10 Tips if You Are Going (or Returning) to College

Aug 22

College is not high school.  Nope, not even close.  Some students never figure that out or they learn it too late to get the most out of the college experience.  To help you succeed and prepare for the career you want in the real world, here are 10 practical tips.

1. Kick the soda and chips habit.  No joke. The “freshman 15” first-year weight gain is not a myth. Once you’re in college, with unlimited access to junk food, it’s easy to pack on the pounds. You’ll feel sluggish, be less healthy, and have to spend money on new clothes (not to mention fast food).  And it’s much harder to lose extra weight once you’ve gained it.

2. Sit in the front of class.  New college students, often shocked to find themselves in lecture classes with hundreds of students, gravitate to back rows where the temptation to send text messages and play with smartphones is irresistible. Students who sit up front pay more attention to the professor and get better grades.

3. Find exercise you like.  A healthy body and a healthy mind lead to better grades. However, most people who start an exercise program don’t stick with it. Find something you like to do, even if it’s just taking long walks with a friend. If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to keep it up. And when you’re feeling good, you’ll be able to study and concentrate better.

4. Buy (and read) your textbooks—but smartly!  Lots of students think they can get by without buying books or by occasionally borrowing a friend’s copy.  Inevitably their grades are lower than they’d be if they actually read the assigned material. Yes, new textbooks can be expensive, but there are more choices than ever before. Options include used books, textbook rental programs, e-textbooks, and open textbooks from Flat World Knowledge that offer free online access – every chapter, every word.

5. Sleep.  College students like to stay up late and then either cut morning classes or drowse through them missing out on much of their value.  Again, a healthy body equals a healthy mind. Students who get enough sleep get better grades and are sick less often.

6. Speak up.  Ask questions, join in discussions, and get to know your instructors. Not only will your grades improve but you’ll find classes more enjoyable than sitting passively trying to look interested.

7. Stick to a budget.   Manage your spending by setting a monthly budget, one that includes paying off credit cards every month. More students drop out of college because of debt than for poor grades or other reasons. Much of what everyone spends on a daily basis can be significantly reduced with some planning and thinking about where the money goes. Even the little things, like packing a lunch instead of buying one on campus, can add up to make a huge difference.

8. Learn to take good notes.  Even if you coasted through high school, to succeed in college you need to pay attention and be able to remember and use the information later. Several good note-taking systems have been developed for efficiently taking (and later using) notes both in class and when reading.

9. Enrich your social life.  College is so much more than going to classes and studying.  But students who hang out with the same group in the dorm or fraternity or sorority can end up missing out on much of what makes the college experience unforgettable. Make a little effort to experience the diversity of students on campus: join clubs, attend activities, and talk to different students in your classes. You’ll have a lot more fun and be better prepared for the real world after college.

10. Learn how to take tests. Taking tests is an important part of college since in most classes the final grade is determined from test results. Unfortunately, many students simply are not prepared for the more difficult tests they’ll encounter. Developing good test-taking tactics will go a long way toward making the grade.

There you have it.   Pay attention and enjoy the ride; college will be over before you know it.

Tom’s popular textbook, College Success, is published by Flat World Knowledge, which means students can read every chapter online for free and offline for affordable prices.

Tom Lochhaas

About Tom Lochhaas

Tom Lochhaas is a teacher, writer, editor and consultant. He received his MFA in writing from the University of Arizona and his ABD in English at Washington University. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has taught at the University of Arizona, Otterbein College, Washington University and UCLA.

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