College is often said to be the best years of one's life, but it can also be the most stressful. As someone who recently graduated college, and will be going back for graduate school, I decided to write an article to help college students navigate their way through college.
Here are some tips to surviving and succeeding in college.
1. Take Responsibility For Your Education
The main difference between high school and college is that in college you're treated as an adult and are expected to take responsibility for your education. In college, you must remember to pay your tuition, sign up for the right courses, and complete all your assignments.
There is no hand-holding in college. The only person responsible for your education is yourself.
This is the big adjustment most incoming college students experience during their first semester.
In college, you don't raise your hand and ask to use the restroom, you simply leave the class and go. If you miss class, the professor won't ask why. You have to show them your doctor's note or explain why you missed the class with some kind of proof.
To do well in college, you have to take action!
If you're not sure which classes to take, make an appointment with your academic advisor. If you're not sure if your financial aid came through, visit the Bursar or financial aid office at your school. If you miss a class, you're responsible for getting the information from either your professor or a fellow classmate. The professor won't contact you or email you the slides if you're sick, you were the one who missed class so you must take responsibility and email them.
2. Maintain a Master List
In college, it's important to keep track of everything (assignments, class registration dates, projects, etc.), I'd recommend keeping a Master List. This is a list that has all the tasks, assignments and important dates you need to know. This could be the notes section on your phone, a small notebook, or a Google doc. Personally, I like to use the reminder app on my iPhone so I can write down the task and set an alarm if something is really important.
In college, it's rare that Professors will constantly remind you when an assignment or project is due. They'll likely tell the class once and then tell you to refer back to the syllabus or check Blackboard if you ask when it's due. However, keeping track of everything is only half the battle. Actually doing it, is the other half. This leads us to our next tip.
3. Don't Procrastinate
It sounds so simple, but yet it is one of the hardest things to do as a college student. Your life will be a million times easier and better if you simply choose to not procrastinate.
Freshman students often underestimate the amount of work a project or paper requires. Students who think they can write a 10-page paper with the proper citations in one day are fooling themselves. There's a reason the professor gives you a week's worth of time to write the paper.
Make your life easier and less stressful by writing a portion of the paper each day rather than trying to crank out the essay last-minute while having a nervous breakdown.
The same can be said for exams. If you have an exam on Friday, spend 30 minutes studying each day Monday through Thursday. Also, you want to avoid pulling all-nighters because it will likely do more harm to your grades than good.
4. Befriend Students and Professors
In every new class you attend, try to get there early to make small talk with other students. Ask to exchange contact info (cell or email) so that in case one of you are absent, the other can email their notes and what they missed in class. You can also ask other students what classes they would recommend and which they would avoid.
Forming study groups is also an easy way to make friends and meet new people. Learn from other students, especially if they are juniors or seniors.
It is also important to befriend your professors. Note, this does not mean you call them by their first name and ask them if they want to grab lunch. Rather, it means you build a professional friendship. You want to be an active student that asks thought-provoking questions in-class and completes all of the assignments. If you're interested in the subject, set up an office appointment with the professor to have a discussion on the topic.
Professors teach because they want to inspire and educate students to do great things. They love to see their students engaged and learning new things. If you're thinking of applying to graduate school, a letter of recommendation from a professor is almost always required. A professor is more likely to agree to write you a strong letter of recommendation if you scored high grades and were an overall good student in their class.
Most professors are experts in their field and either do research or work part-time when they aren't teaching. If you ask, they may help you find an internship or research position in their field.
5. Teach Yourself
If you've taken an AP class in high school and received a high score, you'll likely get college credit for the course. But, AP courses and college courses are not equal. If you take AP Biology in high school, you have class five times a week for nine months.
If you take the same course in college, you have class only twice a week for one semester (about 4 months). Thus, in college, you have a lot less time to learn the material than in high school.
In order to do well with less class time, one must learn to teach themselves.
At the beginning of each course, your professor will give you a syllabus detailing the chapters you're required to read and the dates when the professors will cover the topic.
A great tip is to think of the class time as a review session of the topic. A day or two before class, read the textbook chapters, take notes, and jot down any questions that come to mind. The next day in class, take notes and if you still have questions, ask the professor during or after class.
Going over the readings before it is required, will make you more informed than your classmates and you'll be more likely to know the answer to any questions your professor may ask.
It's also wise to download your professor's PowerPoint slides and review it after class to catch anything you may have missed.
6. Always Use Ratemyprofessor
Before you sign up for any course, you should visit www.ratemyprofessor.com to check their ratings. Professors can make or break a course.
I've had courses I wasn't particularly interested in, such as Public Affairs, but the professor was so passionate and knowledgeable on the subject that I became engaged in each of his lectures. If you enjoy a class, you will almost always do well because you will be more focused and involved in the course.
Certain professors can also make a course unbearable. I enjoy learning about philosophy and decided to take a course on it, even though the professor had a bad rating.
It was a bad decision. The professor spoke in a monotone voice, rarely wrote anything on the board, and didn't seem to enjoy their job. My joy of learning vanished and it became difficult to motivate myself to do well in the class.
Always check a professor's rating before signing up for a course!
7. Use Your School's Resources
It may not seem like it at first, but your school wants you to succeed. You'll find that most schools are filled with academic and professional resources to help you prosper both academically and professionally.
If you're falling behind in a class, see if there are any group study sessions or tutors offered by your college.
It's likely your school also has a place where they can help you write or edit your resume, find internships in your area of study, and teach you proper interview and network skills.
If you attend Baruch, check out Starr search. They reviewed my resume, helped me find internships and performed mock interviews with me.
8. Plan for The Future
Four years of college may seem like a long time, but by now you should be aware of the fact that time flies, especially when you're having fun. College should be fun, you should meet new people, attend parties, and explore things that you find interesting.
However, you should always keep in mind what you'd want to do after college. If your dream is to become a doctor, you should achieve high grades and volunteer at hospitals during the summer. If you want to be a writer, you should write for the school's local newspaper. If you want to get a Ph.D. in physics, get A's in all your science courses and ask your professors for letters of recommendation.
Hopefully, these tips will make your college experience easier and more enjoyable. Good luck!