Five Tips for Succeeding in College

For many people, college is the next step into a bigger world, a place in between adulthood and youth, a time to let loose and party without concern for the morning. To quote Chef from South Park “There’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called college.” Aside from all the fun, though, you primarily go to college to get a degree so you can get a career that you not only enjoy, but one in which you are a success. While this reason is not as fun as the former, it is the whole reason behind going to college. Below are a few things that I think are important to consider before going to college.

1. Know What You Want

One of the worst things a student can do is go to college without a clear idea of what it is they want to do, often being told “You’re young; you have time to figure it out!” Going to a University to decide what major you would like is not only a waste of time, but also a waste of money. If you cannot decide what career path you would like to take, sign up for a few different courses at a community college. It’s not only cheaper than starting off at a 4 year university, but you also have access to counselors experienced in helping students with these decisions. Double check to make sure the classes you take at a community college will transfer over to the University you choose to move on to. Remember: Community colleges are designed to be stepping stones in education, take advantage of it.

2. Learn How to Plan and Schedule

Being able to organize your time is essential to being successful. If you have to work through school, you need to learn to make time for class, studies, and extra-curricular activities. Earning poor grades because you have to work is not an excuse, especially if you plan to go to graduate school. This also means that you have to plan time for fun. If you don’t, you run the risk of over-working yourself and experiencing burn-out.

3. Making Time and Money

Working while in school requires a lot of planning to keep track of everything. If you work during the day, community colleges generally offer more evening courses than universities.

If you can, make as much money as possible during the off months so you do not have to work as much when you are in class. This requires more frugality, but it frees up time for studying and allows you to pursue other activities.

There are a lot of grant and scholarship funds out there that can help pay for school if you are willing to look for them.

Keep in mind that textbooks and some school essentials are tax deductible; save all of your receipts, have them organized in a safe place, and speak to a professional when tax season comes around.

4. Research, Volunteering and Internships

Getting experience researching, as a volunteer or as an intern is almost as important as knowing your major. Depending on the field you are in, try to get into a research lab or as an intern or volunteer at a work site. This can provide valuable experience in your field of choice and can help build your networking connections. While it is great if you can get paying work in a field of your choice, you may have to volunteer your time, so make sure to plan your time and finances accordingly.

Getting into a research lab can be difficult, so be sure to stand out as competent with your professors, ask intelligent questions that can’t be answered by just reading the book, and don’t be afraid to knock on doors. That’s right, wear something nice, go to a professor’s office and ask. It is old-fashioned, but makes a much better impression than just sending an email. I recommend either making an appointment via professional email or showing up during office hours. Never do it right after class in the lecture hall. There are too many distractions and the professor probably has a million other things going on.

5. Tutors

What is cheaper, meeting with a tutor a couple times a month or paying to retake a course? If you find yourself having trouble in a course, do not hesitate to meet with a tutor. Having to retake a course not only wastes your money, but it also wastes your time. This ties in to proper time allocation; not having time to study because of work or because you’re taking too many credits is not an excuse to fail a course. Swallow your pride and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you do not have the time to devote to a class, then you have no business being there. Keep in mind, some institutions offer free tutoring, so research your options.

This is by no means an exclusive list; however, I feel that these are the most important things to keep in mind before entering college and during your education. Earning a degree entails a lot of sacrifice in the hopes that it will pay off in the future. My last piece of advice is this: If you find yourself wandering in your own thoughts, surfing too many web pages, then ask yourself “Is it really worth blowing an exam or paper just to surf the web?”

I hope that some of you find this advice helpful, and I wish you all the best of luck.

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