Seven Tips on How to Succeed in College

December 19, 2016 by Jeffrey M. Welch

Good students have often been good students for a very long time. Students that struggle can learn how to improve. If you are a rock star student who has been getting A’s since junior high, you probably already know what I am going to share in this article. However, many students struggle, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. These tips are the things that successful students are already doing. If you are struggling or are still trying to learn how to succeed in college, these tips may help you get off to a great start.

1. Follow Directions

How to Succeed in College It is remarkable how many questions a typical professor gets that have already been answered in the assignment instructions. In most cases, your professors have put a great deal of thought into the instructions they give you. Assignments have requirements, and often students do not follow them. Succeeding in college is all about producing the product that you have been asked to deliver. Many students do not read carefully or they try to skim the instructions.

So, before you start the assignment, ask yourself: “What does my professor want me to learn? What are the requirements? How do I demonstrate that I have mastered the required material?” When your paper or project is done, and well before you hit the “turn in” button, ask yourself two more questions: “Is this the product that the professor is expecting to see? Did I meet all of the requirements of the assignment?” If you understand these questions and took the time to reflect on them, not only are you likely do well, you are well on your way to becoming a very successful student.

2. Get to Know the Class Learning Cycle

Every class has a learning cycle. If you want to taste success in college then this is one of the first things you need to figure out when beginning a new course. Many instructors follow a similar pattern, but you must be sure. There may be one or two assignments with different due dates than the rest. Invest the time in week one to make sure you know how your professor is going to run the class. Are most assignments due on Sunday night? Is the discussion board due on a different day? If you are in week 3 or 4 before you figure out your class learning cycle, you have probably already missed out on points that you could have earned.

3. Deadlines Matter, Do Not Ignore Them

In each week, in every university level class, there are likely one or more assignments that are due. Each professor is different. It is important for the learner to get to know the expectations for each class and professor. In some cases, there is a bit of leeway on due dates. However, sooner or later you will encounter a professor that will tell you that even after a minute past the deadline you will earn nothing for an assignment. If this is something you hear from the professor or see in writing, take it very seriously. Students who constantly turn in late assignments will struggle.

4. Don’t Plagiarize, You will be Caught

Plagiarism is unbelievably easy today with all the Internet has to offer. It is also dead-simple to catch students cheating. DON’T DO IT. You will be caught. Instructors at Brandman, and many high schools and colleges, utilize Turnitin.com to root out plagiarism. Academic integrity is one of the most important soft skills that you will learn in college. Employers often cite ethics as an important factor in choosing employees. Start now by becoming an ethical learner, it will make it much easier to become an ethical employee!

5. Understand MLA, APA and Chicago Writing Styles

If you want to be a good writer, you need to get to know MLA, APA, and Chicago Style. Which one is most important for you will depend on your major, but at one time or another there is a good chance you must do a paper in each of the major writing styles. Know which is required for each class you are taking (check the syllabus or course information tab) and present your papers in the correct format. If you want to be a great writer and master each of the three academic writing formats, there is probably no better resource than the “Owl at Purdue” which is available to students worldwide: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

6. Don’t Assume the Expectations of all Professors are the Same

Graduation 2016 Professors each have their own style. They are just different. If you expect them to all be the same, it will not work out well for you. DO NOT ASSUME! Just because things worked one way last term, they may work very differently this term. Be ready for changes. As the student, it is your job to adjust to your professor’s expectations. Your professor will not adjust to yours!

7. If you are Struggling with Writer’s Block, Start Writing Immediately

Students often put off assignments because they don’t know where to start. The answer is deceptively simple: just start! Write something now. Do not wait until the day it is due. If you are suffering from writer’s block, there are many tricks to break you out of this vicious cycle. One of the simplest is to just start writing. Break your prompt down into the different parts and address what you know, then go out and find the answers to the parts you do not know. Students have a common and destructive habit of wallowing in the “I don’t know where to start” phase of a project. Jump in, get something written, and then give yourself the time to go back and edit. You may put words in the document that might not survive the final draft, but that is the point of editing.

Bonus Tip: Editing and Revising

If a student waits until the day an assignment is due, there is no time to edit and revise. No writer who is worth the ink on the page turns in a rough draft. Unfortunately, students do this at universities every day. I know that I did. It may not end your collegiate career, but it will make it much more difficult and frustrating. If you want to be a good student you must put the time in to be a good student. This includes planning sufficient time to reflect on and edit your work. It would be even better if you can get a great writer to critique your assignment before you turn it in. If you are a freshman or sophomore in college, your professors aren’t going to be surprised if there are some errors in your writing. However, by the time you are a senior or graduate student, you should have refined your skills and learned to use grammar and spell-checking so that you turn in papers with almost no errors at all. You can do this, but it doesn’t happen by accident, it happens through purposeful effort on your part and seeking the right help when you need it.

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