Surviving and thriving in college: Top tips to make the most out of it

It’s your first year of college and you are both excited and scared!

Published: Updated:

It’s your first year of college and you are both excited and scared! The wonderful thing about college is that you have more control over your schedule, more flexibility in general, and most of the classes will be of interest to you.

Unlike in high school when you had to take a bunch of subjects, some of which may have bored you to death and you could see no relevance they had to your life, most of your classes in college will be related to the major of your choice.

And in college you will have a lot more resources to learn than your average high school had, such as a huge library, labs, student services, free tutoring sessions, computers and laptops with internet access, and much more.

However, the larger class sizes, unfamiliar faces, trying to arrive on time for classes across spacious campuses, greater responsibilities, and the high expectations that professors have of students, may seem overwhelming at first.

According to American College Testing (ACT), one in every four college students drops out before completing their second year of college, but that should not be the case for you.

With a positive attitude, a resolve to work hard and take studying seriously, and following some of the success tips mentioned below, the coming years may be the best years of your life.

From a wide variety of sources; college students and professors, student organizations, and the US College Board, these college survival tips will help you get through your first year and every year with flying colors.

• Always go to class. Although some professors do not take attendance, it is extremely important for your own success. Whether or not your professor cares if you attend or not, you should care.

You never know when the professor will drop a crucial test hint or offer an assignment for extra credit or change a due date.

• Get Organized. In high school, teachers reminded you of homework deadlines and exam dates. In college, the professors post assignments on the syllabus at the beginning of the semester, and it is up to you to keep track and be prepared. Buy an organizer or a planner, use an app, or get a big wall calendar to take note of when your assignments are due.

• Don’t procrastinate; prioritize your life. It may have been easy in high school to wait until the last minute to complete an assignment and still get a good grade, but that will not work in college. Give yourself deadlines -- and stick to them.

• Make sure your professor knows your name. Putting a face with a name will be a big help, especially if your grade is borderline or if you run into a tight spot later on in the semester.

Most professors schedule office hours for the sole purpose of meeting students and helping them – take advantage of these opportunities.

• Get to know your academic adviser. This is the person who will help you with course conflicts, adding or dropping courses, scheduling of classes, and deciding on your major.

This person is a key resource for you -- and should be the person you turn to with any academic issues or conflicts.

• Sit near the front of the class to avoid distractions.

• Take clear, short notes in class; long messy notes will not be helpful. Put a date and title on the top of each page; that makes it easier to find the notes that you need when you need them.

• Focus and concentrate on the main points of the lecture, write them down. Pay attention to the instructor’s clues of what he/she thinks is important.

• If there is something you don’t understand, ASK!

• Immediately after the lecture, try to recall as much as you can about what you have learned in class. Repeat it to yourself. Take just 15 minutes to review the notes you took – that helps you store the information in your memory.

• Find the ideal place to study. Your study space should be quiet, comfortable, and free from distractions; the library, study hall, or your room at home. Get rid of the clutter on your desk space.

Make sure you have enough room and easy access to everything you need for studying: books, notes, extra paper, index cards, highlighters, different colored pens, sticky notes, pencils, calculator, etc...

• Try to use an active study method such as making flashcards, making a table, drawing a mind map or diagram, highlighting important parts of the text, writing your own quizzes, or taking a quiz on-line.

It’s a lot less boring and a lot more effective than just looking at your book.

• Take advantage of the study resources on campus. Colleges have learning labs and tutors available. If you’re having trouble, these resources are available to you to help you succeed.

• Regularly back up your files; Dropbox makes this easy.

• Take a speech class, even if you don’t have to. Communication skills are among the most important things future employers are looking for.

• Stay healthy. Exercise and eat right; plenty of fruits and vegetables, low fat proteins like chicken and fish, and whole grains.

• Get involved on campus. Most colleges have a wide range of student organizations that you can get active with. Some are career oriented, some do charity work, and some clubs are fun such as a chess club.

Other clubs can take part in spreading awareness on important issues such as racism, understanding cultures, or women’s rights.

• Seek a balance. You want to succeed academically, but you also want to have an enjoyable social life. If you tip the balance too far in either direction, you will run into problems; find a balance.

• Make time for you. Be sure you set aside some time for activities that help you relax and take the stress out of your day or week. It can be exercise, relaxation techniques, soaking in a warm bath, watching your favorite television shows, or going out for lunch with a friend.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 3, 2015.