Friday, October 3, 2008

Characteristics of Successful College Students

College can be an overwhelming and intimidating experience for even the best student. What characteristics do the most successful college students have? Below are some traits and skills that will help a student have a happy and successful college experience.

1. They have good time management skills

Learning to balance school, a social life, and extracurricular activities is one of the most important things a college student can learn. The sooner a student learns this skill, the better. I recommend setting a specific place and time to study for each class. Don't procrastinate, because some things cannot be completed in one night. Review your notes immediately after every class and start studying for each test several weeks in advance.

2. They are persistent
There will be some courses that make you want to change your major, if not quit college altogether. Successful college students realize this and are able to keep their long-term goals in mind. This is particularly hard if you sailed through high school with straight A's and are being academically challenged for the first time in your life. It's easy to think you are stupid and give up. The truth is that very few people can get through college without intensive studying for many of their classes. You may even have to retake a class. Don't let it get you down. You are not a failure and it happens to more people than you think. Just learn from your mistakes and try again.

3. They talk to their professors and instructors
I've always been intimidated by teachers, especially college professors. What if they ridicule my questions? What if they brush me off? Professors can be dismissive and rude (it's happened to me several times), but that shouldn't keep you from talking to them because most are very approachable and willing to help. You just have to let hurtful comments and bad attitudes roll off of your back. It probably has nothing to do with you personally, they may just be under a lot of stress. Find the professors who are approachable and talk to them. It helps to establish relationships with your professors because they can provide a good reference or write a letter of recommendation for you when you are applying to graduate school or looking for a job.

4. They are able to enjoy this stage in life, while preparing for the next
College should be a time to have exciting experiences, to mature, and to learn things about yourself. You have the freedom that you didn't have in high school, but you don't have the responsibilities that you'll have after graduation. Have fun, make friends, study abroad, take interesting classes, and enjoy being young. However, you should also start to develop a plan about what career path you'll take. Do you want to go to graduate school? Maybe you want to find an internship or get a part-time job that will relate to your future career. Keep a current resume and update it at least once a semester. Also, save all of your papers and projects so that you can look back on what you've accomplished.

5. They get involved
While getting my first bachelor's degree, I studied, studied, studied, and ruminated over my GPA. Other students were having a good time, going to parties and participating in campus organizations. I graduated with honors, but those four years are a blur because there was nothing to break the monotony of studying and going to classes. Sure, I was a member of several honor societies and volunteered occasionally, but I didn't have fun and I certainly didn't feel like a part of something.

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