10 Ways to be a Successful 1st Year Student in College

Dennis Congos University of Central Florida

LCN encourages readers to modify and personalize the information in the following handout by Dennis Congos to fit the needs of your students and institution. Please include an appropriate citation of the source on any handouts you distribute.

1. Choose your college education as your #1 job.

It takes time to do the job of learning properly at the college level. If you choose college as a high priority in your life, it is easier to do the work necessary to succeed and graduate.

2. Learn how to organize and manage your time.

The single toughest challenge for many college students is to organize and manage the time essential for college success. A very helpful tool is a weekly calendar book used to plan each week's activities: class attendance, studying, appointments, meetings, jobs, free time, etc. Record all due dates for homework papers, projects etc. and record all quiz and test dates,

3. One of the worst places to study is where you live.

One's residence is a poor place to study due to distractions and potential distractions such as roommates, TV's, telephones, stereos, beds, refrigerators, souvenirs, pets, visitors, chores, etc. Many students have found the less frequently visited areas of a campus library a non-distractive environment for concentration and study.

4. Treat college like an 8-hour/day & 40 hours/week job.

This is an easy model to follow because most college students would be working about 40 hours per week if they did not attend college. Non-college degree jobs usually do not pay well and the opportunities for advancement without a college degree are more limited. Investing 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week into attending class and studying can bring large returns such as graduation and full-time employment in your major.

5. Set up a team for your college success.

Write down a list of people you include on your team for your college success. Include the names of your academic advisor, instructors, teaching assistants, lab assistants, math lab staff, writing lab staff, tutors, Supplemental Instruction leaders, personal counselor, learning skills advisor, career counselor, student affairs staff members, resident assistants, housing staff member, etc. These people's jobs and expertise exist solely to help you to succeed, and if you choose, to excel, in college.

6. Adhere to important university dates and deadlines.

Contrary to popular opinion, university deadlines, policies, and procedures are in place to smooth and speed your progress to graduation. As many students have discovered, "Success in college is mostly a matter of following simple directions." Read your college catalog carefully and record important dates and deadlines in your calendar book. Be aware of requirements such as writing requirements, the skills assessment tests, fee payment deadlines, add/drop and withdrawal deadlines, etc.

7. Attend class regularly and do not arrive late.

In class, the instructor discusses at least ½ of the possible exam material. It is quite difficult to learn from another's notes, so be there to take your own. Furthermore, frequent absences or repeatedly arriving late communicates to the instructor that you are not that concerned about class. Remember that same instructor assigns your grade.

8. Dare to be different.

Nearly 60% of freshmen in your class will not be at graduation with you. Therefore, you increase your chances of not graduating by 60% if you party, go out, socialize, or play before getting the job of learning done first. Be different. Be successful.

9. Choose your friends carefully.

A friend is someone who supports, encourages, and helps you achieve your academic and personal growth goals in college. Beware of those whose social life is out of proportion to academic efforts. Human beings tend to become like the people with which they surround themselves.

10. Balance college to include academic growth and personal growth activities.

Many students find college life boring if they neglect personal growth activities. Some of these important personal growth activities are belonging to clubs and campus organizations, attending social events, participation in residence hall or campus students government activities, attending athletic events, joining intramural sports, attending cultural activities, etc. Doing the job of going to class and studying before engaging in personal growth activities is a successful way to balance college life.

11. I lied. Here is number 11.

People become better at that which they practice. If you practice not doing algebra problems, take a guess at what you become rather good at. Practice does improve performance. For example, an athlete does not have to like practicing a sport, but practice improves performance at that sport. Learning is no different. You will become better at that which you practice. So, what are you practicing? Will that practice move you toward your goals and graduation?

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