The Modern Rules of Successful Student

posted by Andy Preisler 11 May 2015

You have entered the hallowed halls of academia – your college education is upon you. And you are looking to make the most of your education, get good grades, and emerge with a degree that will set you on a career path!

In the past, a successful college student was one who faithfully attended class, who listened to lectures and took copious notes, who organized those notes, who would study long hours for tests and exams, and who produced essay and paper assignments as required. A lot of this has not changed. What has changed is that the methods students use to be successful have evolved, and success in school today requires more than just lectures, reading, assignment completion, and test taking. The pace is faster; the expectations are higher; and the need to develop new strategies for success are necessary. With that in mind, here are some great tips on the “modern rules” for success in college.

Basic Rules to Become a Successful Student

  1. Drive: In the past, kids could get college degrees without a huge drive, perhaps because college expenses were relatively low, and those students who went to expensive private schools were often subsidized by their parents or on scholarships. If you are going to borrow money to go to school, you had better have a strong drive; otherwise, opt out for a while until you do have it. The pace is also faster because the base of knowledge is always expanding. To keep that pace will require a real commitment that comes from drive.
  2. Persistence: No one is holding your hand. If you don’t understand something, it’s all on you. Get some tutoring, get online for some extra help, email your professor; get some help from the TA. The class is moving on and you are expected to move on with it.
  3. Support System: Yes, your family and friends will provide support. But they cannot go to class and complete assignments for you. So get an academic support system in place – a study group, a tutoring lab, one other person who is obviously doing well who is willing to help you. A big part of student life is becoming independently responsible for your own needs and taking steps to meet those needs.
  4. Use Technology: Among the biggest of the “new rules” for college success is the use of technology. Your course portals provide your syllabi, methods to engage in discussion groups, and the place where you will submit assignments and take tests. But your own technology must go far beyond that. Find the best apps that will keep you organized (e.g. Evernote), and make use of them daily. In class, video lectures and take pictures of everything that is written on those white boards; get digital copies of your texts whenever possible.
  5. Know When You are in Over Your Head: It happens, even to the best and the brightest. You are overwhelmed, about to drown, and trying to figure out the best ways for preventing a nervous breakdown. Stop and take a breath. Make a prioritized list of what you must get done. Perhaps you need to write essays for several classes and cannot possibly get them done on time; maybe you have two tests coming up and you cannot study for them because of those essays. It’s time to communicate! Email your professors and request extensions on some of those essays; explain your situation; most of them are actually human and will grant those extensions. Remember the old saying, “It is easier to get permission than to get forgiveness.” When you talk to your instructors in advance, they think you are being responsible – that goes a long way!
  6. Consider a Speed Reading Course: These courses sort of fell out of favor for a long time, and they were not taken by college students in years past. With the increased amounts of reading requirements, however, students are looking for ways to read more efficiently while still maintaining comprehension. There are some great courses out there, and you would be wise to consider one if you are consistently behind on your reading assignments.
  7. Find a Reputable Writing Service: Not everyone can write a good college paper 100% of the time, especially when there are multiple other assignments hanging over one’s head. Essay writing services fell into disrepute for many years, because they were little more than “paper mills,” selling the same pieces of writing over and over again. These scammers are still out there, but are rapidly being replaced by professional services that actually employ degreed writers in all academic fields to produce original essays and papers for students in need. Find a good one and use it when the need arises. One of the skills you are developing as a student is to know when you cannot “do it all” and to find ways to delegate tasks to others. Consider it part of your “life training” for your future career!
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