As a traditional-age college freshman, you’re probably very concerned about academic success. You want to start off on the right foot with your college courses, and you may even be a bit anxious about it. How much reading will be required? How much writing? Is my writing on the college level? What should I major in? Will I be accepted into the program I apply to?
While academics should be your primary focus, they should be balanced with meaningful extracurricular and experiential activities to round out your college experience. Begin with learning some keys to academic success and build from there. Following are some tips on college success in the classroom.
As a college freshman, a key to your college success is organization. Why? Because the more efficient you are, the more you’ll be able to do. Think about how much time it takes to search for a paper or a book when you have piles of unorganized papers and books strewn around your room. Even after searching you may not find it. You’ll be pushed you to improve your efficiency, and if you step up to the challenge, you’ll find yourself less frustrated and more productive in your college courses. This means that you have to spend time organizing on a daily basis. You’ll find once you have systems in place, making a habit of maintaining them is not too difficult. There are many good sources on organizing yourself and your time. If you’re serious about college success, get organized.
Preparing for Class
Another key to college success is being prepared for class. This means doing the work necessary whether it’s reading, writing, experiential learning, etc., so you can track with what the professor is saying, contribute to class discussions, and build your knowledge. While this isn’t news – you’ve likely heard it from your parents, teachers, and others trying to help you succeed in school – college work can get away from you in no time. It’s easy to get behind quickly and then get overwhelmed. Consistently doing your work will give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence with your college courses, as well as stress relief.
Strategic planning, often associated with business, is a handy skill when developing your college course schedule. Choosing the courses to take, and when, are strategic decisions for college success. Do your research on each college course, its workload, and the professors, and know yourself. Avoid taking too many courses before you know what the college workload is like. It may be that you can handle six college courses and do well; however, you may do best with four, feel much more relaxed, and balance them with other valuable activities, such as clubs or volunteer work. If you’re facing a particularly difficult course requirement, balance it with less demanding courses that semester. Planning well will contribute to the quality of your experience as a college freshman and beyond.
While attendance policies will vary from professor to professor, students who don’t attend class regularly don’t tend to do as well as those who do. No clear attendance policy should not be equated with, “it’s OK to skip class.” Don’t let your new-found freedom misguide you. Also, in smaller classes, professors notice those who attend regularly and those who don’t.
If you have a problem with the material and need to discuss it with the professor, the first thing she’ll ask you is why you’ve been absent frequently. You put yourself in an awkward position and one in which the professor is less motivated to help you than she would a student who’s been attending consistently. Lack of attendance shows a lack of desire to put in the effort to get there and do the work. It doesn’t bode well for your sense of responsibility, or the value you place on your education.
Working and College
While many students have jobs in college, it’s important not to let a job occupy so much of your time that you don’t handle your college work responsibly. The all-too-common story of the student who believes he has to work 35 hours a week, resulting in papers not handed in and poor exam results, often doesn’t have to be the case. Financial planning is a part of attending college, and arranging your schedule so your course work is the first priority is necessary.
As a college freshman you go through a large transition of getting acclimated to college work, and adjusting to a new living environment if you live on campus. You are also meeting new friends and taking personal responsibility for managing yourself. Do yourself a favor and see what your college courses demand and then decide how many hours you can work. As a rule, working more than 15 hours/week is not recommended for a full-time freshman.
Intimidated by your professors? Well, you are not alone; however, that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. Your access to them will depend, in part, on the type of institution you attend. If you’re at a large university and see the TAs more than your professors, it may be challenging getting time with them. Nevertheless, your professors want to know if you understand the material, and they care about your questions, particularly if you’re a responsible student. Don’t be afraid to schedule time to discuss your questions during their office hours; that’s why they have office hours! Prepare for your meetings, and your professors will be happy to help.
These basic tips on college success – getting organized, being prepared, using strategic planning, and attending class consistently, putting your studies first, and reaching out to your professors when you need help – are critical factors to success in the freshman year and beyond. They provide you with the foundation to excel in your college courses and build confidence in your ability to manage yourself.