a paper planner. Whichever method you choose, you will be thankful that you have a to-do list. Listed below are a few suggestions for specific apps. and planners.
- This Digital Trends article offers suggestions for calendar apps for iOS and Android.
- This is a 2018 New York Times article that discusses the benefits of a paper planner, and shares the writer's favorites.
One way to use the calendar app. or paper planner is to create a project schedule for larger projects/longer papers. Note the date for research/data-gathering completion, the first draft due date, and the final due date.
Another way to stay organized is to use Post-Its! Even though I own a Smartphone, I still stick Post-Its to my phone every day with the things that I have to get done before I go to sleep. It could be a project reminder, grocery list, or the thing I have to make sure to tell a friend at dinner. In case my phone dies, I like to have a paper reminder. I didn't start this system until after college, but I wish I had used it as a college student!
Work Hard, but Allow for Study Breaks
College is a time to work hard. However, sometimes you need a break from studying. The important thing to remember is that a study break should be short. Don't let that break become a full vacation. If you are working on a particularly intense assignment, and know you need a break so you don't lose your mind, think about that study break in one of two ways.
- Set a goal for what you want to accomplish before you let yourself take a break. Ex: I'm going to write five pages or read 50 pages before I can meet my friends for coffee.
- If you need a break right now, set a time goal and stick to it. Ex: I'm going to get coffee with my friends for 30 min.
Letting yourself have a short amount of time to recharge is important. Sometimes I needed the time away from studying to be social. It's important to check in with friends, and I became energized by the conversation. The other way I used my study break was to exercise. I felt better when I took care of my body, and the workout was rejuvenating.
Don't be Afraid to Ask Questions
The only way you will learn is if you seek clarification when you don't understand something. Asking questions doesn't make you seem unintelligent, it actually makes you one of the smartest people in the room. If you ask a question, most of the time there is someone else who wants to ask the same thing. If not, there will be someone else who benefits from the answer.
Also, remember that professors are there to help. My chemistry professor is a perfect example. I took chemistry my sophomore year to fulfill a lab science requirement. I love science and enjoy "geeking-out" on research, but I was an English major who needed some extra support in the world of chemistry. I was in the study suite outside my professor's office often, and she answered everything I threw her way. Guess what? I did well in the class!
Depending on the availability of professors at your college, it might be necessary for you to seek other academic support resources. Similar to asking questions in class, pursuing this avenue only makes you smarter. You won't fall behind in class, and you'll be much less stressed because you are getting regular academic support.
Seek Career Planning Resources Early
Remember those questions from friends and family: "What do you want to do? What is your career path? Do you have an internship? Have you done any career shadowing?" Many first-year college students will draw a huge blank. The best place to start is a Career Center, Vocation Office, or similar place on campus.
Good luck with your studies! I hope these tips help you to be academically successful in college. Stay tuned for a post later this week on how to be successful outside the classroom.