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Back to School | Success at College | September 2012

Success at College: 5 Strategies for You

By Dean Tsouvalas |

Here’s to your success at college. Whether you’re in your first semester at college or almost through your college career, here are five proven strategies to help make the most out of your educational experience. One of my favorite aspects of learning is gaining insight into smart decision making and developing skills to be successful. I use these strategies in my daily life (or at least try to) as well as try to instill these values in my children. Make the most of your experience, visualize yourself conquering challenges and creating success at college.

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1. Learn how to say “NO.”
Saying “no” can be one of the biggest challenges for first-year students. Join a Sorority? Awesome! Social Media Working Group? Cool! Midnight run for pizza? Definitely! The problem with saying “yes” to everything means that, inevitably, you will burn out. You will be exhausted and overcommitted. You will be stressed, get acne breakouts and fall behind. One of the most important skills to have success at college is the ability to say “NO.” It’s perfectly OK to miss a club meeting or decide you can’t attend an event because you have to study for a midterm. No one will be mad if you say “no” when first asked. But folks might get mad if you say “yes” and then bail. (This is true in the professional world as well.)

2. Academics take priority Go to all your classes. You’re in college to graduate. Sure, the social life might be fun and you love the freedom. But the ultimate goal is to graduate. Academics should always be one of your highest priorities. It’s much easier to catch up with your friends than it is to catch up with your classes. College is an investment in yourself, your education, your career, and your future – and where and how you spend your time should reflect that.  

3. Use a time-management system.
You got into your college because you have a great brain -- so figure out what exactly your amazing brain needs in order to stay on top of your schedule.
Who cares what kind of time-management system you have - as long as you have one and use it. Online calendars (like iCal or Google Calendar) may work best because you can access them at any time. They can be updated from class or your favorite coffee and cupcake joint, can be synced to your phone and can’t easily be lost. But an old school paper calendar is better than no calendar at all.  

4. Review and get sleep

Take copious notes during class and then review your notes before you go to sleep. If you review your notes the same day you take them, you increase your recall of what you studied six times longer than if you didn’t. One of my favorite nuggets is to get 8 hours of sleep. Why? According to a study, the hippocampus in your brain transfers memory from short term memory to long term memory right around the 6 ½ hour mark.

5. Get ready to deal with new stress
Take care of yourself. You may unexpectedly flunk a quiz, think your roommate smells or just get overwhelmed. Your support system has changed. Discover activities that alleviate stress and provide joy, such as exercise, meditation, social activities and hobbies. Usually when people feel overworked and burned out they lose these things. Making 30 minutes for these activities can help students (and employees) regain their focus and competitive edge because people feel better after they do something they enjoy.

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