College or trade school can seem overwhelming, from picking where you want to go to what you want to study—and then trying to do everything well. Nonetheless, you want to find a way to kick your education’s butt and still enjoy the next few months to years of your life. 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 and advice that will help you be a successful college or trade school student.
Characteristics of a Successful College Student
College and trade school aren’t always easy, and they are both big transitions from high school. There are certain traits lending to college success that people are born with. Others can be learned. Actually, 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 is a knee-jerk reaction 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. It’s your goals that drive you forward, steering you toward the path of a prosperous college experience.
- Self disciplined: You know that, in the scheme of things, you only have yourself to answer to and yourself to blame. It’s your self discipline that has you rooted to your chair, doing your work.
- Persistent: You fully understand that the going will get tough, but that only drives you harder. School takes extra effort, and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty with your work.
- Curious: Forget the old saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” If anything, curiosity made the cat smarter, and it was able to dominate the world through its mindful observations.
Balancing School & Life
Two to three hours of studying per semester hour can 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, just school and study. Factor in a part to full time job, and hopefully, you’ll be left a moment for a tiny bit of a social life. It seems all too much for one human being. Truly, it’s not; you’ll be fine if you take a look at the following tips.
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. Stay off Facebook, Pinterest, 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 classes have been skipped, exams unstudied for, and 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. It’s almost a rite of passage to go to them, walking around holding onto a red Solo cup filled with cheap beer. If you like to let loose, it’s probably a good idea to do it when you aren’t completely bogged down with school work.
Create a support network. You can do this through staying open to friendships, creating your own study groups, and joining college communities or clubs. All these potential relationships to be made, and you can all be there for each other as you make your journey through school.
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 cathartic, a 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 stuff should come first, and everything else has its own order of priority.
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 helps with 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 & Tricks for Success
Some students have built-in study habits from years at it. For others, this is all very new. Studying wasn’t something they really ever did. Regardless of where you fall on the study skill spectrum, there is always room for improvement or fine-tuning. Always keep in mind that having good study habits equates to getting good grades
- 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 the most.
- 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 every lecture and transcribing it later. That process can also reinforce what you learned, making it easier to study it later.
- Don’t cram for exams. Seriously. You’re going to be learning a lot, and maybe at a quicker pace than you ever did before. Study as you go; never wait until the last minute. By studying a little bit every day, you have a better chance of retaining the information.
- Work on your writing. It’s a big piece of academia. Hit the writing labs, and tutors aren’t a bad thing. They’re there for a reason!
- 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 help students be successful. Take advantage of these situations your school has for you.
- Flash cards make a great studying tool. You may have done this all throughout your earlier education. Flashcards are a proven study process that works even on the college level.
- Get enough sleep. Six to eight hours of ZZZs per night is optimal. Or, you could be in the two percent that need more or less, either way. Regardless, your brain and body need sleep in order to sustain you.
- Don’t skip classes. You will find yourself wanting to on many different occasions. It’s an easy habit to start, so it’s probably best that you just don’t do it at all. Missing one lecture can set you back weeks. Is it really worth it?
- 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 figure out your issue, in any way possible. Don’t ever be afraid to ask. The worst thing that can happen is someone won’t know and will 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!
Most importantly, enjoy all aspects of your education, from the learning to the social scene.
If you start college or trade school off right, with good habits, then success is sure to follow. Hey, you may still do well even if your habits are horrible. You just have to know what’s going to work for you; and it may take some trial, error, and modification.
Find a trade school or college near you.