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Critical Tips for How to Succeed In College

The first year of college can be the most challenging. Often, I see clients after the first semester at the holiday break who struggled to the point of considering dropping out. When I began my career working at the university in 1991 (yes…that was a longggg time ago), my passion was for the freshman success. I co-facilitated a pilot course with three other student life professions which ended up becoming an official course. All universities now have a “freshman seminar” or similar required course however these tips are helpful to parents to be a support guide to remind children.

The key to success during your freshman year in college is to establish a strong foundation for your academic, social, and personal life. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your freshman year:

Time Management: Develop good time management skills to balance your academic responsibilities, social activities, and personal life effectively. Use tools like calendars, planners, or time management apps to stay organized and prioritize tasks. This is also an aptitude so understanding how you see time can give context to what you need to do to ensure success.

Attend Classes: Attend all your classes regularly, as they provide essential information and context for your coursework. You wouldn’t think this would need to be mentioned but guess what…it does! I share with students that professors (as a super general statement) do not care if you come to class. They still get paid. They also expect you to know this but as we have all experienced, kids still think that going to class is an option. Active participation and engagement in class discussions can also enhance your learning experience, not to mention shows the professor, if you struggle, that you care enough to show up which leads to my next key to success

Build Relationships: Make an effort to build relationships with professors, advisors, and classmates. Networking can be valuable both academically and professionally, and it can also provide you with a support system during your college journey. Professors want to know you! They went into the profession to educate and normally college professors selected this route because they feel young adults are now at the level they want to be there.

Stay Organized: Keep your notes, assignments, and study materials organized. This will help you manage your coursework more efficiently and reduce stress during exam periods. This is another aptitude. Your ability to organize your thoughts and processes is called sequential reasoning. In addition, every professor feels you should have this skill so understanding the class requirements before the course is too far down the road is critical. Calendars and reminder systems are your best friend…even if you have a high level of organizing information in your head.

Ask for Help: If I could stand on a chair or yell this from the rooftops, I would!! “Self-Advocating” is THE key to college success. I think I may print t-shirts! Don't hesitate to seek help if you're struggling with a subject or having personal challenges. All colleges offer tutoring services, academic advisors, and counseling resources to support students. Asking for help in college is NOT a sign of weakness…it’s a sign you care. It’s a sign you are mature enough to not care you are asking for help. It’s a sign you will succeed. Okay, stepping off the chair.

Get Involved: Participate in extracurricular activities or clubs that interest you. It's an excellent way to make friends, explore new interests, and enhance your resume. If you get involved outside of the classroom, you will learn more there than inside the classroom, I promise. You are not going to remember what you learned in calculus (unless you are a calculus major and just love that incredibly difficult course). But you are going to remember everything you engaged in that built your resume for a career that you will succeed in. I see all the time kids go to college and do nothing. They worked so hard in HS building their college resume, they are burned out and do nothing. But this is when it matters so pick things to get involved with that create your, “Story of Seriousness” for employers. Plus it's fun!

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Prioritize your physical and mental well-being. Get enough sleep, eat balanced meals, exercise regularly, and manage stress through healthy coping mechanisms. Freshman 15 (or more) is a thing but most of all, healthy lifestyles directly relate to mental health which has never been more of a struggle.

Avoid Procrastination: Start assignments and projects early to avoid last-minute stress and produce better-quality work. Also, know your energy level. If you study best in the morning, then don’t try and make your brain work at 10 p.m. at night.

Set Goals: Establish both short-term and long-term goals for your academic and personal growth. Having clear objectives can provide direction and motivation throughout the year. These 4 years are going to go FAST!

Stay Open-Minded: College is a time of exploration and self-discovery. Embrace new experiences, diverse perspectives, and opportunities that come your way.

Balance Social Life and Academics: While socializing is important, don't let it overshadow your academic priorities. Strike a healthy balance between social activities and study time. Like a wonderful family friend mentioned to my daughter when she went off to college, “Remember…your full-time job is college”! It’s a great way to think about it. You can “play hard” (okay, maybe not too hard) but “work hard” too.

Learn from Failures: You are going to fail. Failure can be defined in so many different ways. Failing to one person may be getting a B in a course. Failing to love your roommates at all the first year. Failing to understand a course. It is critical to learn that setbacks and failures are part of life. Use them as opportunities for growth and learning rather than letting them demotivate you. Do not allow them to define the rest of your life!

Explore Career Opportunities: Can’t end this piece without talking about my passion. You are at college to prepare for your career but what I know from statistics is you’ve prepared for the college selection process, not exploring the over 600 careers I help clients learn about. If you or your child begins to express concern over their courses, hence major, hence not knowing what to do…please reach out. I am a specialist in what I do. And I’m committed to helping young adults find where they fit best based on their natural gifts.

Remember, your freshman year can set the tone for the rest of your college experience. It's a time to learn, grow, and enjoy the journey of higher education. Take advantage of the resources available to you and make the most of this exciting time in your life! And most of all, HAVE FUN!

Reeder Consulting: College and Career Paths is a specialist in the career development field and the #1 career counseling company in San Antonio, TX working with clients in all 50 states. We help individuals engage in career and aptitude testing to process information through meaningful conversations and give clarity to the stress of career decisions to Proceed with Confidence.


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