Tips for Success

Study Habits

The biggest key to success in college is having good study habits.

If you live at home, you and your family should agree on the selection of good workspace, perhaps in the your room. Each student, of course, can configure their space in a personalized way. Some families might already have the materials needed for a satisfactory workspace, but for needed purchases, office furniture is a good start, such as:

  • Desk with a file drawer or separate file cabinet
  • Comfortable desk chair and good reading lamp
  • Comfortable chair for reading
  • Sturdy, tall bookcase to shelve all the books, software, disks, and other leaning materials students will buy each semester

Make sure to talk to your family about your study habits. And college student might need to disappear into his or her workspace, sometimes on short notice, for hours at a time. If a separate room is not available, the family will want to make agreements on certain household hours of quiet for study—the same as any student in a residence hall. Students will probably try other study spaces as well, such as computer labs, the Student Success Center, and the campus and public libraries. The daily routine of a high school student will no longer be applicable. The whole family, including siblings, should discuss these schedule adjustments that will be made once college starts. As semesters pass, the student schedule will continue to require periodic readjustments for academic breaks, exam periods and changes in course loads.

Many students are surprised at the differences in studying for college courses versus how they studied in high school. Regular worksheets are replaced by vast midterms and exams which require knowledge about concepts rather than simple memorization of facts. Students frequently discover they need to adapt their study habits to the college setting.

Tips for good studying habits:

  • Study in time chunks of about 30-50 minutes with a 5-10 minute break in-between.
  • Take advantage of daylight hours: an hour of studying during the day is worth two done at night.
  • Make sure to spend time on your most challenging class every day and do it early in the day.
  • Study actively by asking yourself questions, having study groups quiz you, talking with the professor, and reviewing your notes frequently.

Motivation/Attitude

Data shows students with a positive attitude toward their college experience have more academic success than those without one!

The Academic Success Center at Dartmouth College gives these tips about motivation:

Motivation has a strong influence on how well you do your job.  Students often develop a "Slave Mentality."  That is, they see themselves performing tasks which are required by their teachers but which are utterly meaningless to them.

In contrast, the students who see how their schoolwork fits into their plans for themselves become willing workers.  It is quite true that "you can do anything you want to do" because wanting makes the necessary work easy.

Determination to work does not mean the same as motivation.  "Will Power" will not work over a lengthy period of time.  You can force yourself on occasion, but there are definite limits to the success of such an approach.

How to Gain Motivation

Step 1:  Decide what you're trying to do in college.  (You may need a counselor or other advisor to help with this, but that's why they're there.)  Find out exactly how you go about achieving what you want.  (What classes are required.  Equally important, what classes aren't required.  How long will it take you?  How much will it cost?)  With this information you can see the end of the tunnel.  You can see yourself progressing, and you can avoid a lot of "wheel spinning."

Step 2:  Make college your job.  Don't let the incidental business of earning a living and leading a social life interfere with your central task of getting through school.  If something must be neglected (and good planning can usually avoid this), then neglect something other than school.  Your job is probably a short-term, dead-end proposition anyway.  Don't get bumped out of school just to work 48 hours a week for the minimum wage.

  • Real students own their own books, have a suitable place to work, and keep their materials conveniently available.
  • Most distractions come from within you.  If you have trouble concentrating, try to see what's bothering you and take steps to eliminate it.  Most problems yield to direct action, but you must do the acting.

Step 3:  Set short-range goals

  • Analyze your study task.  What do you want to achieve?  How can it best be done?
  • Set a definite time limit.  You can get as much done in one hour as six if you know you must.  Work expands to fit the time available.
  • Evaluate your success or failure.  You can learn best from making mistakes, provided you recognize that they are mistakes.

Time Management

Since college classes are often not the back-to-back seven hours of school that high school was, you will have a lot more free time to spend on your own things, like a job, studying, or relaxing. The hours in-between are excellent times to do studying or run errands, but avoid wasting time.

To a college student, time is more important than money. Even bright kids drop out of college because they fail to manage their time.

  • Hours in the library are much more important than hours at parties or hours on Facebook.
  • Invest in a daily planner to write important dates, homework or tests down.
  • Being organized isn’t about being neat or clean. It means being able to find what your looking for quickly and accomplish things efficiently.
  • Start long-term projects the day they are assigned.
  • Schedule your free-time.
  • Start studying two weeks in advance.
  • Meet often with your professors.
  • Focus more on your school work than a minimum-wage-paying job: graduating will help you get a better paying job.
  • Learn to prioritize: beginning to write a paper is more important than beginning to get ready to go out.
  • Remember to eat well, sleep, and exercise in addition to all that studying!