Success in college can be measured in a number of ways.
While you are paying thousands of dollars to obtain a degree, there are also skills you will be gaining and experiences you will have along the way.
In this guide, you will learn how to make the most of your college experience, which will not only prepare you for success in your professional role post-graduation but will also help you to balance and manage everyday life.
1. Give Yourself Room to Adjust
Going away to college will be a major change in your life and will take quite a bit of adjusting.
- In your first year, be easy on yourself and know that it’s normal to be intimidated, feel lost, or even feel unsure of whether you can successfully finish the year.
- The good news is that you are strong and you will be able to make it. Sure, you might fail a test because you’re used to being able to quickly look through your notes and ace anything that comes across your desk. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but, instead, take the failure as a learning experience and change the way that you study.
You might miss your friends back home and have a difficult time meeting new people.
- Try getting involved in campus activities in order to make new friends.
- Change your seat every day in class so that you have additional opportunities to talk to your peers.
The food at college might be very different than what you are used to eating at home.
- This is a great opportunity to learn to cook.
- Talk to your family and ask them how your favorite dishes are made.
- Not only will you be able to enjoy the comforts of food from home, but a student who knows how to cook is a hit in any dorm hall.
2. Create a School-Life Balance
You have days ahead of you that will be filled with boredom and those that will be so busy you have to remember to breathe.
Achieving a school-life balance is critical to your health and happiness as a college student.
Academic achievement is important in college, but so too is creating a social life and taking care of your health.
- Work purposefully to establish a daily or weekly schedule that allows you to create a balance between the different parts of your life.
Of course, there might be times, like finals week, where your social life is thrown out the window so that you can study and finish final projects. These times are infrequent and necessary.
In addition to attending classes and doing homework, make time for yourself to relax.
- This might mean reading a chapter in a book, taking a hot shower, or eating a meal without looking at your phone.
- A social atmosphere might be more your style. If so, call a friend to come over and watch a movie with or go for a walk in town.
There are many different ways you can achieve balance.
If you do find yourself coming up on a particularly school-heavy week, plan to have some fun on the weekend. You will soon find a schedule that works for you, one that helps you succeed in class and feel fulfilled and happy.
3. Work Hard Academically
You might be thinking “but you just said it’s all about ‘balance.’” Yes, balance is key, but the time that you spend doing academic work should be quality.
College is no game when it comes to academics. You must be prepared to work hard and work frequently.
- You are paying for your education and, therefore, should take it seriously.
- The concepts that you learn here will benefit you in the workforce.
- Nobody wants to be treated by a doctor who skimmed over chapters instead of reading them so that they could spend more time napping on the quad.
Your professors will give you feedback about your work. Take it to heart. Learn and apply your new knowledge to future work. Success isn’t always about being the best or earning an A, it’s about growth.
4. Ask for Help
In college, there will be times where you struggle and will need to ask for help. There is no shame in advocating for yourself.
If you are having a difficult time academically, see if your school offers one-on-one tutoring. Many universities offer students free access to a writing center, math lab, and Career Center.
You could also work with other students in your class by forming a study group.
Oftentimes discussing your challenges as a group is just as beneficial as the actual work that you do. You may even end up becoming friends with your study partners.
Establishing social relationships in college is one way to work on achieving school-life balance.
Feeling stressed or depressed? Talk to a counselor about effective ways to manage your emotions and receive additional support. Reaching out to a professional is confidential and will not affect your grades or how the university looks at you as a student.
Life is filled with ups and downs. There are people on your college campus who are there to love and support you. Seek them out and you will find your way to success.
5. Be Professional
Establish yourself as professional in everything you do in college. Learn how to write a professional email and use this format when communicating with university officials, professors, and community members. This is a habit that you will take with you into your career.
When giving a presentation in class or going to a job fair, dress like a professional. While you may give a wonderful presentation or have a stellar resume, dressing inappropriately could sabotage your success. Additionally, acting the part can actually help you make up for the fact that you used too many notecards or don’t have much work experience.
You may also assert professionalism by communicating frequently, especially when you have to make changes to established plans. Make every effort to be on time and be prepared for everything you do both in and out of the classroom.
Further down the road, you will be asking your professors and mentors whether you can list them as a reference. When asked whether you are able to act in a professional manner, they should be able to answer confidently in the affirmative.
6. Expand Your Network
Networking is an important part of creating success in college, as well as for the work you do later on in life.
This means that you should make connections with people across campus and the community in a variety of fields.
College is one of the few times in your life in which your schedule will be incredibly flexible.
- Take advantage of this by attending lectures with guest speakers, working on research projects, volunteering in the community, and joining clubs and organizations.
These experiences are fulfilling on an individual basis and will allow serve you as resources when you are ready to find a job.
- Let’s say that you need to interview someone about their experience witnessing a politically significant event for your anthropology class.
- Last month, you attended a presentation by student journalists who reviewed the top stories affecting student life.
- You spent significant time talking to one of these students and ended up meeting for coffee later in the week.
- When you’re assigned this project, you think of this new friend and reach out to see if they have any contacts that could help you. It turns out that they just did a story on a Holocaust survivor, and they put the two of you in touch.
This is networking.
7. Avoid Procrastination
Chronic procrastination can ruin your college experience. It’s crucial that you get rid of this bad habit as soon as you can.
Use a daily planner in which you keep track of your assignments, due dates, activities, and work schedule. If you know that you have a busier week coming up, plan out days for you to study or get ahead on your assignments.
If you wait until the last minute to turn in important paperwork and complete work for class, you will be constantly stressed out. This is not a good way to live and will also cost you your ability to get a good night’s sleep. You will also have less time for activities.
8. Get Work Experience
Once you have committed to a major, seek out opportunities to get work experience in the same field. You should not graduate from college with a scant resume. Instead of looking like you focused on your academics (hence the great GPA), it may seem like you slacked off.
While you don’t want to overcommit yourself, at least make an effort once a semester to take on one significant experience related to your major.
- If you are an art major, this might mean getting a job at the on-campus gallery or volunteering for an organization that aims to bring more art opportunities to public schools.
This work experience aligns with what we discussed in terms of networking. Not only will you be meeting new people and making connections, but you will also be gaining skills that you can use and demonstrate in the professional workplace.
Think about it this way: A company has two candidates applying for a job with a similar degree and GPA. If one candidate has had hands-on experience working and volunteering in related fields, the company will think he would make a much better employee and, thus, would be more likely to hire him than the candidate who was only focused on maintaining a high GPA.
Conclusion: A Successful College Life
Immerse yourself in the college experience, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Meeting new people and diving into experiences is what college is all about.
Take your classes and networking seriously. Not only will you be setting yourself up for professional success, but you’ll also forge friendships that will last the rest of your life.
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