How to Succeed in College

After 31 years in higher education, three degrees, and experience teaching in the classroom and online, I have some advice for those who want to succeed in college. I shared this with both of my daughters, and it seemed to serve them well.

Succeed in CollegeIf you’re on campus, there are five important things to remember:

  1. Show up for class. EVERY class. You paid for it, and you need to be there. Hint: sit in front where the professor will see you and know you have been attending consistently.
  2. Take notes. The physical act of note-taking reinforces memory and creates a study aid for you.
  3. Before every exam, read your notes. Most of what you need to know is probably in there, or it wouldn’t have been in the lectures.
  4. Do your best to read the book – but don’t give up on the first three things to do it.
  5. Read and understand the assignments; do the work, and turn it in.

Why? As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of the art of life is showing up.” You can’t pass a class if you don’t know what’s going on in the class and don’t turn in the assignments. The easiest way to make darn sure you know what’s expected is to be there every day, paying attention. When assignments are due, you’d be amazed how many students either don’t turn in their work or don’t follow the directions in doing the work. Why waste your time and effort on something the professor didn’t ask for and doesn’t want?

Succeed in CollegeIf you are an online student, the keys to success are similar, but a bit different:

  1. Set aside time for the course on a regular basis, or you will put it off and fall behind quickly.
  2. Read and understand the course syllabus and directions – every page, every word. Most students don’t do this.
  3. Take part in online discussions, and make quality contributions in your posts.
  4. Do the readings and watch any recordings. These are critically important in an online course; this is your version of going to class!
  5. Do the assigned work. You have more responsibility for this than you do in a face-to-face course, because you’re on your own.

There aren’t any magic techniques in the suggestions above, but there is a lot of real world application. You’d be surprised how many students disregard basic parts of being a student. They skip attending (or watching) lectures, don’t read the directions, turn in assignments late or not at all or just ignore the work they should be doing.

There are two pieces of good news if you find this advice helpful:

First, as the saying goes, “It ain’t rocket science.” There’s nothing that difficult about it. Second, if you take this advice, you will know your work counts for something, and you can use your free time with a clear conscience!

We all wish you the best.


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