College Success Formula: 18 Hard Things To Do When Putting It To Work
But there are different types of action — the kind you take and the kind you don’t. It can be challenging in either direction.
As you embark on your college journey, not every decision that you have to make will be an easy one. We’ve been able to pinpoint some of the hardest. Here are 18. Enjoy. (Though we know you won’t.)
College Success Formula Challenge No. 1. Go to class every day.
This is not easy. At least, not at first. You’ve just escaped from the thumb of high school and parents and people always telling you what to do with your time. There is a temptation to get a little drunk on the freedom that goes along with it.
One of the first manifestations in doing so is to cut class. You’re paying for it now. You’re the boss. You can choose to not go if you want.
All of this may be true, but it doesn’t make it a good idea to give into the temptation. You miss a lot when you miss a class. Don’t put yourself in that position, especially for subjects that are not representative of your strengths.
No. 2. Forgo the weekly party night.
Every college has it. One night a week when everyone acts out and makes really bad choices. It’s party night. For me, it was Thursdays since a lot of the students were on a Tuesday/Thursday class schedule. For the ones that weren’t, it didn’t take much convincing that Friday was a day to sleep in and recover.
If you want to stay ahead of 75 percent of your fellow classmates, the simple act of forgoing party night to study, rejuvenate, and/or take it easy, will get you there.
No. 3. Stick to study plans and avoid distractions.
Study plans will keep you focused on what you are supposed to be learning with razor-sharp precision. While it is definitely true that studying can be boring, having a plan and a structure in place will give you the focus you need to get the most out of it, and maybe even find some enthusiasm for what you’re reviewing.
No. 4. Don’t use time off for sleeping.
Time off — as in Christmas break, spring break, summer break — can present the biggest temptation of all, and that is throwing out your established sleep schedule for one in which you sleep 12 hours a day.
As attractive of a proposition that sleeping half a day is, it is not realistic or sustainable as you get older. Therefore, you should try to keep the same sleep schedule as much as possible by the time you get to college.
It will make reentry from long breaks much easier to handle.
No. 5. Listen to constructive criticism.
When confronted with constructive criticism — even harsh constructive criticism — you should be careful not to lose your cool or take it personally. Focus on the work and on getting better.
It may “smart” at first, but with the right attitude, something amazing usually happens. People tend to soften and have the right attitude about helping you understand whatever it is that you need to understand.
No. 6. Keep up with homework and past exams.
Being organized should be at the heart of your college success formula. You are going to get hit with a lot of exams, pop quizzes, and homework during your four-plus years, and while they will not always be easy, they will certainly be easier if you keep your past work, correct it, and look back over it to remind yourself of what you do well and where you need help.
No. 7. Listen to class lectures instead of podcasts or music.
Podcasts and music are all the rage these days. Hours of entertainment content to get the toes tapping or elicit laughter or educate and inform (about things you actually wanted to be educated and informed on).
There is a time and a place for all of these things, but do consider fighting the urge the next time you know you need to be studying to load up one of these distractions. It’s a better idea to record your class lectures, and at least during the school day, replay that while listening through earbuds.
If you are worried about it taking up too much time, consider speeding up the playback on whatever voice recorder you’re using. You may not be able to pick up every little word when listening at heightened speeds, but you will retain most of it, and you’ll get through the lecture each subsequent time learning a little more than you did before.
No. 8. Actively engage in class discussions.
Class discussions are essential to the educational process because you get one-on-one, no-holds-barred face time with the instructor. This is great for having your questions answered and your assurances affirmed. It also is a plus if you are hoping to find great study groups to join.
No. 9. Get organized with your finances.
No one thinks well or accomplishes great things when they are constantly worried about where the next meal is coming from or when their bank account will inevitably fall into the red (that’s the bad one).
If you take the time to get your finances in order, then you will have decluttered a pretty major part of your existence. That frees you up to think of other things and develop strategies for becoming more productive.
No. 10. Stay away from credit card offers.
Part of getting your financial house in order means turning down all those pie-in-the-sky offers wherein credit card company entices you to join while cough-charging you 30 percent interest on every purchase-cough-cough.
Sure, you will miss out on a lot of free T-Shirts by refusing to sign up, but it will save you the damaging illusion that because a card has given you a $1,000 limit, you have $1,000 burning a hole in your pocket.
It’s not real money, but it can cost you a lot of real money for a very long time if you get too far behind.
No. 11. Read the chapter!
Back to academics. Yes, some of those massive textbooks can have “chapters” that are the length of a short novel (and far less enjoyable to read). But you also will glean much more from reading the chapter than if you didn’t.
If you are intimidated, try the outline trick. Make an outline of the chapter using the headings as your ABC’s and Roman numerals. This exercise will train you to start identifying key content more quickly. It’s all about learning what to look for and where to find it.
No. 12. Go to bed early.
This can be a hard one, particularly when there is a party that you really want to go to. And you don’t have to go to bed early every single time, but you should make sleep a priority and partying the exception, not the other way around.
By getting on (and staying on) a sensible sleep schedule, you will have a sharper mind in class, be more alert, and perform at your maximum potential on homework, tests, and class projects.
No. 13. Stay on campus, if possible.
Many students are unable to make it through four years of undergraduate work without testing their luck on an off-campus apartment. The problem: when you move off-campus, you could end up losing access to key financial aid.
Even if you don’t, however, you will have to refrain from the kind of access to resources that make college a haven for learning. You just won’t be as likely to drive across town to go to the library should the desire to study rise at the spur of a moment.
Staying on campus also makes it easier to track down teachers and get involved in activities that can make you better at what you are trying to do in life.
No. 14. Figure out what you want to do before you go.
It is not the first time and won’t be the last time we say it because it’s simply too important to forget about: college isn’t for you to find out what you want to do in life, it’s for the people who already know.
If you are unsure of where to begin when it comes to a college major, do yourself a favor and pause after the general education requirements are out of the way. College is too costly, and getting more costlier by the day, for you to turn it into a guessing game of “What do I wanna be when I grow up?” You’re grown up. You should already have a good idea.
No. 15. Let go of outdated or damaging relationships.
High school friends that you never really had much in common with. Bad relationships that are still there just because of their familiarity. This is college. The time for you to hit the reset button and determine the kind of person that you would prefer to be.
That doesn’t mean you have to throw out every single good relationship that you’ve ever had, but it does mean that you should be reevaluating each relationship and asking yourself whether it’s still good for you and whether it will be the right fit for your long-term goals.
No. 16. Take the most challenging courses.
There are a lot of people in the world who run from challenges. Nowhere can this be seen at the collegiate level more readily than the college football schedule of certain NCAA Division I teams. Look at the first three games of any major college program’s schedule, and you will see teams that were scheduled simply because the big school needed an easy win morale booster.
While it may work a time or two, it does nothing to prepare the dominant schools for tougher conference play. It also doesn’t allow the school to “test” themselves against decent competition before the schedule intensifies.
You need to be “the team,” in your academic life, who is unafraid of a good challenge. When you challenge yourself often, you will frequently rise to the occasion, and the rewards for when you do are tremendous.
No. 17. Get involved in projects beyond the classroom.
A little secret about the so-called “real world.” Few employers give a crap about seeing your transcripts or what your grade was in college biology.
What they want to know is how skilled you are at doing things. The only way to show them that is to show them things you have done while you were in college.
What things did you volunteer for? How did they relate to your major? Did you work while going to school full time? All of these can make you stand out.
No. 18. Embrace the grad school mindset.
Nowadays, more and more, a simple undergraduate degree is not enough. If you want to work in the profession you’ve chosen, then you are probably going to have to go beyond the bachelor’s degree. How far you need to go will be dependent on the industry of your choosing.
Some professions require just a master’s degree while others want a Ph.D. Still others may require more of a skill set that a certificate of knowledge. Go wherever your career takes you and see it through to the end.
And that’s it. If you can keep these 18 items in check, your college success formula should work out nicely. What are some of the toughest things that you have had to do so far to make your college experience a successful one? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by CareerTipster]