Trade school or technical college can seem overwhelming; from picking where you want to go to what you want to study—and then trying to do everything to the best of your abilities. Nonetheless, you want to find a way to kick your education’s butt and still enjoy school and your eventual career.
Keep in mind, going to college is very different than doing well in college. Once you get in, you have to work hard to stay there. Here are some tips that will help you be a successful college or trade school student.
Characteristics of a Successful Trade School Student
Trade school isn't always easy, and it can be a big transition from high school. But with practice and determination (which is one of the characteristics), all the traits of a successful student can be yours!
- Hardworking: Some classes may come easy to you, others not as much. But if you are motivated and know what it takes to get the job done, then you already have one major key to educational success.
- Engaged: You’re present in all things to do with your education, from classes to clubs and beyond. You learn from mistakes, which you aren’t afraid to make. Raising your hand in class comes naturally to you when you have a question or concern. You’re there, and you’re prepared to learn everything you possibly can.
- Goal-oriented: Despite all the fun you can have in college, you’re there for one main reason. Your goals drive you forward, steering you toward the path of a prosperous college experience.
- Self disciplined: In the scheme of things, you are aware that you must rely on yourself to get the job done. It's self discipline that keeps you motivated - even on days that you're struggling.
- Persistent: You fully understand that the going will get tough at times, but that only drives you forward. School takes extra effort, and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty with your work.
- Curious: Curiosity makes us smarter. You can dominate the world through mindful observation if you allow yourself to be curious, questioning, and a great listener and learner while doing so.
Balancing Trade School and Life
The hours you spend studying per semester can quickly add up to a full time job. If you have 15 hours worth of classes, then that means you can expect to put in 30-45 hours of hitting the books. There’s little time left in the week to do anything else.
If you factor in a part-time or even a full-time job, it can be overwhelming. Time management can be difficult, but is not impossible. Time management can help you stay on top of school and work, and can even free some time to balance your personal and social life.
Keep these three major distractions to a minimum:
- Social media: We all know that social media can become a black hole. Once you start, it’s hard to pull yourself away. Do your best to stay off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever platform is your poison, until all your work is complete.
- Video games: Video games are addicting, and once you get engrossed in them, time flies quickly. Before you know it, your exams can go unstudied for, and your homework, neglected. Delegate video game time to weekends or evenings when you have the time to spare. Or, reward yourself with a video game binge after a particularly arduous study session.
- Drinking: Yes, college parties are plentiful all week long and throughout the weekends. At times, sacrificing social time for your education can be draining - again this returns to time management. Decide which dates in your calendar are best spent studying, and don't deviate from them. Dedicating a few weeknights to your studies, can allow you to have a bit of fun on weekends while staying on top of your school work. Just remember to do so responsibly.
Some other options you may find helpful are:
Create a support network. You can do so through a number of ways. Stay open to friendships in the classroom or shop. Create your own study groups, or join college communities or clubs.
Save time for yourself. It’s okay to say no sometimes. Everyone needs a breather, a time to just sit back and enjoy the silence. Being alone can be a cathartic, mental reset. With studying, socializing, and everything else that comes along in your school experience, having down time is important.
Use your time WISELY. You’re going to have a lot of work. Prioritize everything in order of importance, and tackle it in that way. School should usually come first, and everything else can follow.
Exercise. Get moving. Walk. Join a gym; there are many affordable ones these days. It’s not only good for your body but also excellent for your brain. Exercise supports memory and concentration, plus provides so many other essential benefits. Even if you can only fit in a half hour per day, do it. Anything is better than nothing.
Study Tips and Tricks for Success
Always keep in mind that having good study habits at trade school, or college in general, equates to getting the grades you need.
- Talk to your teachers. It’s a good idea to get to know them, and the TAs. Participate in class discussions. Talk to your instructor before or after class, depending on when his or her office hours are. Forging a relationship with your professors can help you when you need their help.
- Inspect your syllabus on the first day of class, and plan accordingly. Chances are, your instructor laid everything out for you, and it’s up to you to read it and be prepared for the upcoming semester.
- Take good class notes. Write down key information. Consider recording your lectures and taking notes later. That process can also reinforce what you learned, making it easier to study later.
- Don’t cram for exams. Seriously. You’re going to be learning a lot, and maybe at a quicker pace than you'd expect. Study as you go; never wait until the last minute. Also, by studying a little bit every day, you have a better chance of retaining the information.
- Work on your writing. It’s important, no matter your major. You don't need to be an expert, but consider using the writing labs or tutors to strengthen your skills. Candidates with stronger writing skills can stand out in the job market when employers are reviewing resumes.
- Have a regularly scheduled study time. It’s a habit that’s easy to fall into. Only you know what your schedule is like, and what time of the day is best for you when it comes to studying. Some students are early morning people, while others like to burn the midnight oil. It only takes a couple weeks to fall into a routine, and the sooner you start, the better.
- Take breaks. There have been studies done showing that a ten minute break for every hour of studying works best for most people. Get up and walk around. Go outside and get some fresh air. Do whatever you need to do for ten minutes, and then get back at it.
- Participate in study groups. You can find homework groups, exam study groups, and a variety of other groups all there to promote your success. Take advantage of the resources available to you!
- Flash cards make a great studying tool. You may have done this throughout your earlier education, but flashcards are a proven study process that works on a college level too.
- Get enough sleep. Six to eight hours of sleep per night is optimal. Or, you could be in the two percent that need more or less. Regardless, your brain and body need sleep in order to function properly.
- Don’t skip classes. You will find yourself wanting to occasionally. It’s an easy habit to fall into, but can lead to a less than ideal situation. Missing some lectures can set you back for a couple of weeks.
- Never be afraid to ask for help! Your instructor, TA, school academic counselor, or even other students (most likely), will be happy to answer any questions or help you understand your issue. Don’t ever be afraid to ask. If someone doesn't have an answer, they can likely direct you to someone who does.
- Invest in a decent planner. To really stay on track in college, you need to write everything down. Having a good planner will help you become organized and stay that way. Just remember to check it every single day!
If you start trade school off right, with good habits, then success will likely follow. Take your time to figure out what is best for you, which may take some trial, error, and modification.
Do you want to connect with a trade school? Find a trade school or college near you.