AGL 012: Being Successful in College, 14 tips for Students

As a Professor and a leader, I’m passionate about college student’s success both in and out of the classroom. I should be an expert at this, seeing as I’ve been either in college or working for a college (I’m a professor) for more than 15 years.  Here are a few tips that will help students be successful.

  1. Stay busy (get involved) – Studies show that students that are involved in more than 1 campus organization or student activity have higher GPA’s than students that are not involved at all (source Department of Health and Human Services).  Plus involvement helps you build social skills, friends and a resume. When I was in college I was president of 5 campus organizations, in a fraternity and played lacrosse. Having little time helped force me to focus on what’s important.
  2. Make good habits early – You need to establish good patterns in your first two semesters of college.  After that, it becomes increasingly difficult to break bad habits.  Good habits include going to class, reading prior to class, eating healthy, staying active and staying safe. There will be future podcast on Habit forming… stay tuned!succes
  3. Take risks – I need to qualify this one… Take “Healthy” Risks.  Don’t play it safe.  Try new things (not dangerous things).  College is a time to find yourself and to meet your life long friends.  If you don’t take risks and get out there, you’ll be missing out on valuable experiences that you can never get back. Try starting a business, freelancing, meeting new people, just live with no regrets!
  4. Don’t delay (major courses, cultural events, etc) – Take your major courses early and get them out of the way. Save electives for last . Sometimes the major courses aren’t offered every semester and if you need to re-take one, or if you mess up your schedule, you might find yourself spending an extra semester or even year in college. I tell my kids.. to delay is to disobey.  Don’t Delay!
  5. Set goals and set triggers – Set goals for yourself every semester.  Be sure the goals are obtainable.  One study found in the book “Switch” states that if you set triggers, like specific times or places where you’ll work on your goals, you’ll be significantly more successful in meeting them. Set SMART Goals – Specific, Measurable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound.
  6. Take notes on paper (or a writing app) then type them up – Don’t take your laptop to class and type out your notes.  One, this is distracting and it gives you lots of opportunities to focus on something on your laptop instead of class itself.  Two, by writing your notes and then typing them up, it forces you to review them.
  7. Track your time (see where it goes) – Use a time tracking template to track where your time goes.  I recommend spending one week per semester doing this.  It’s eye-opening how much time goes into playstation and partying. Keeping a time journal is great, and you should record you time every semester as your schedule will likely change.
  8. Be safe and don’t be stupid – I’ve heard countless stories of students that did something stupid in college (like drinking and driving) and either killed themselves or put a big blemish on the rest of their life.  You can have fun and still be safe.  Please do so.
  9. Don’t ever say “I don’t have the time.” – You’ll understand this one a little bit better after you’ve graduated and have a full-time job with a toddler.  You ALWAYS have the time.  You just need to prioritize it (i.e. Make the time). Try saying, I’d rather ___ than ___. Just don’t say you don’t have the time.
  10. Get an internship or a job in your field while going to class – One of the best experiences that I had in college was working for UAV.  UAV gave me an opprotunity to work on websites, troubleshoot software and develop a love for IT.  It also gave me a really good piece of experience.  I took the job at UAV as an intern and gained valuable experience.  Oh, and I got hired for the internship because the hiring manager liked that I was involved on campus (See #1).
  11. Get to know your professors – I have 2 reasons for adding this one… 1) Professors are bored and we want to know our students.  We love to see students that take the effort to talk to us. 2) If you have some sort of professional relationship with your professors, you will subconsciencely work harder not to disappoint that professor.  This leads to better grades!
  12. Get in shape – College is a time when people usually put on some weight and get out of shape.  Speaking from experience, its a lot harder to build a habit of staying healthy after college than it is in college.  Be smart, get fit.  BONUS: Members of the opposite sex like fit people :)
  13. Volunteer for non-profits – There is no better piece of experience that you can get on your resume than from volunteering. It’s great to volunteer and give back. I can’t describe how good it makes you feel, and as a hiring manager, I look for people that volunteer. It speaks a lot about their character. And as a side note, I met my wife volunteering for a non-profit.
  14. Stay out of debt – One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is getting into debt.  It’s hard to get out of debt.  So my last piece of advice is to stay out of debt.  If you can’t pay for it from your checking account, then you don’t need it.

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