Very soon, many of you will embark on a new chapter in your lives as you begin your college career. For some, this will be your first time leaving home. For others, it is a welcomed escape. Regardless of your nervousness or excitement, this time will be filled with great opportunities as you gain valuable skills that will aid you in your career and life. However, college is not like high school. There are new demanding workloads, teaching styles, and expectations. While these thoughts may send some of you into a stressed-out tailspin, below is a list of tips that will help you succeed in college without really trying.
1. Define your goals.
This seems like a tedious step, but defining goals lays the foundation for your college career, and saying that your goal is to graduate is a little vague. Is obtaining a piece of paper with your name on it all you want to accomplish? Hopefully it’s not, and hopefully attending college will be more than that for you. Define your purpose, what you hope to gain over the next four years, and what kind of lifestyle and career you hope to have for your life. These ideas need to be concrete, specific, and realistic. Once you have defined your goals you may find more diligence in your study habits or more strength to resist every social activity on campus. While these goals will be your guiding light, they are not set in stone. You are going to grow a lot in the next four years, even from semester to semester, so it’s important to revisit your goals and modify them to be relevant as you discover what you want in life.
2. Embrace the challenges.
Now more than ever, daily life is full of conveniences. The world is at our fingertips and anything a person could want can be delivered to your front door for a small fee. While these conveniences make life easier, you should not be fooled into believing that they define life, or your education. You will face many challenges throughout your college career: there will be classes that push your intellect, assignments that may seem impossible to accomplish, and new ideas that cause you to think outside your comfort zone and view the world in a whole new light. Some will face these challenges and give up. Some will cite their excuse as the challenge was not fair because it was not “their thing.” They may even cite references from the animal kingdom, like penguins should not be judged on their ability to fly and birds should not be judged on their ability to borough. While a clever analogy, it is not accurate. A penguin still has to jump into predator-infested waters to find food for its young, and a bird still builds its nests out of sticks and branches for which it must scavenge. It would be a terribly boring world if we all had the same abilities, but having a certain ability does not excuse you from hard work. Embrace those challenges, and see how far you can push yourself. You may be surprised at the results.
3. Always ask questions.
This tip will be relatively brief because I want you to implement it and see where it takes you. Starting now, channel your inner toddler and never stop asking questions. Never take any information you hear, read, or see at face value. Dig for the truth, and when you think you have found it, dig again. Develop and feed your curiosity, and ask questions from different perspectives. How, why, and is this credible, will be the most important questions you will learn to ask.
4. Keep everything in perspective.
There will be a lot of pressures on you during your college career: trying to keep close ties with your family, learning to living independently, balancing social events, and the drive of academic success. The last of these alone could cause some breakdowns, but it is important to keep everything in perspective. Making the grade is important, but don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of academic perfection. The numerical value that you receive on a test is not an indication of your intrinsic value. It is just a reflection of the quality of time you have spent in the course material. Your self-worth is so much more than an academic average. However, learning to separate yourself from the grading scale is challenging, especially in our success-driven world. Instead of focusing on obtaining a grade, focus on mastering the course material. Once you master the material, you should be able to pass any test that comes your way.
(Just for future reference, this is what employers are looking for. Employers do not care how many gold stars you have on your report card, but that you are a competent and quality individual worthy of the investment of hiring.)
I apologize for my misleading title. It should have read, “How To Succeed In College (By Really Trying)." However, don’t let this discourage you. Each one of you possess the ability to succeed. Embrace the challenges, use your abilities to achieve the goals you have set for yourself, and the person you find at the end of four years will be a graduate, ready to face whatever life holds.
Lisa Raine, Admissions Counselor