The Road to Success in College

07/27/2017

Congratulations on being accepted into your dream college!

It might not feel this way now, but getting into college is the easy part. Being successful, on the other hand, will require hard work and the ability to perform at a high level, among classmates who may be smarter than you, over the long haul.

So, start your journey now! The weeks before classes start offer a great time to prepare for the next semester. In recent interviews with students from teacher preparation programs around the country, interviewees were asked what advice they would give future students on how to succeed academically. While answers varied, here are five key considerations:

1. Location, Location, Location  

One of the best uses of your time between now and the first day of class is figuring out how you like to study and where on campus provides you that space. Do you like a quiet place with no distractions? Are you the student who needs the smell and traffic of a campus coffee shop? Rebecca Duitsman, a 2017 graduate of Dallas Baptist University Ed School, knew her limitations and shared "I was not good at multi-tasking. I couldn't study in communal areas." Rebecca was successful because she knew her limitations, you should know yours too. 

2. Know Thy Syllabus  

One of the first pieces of information you will receive from a professor is a syllabus. The syllabus will tell you what you should expect to have mastered by the end of the course; how you will be expected to conduct yourself; what you will be expected to read for every class; a schedule of assignments, projects, and tests; and, contact information and office hours for the professor. Duitsman shared that she was good at studying because she "made sure to know the course objectives and know them well." 

3. Notes, Notes, Notes 

Classes in college will typically require you to spend a lot of time listening to your professors' lectures on a subject, so note taking is a critical skill. Lennon Audrain, a 2017 graduate of Rio Salado College (Tempe, AZ) in Elementary Education, recommends that you use a specific structure, like a KWL table (What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned)to organize your note taking and studying. Categorizing your notes into these three buckets will ultimately save time and help concentrate your energy where it's most needed.

4. Ask For Help 

College provides the first taste of real independence for many of you, but don't confuse independence with "you're on your own." Success will require that you learn from others and ask for help when you need it. Caroline Goodill, a 2017 graduate of University of Dayton Ed School, frequently tells other students to "find others in your major, in the same classes, to help with papers." Caroline wasn't the only teacher preparation student we interviewed who stressed the importance of relying on others. Haydn Lambert, junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana School of Education, attributes her academic success to engaging with her professors and meeting with them before she starts a major assignment. Haydn also meets with her professors to get ideas on where to research, rather than going it alone.

5. Work Hard, Play Hard 

Balancing school with the tremendous growth in the social activities that come with college life may be the most important lesson of all. Your ability to know when to work and when to relax can make all the difference. Rebecca Duitsman, suggests you "have a study life but be social too…. We would have study parties." Haydn Lambert wants you to "[l]earn to take breaks; engage in other activities that keep things in perspective."

So, congratulations again on your upcoming semester. And, get going! 

— Curtis Valentine
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