Be aware of your surroundings.
Know your school inside and out. Look at their website, and read their calendar and any available newsletters. Learn your way around, gain access to the school directory for easy access to various contacts. Make sure you are set up with a student email, that you are on the roster for each class, and that you know where to go if you have a problem with your financial aid, meal plans, etc. Learn about safety measures taken to protect you on campus and where to go if you are in danger or have an emergency. Find out if you need a card to get into buildings and when you need to buy your books, return them, or register for graduation. Find out when and where to sign up for clubs or what kind of perks you can get with your student ID, if they have discounts for public transportation, museums, sporting events, etc.
Once you are enrolled in a school, you become a part of it. So, make sure you are a part of it.
Go to classes prepared.
Starting on your first day of class, come prepared. Have the right supplies and books with you. Engage in the lectures, and ask questions. Complete your assignments on time. Be ready for quizzes and tests. Read ahead in the syllabus so that you have knowledge of what’s to come. All of this will aid in a good grade and is a practical use of your time.
Become familiar with your professors.
Being a teacher’s pet in college is absolutely necessary, especially in a big school with large class sizes. Get to know your teacher by asking questions during class and by visiting him or her during office hours. The more the professor is familiar with you, the easier it will be for him or her to help you when you get stuck or mentor you in your chosen field of study.
Be responsible when socializing.
There are too many distractions in the life of a college student. Things like part-time (or even in some cases full-time) jobs, family, friends, and the social life will all want your attention. Before you know it, you’re drained and unable to focus on the very reason why you enrolled in college to begin with. Learn to prioritize and attend parties and other social events in moderation. There is nothing wrong with having fun, but always remember that your education is the main reason that you are in college.
Continue learning year round.
Summer is a tempting time to forget about school altogether, but year long learning will be to your benefit. Take on a summer internship or job relating to your field of study. Take summer school if you have fallen behind on your course load. Read books on topics that interest you. Research opportunities and experiences that you can try that fit your budget. If you are in a creative field, such as art or writing, work on your craft to build a portfolio for potential employers. You will feel that you have made the most of your summer versus vegging out until it’s time to go back to class.
Decide on a major, and stick with it.
Decide on a major as soon as possible so you don’t have to waste your time chasing frivolous endeavors. College is expensive. The faster you decide on a major, the faster you can leave college, and the less money you will spend on classes you don’t need. If you decide to change majors, do it early and find out in advance what classes you need to take to graduate on time. Take summer classes to catch up if need be. If you have the opportunity, take some transferable courses at a community college where credits are cheaper.
Don’t hesitate to seek help.
This is tough for some people. Asking for help can sometimes seem like a sign of weakness. Do not fall into this false belief! In college, you will need to ask for help and ask often. Again, spend time with your teachers during office hours, or join a study group. If you know early on that you are taking a class that you cannot pass, drop it, and save yourself the stress of trying to squeak by with a passing grade.
Don’t keep your hands too full & know your limits.
College will give you many opportunities to do many things whether it’s a fraternity, sport, club, volunteer work, etc. The trick is to know what you can take on beforehand. If you are a full time student, you won’t be able to do everything you want to do. You can become stressed, which will lower your productivity and enjoyment of your activities. You might not be able to give each activity their required attention, making you unreliable, which will force you to have to quit later on. Even worse, if your grades start to drop, you could be in danger of being kicked out of school, dropping out, or losing scholarship and financial aid. An employer would rather see you excel in your studies and one or two activities throughout your career than see a resume filled with activities that you couldn’t fully devote to accompanied by a weak GPA.
Employ effective time management.
Time is valuable. Once spent, you can’t get it back. Don’t procrastinate, but don’t overdo it either. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to activities that take too much of your time with little benefit to you. Learn how to take advantages of breaks in the day to accomplish small tasks or squeeze in some rest from all of your hard work.
Utilize resources included in your school's activity fee.
For many colleges, the activity fee associated with your tuition enables you to use certain college facilities such as the library, the gym or recreation center, fields, conference rooms, etc. Familiarize yourself with what your college offers you, and use it for both work and recreation to help you study easier and keep fit.
Take organized notes.
Designate a notebook for each class, and use them to keep your notes for each class organized and together. Date each day’s notes so that you know which lecture they pertained to. Highlight keywords so that you can find them easily while studying. Use bullet points, roman numerals, and hyphens to group similar thoughts together. If you take notes on a laptop, create a similar filing system to keep your notes for each class all together.
Stay fit and healthy.
Eating healthy, exercising, and getting ample sleep is a must when going through the rigors of college life as it will help you cope with stress. Run around the university or park; use the Rec Center; take up yoga or Zumba; or go on hiking expeditions with your friends.
Keep in touch with family.
Don’t let the rigors of college keep you away from your family. Healthy family interactions will help you cope with the stresses of college. If you live on campus, give your family a call once or twice a week, and try to visit them during breaks. If you live at home, make a point to come out of your room during study breaks, eat dinner with them, or watch a movie together to recharge and get away from your college duties for a little while.
Manage your finances wisely.
Not everyone has the luxury of a full college education funded by family or scholarships. Some end up working part time jobs and applying for student loans just to get through college. Even those whose tuition fees are paid for by their families sometimes still opt to work so that they have extra money to spend. Budgeting expenses and avoiding unnecessary expenditures is highly essential if you’re determined to survive in university life and graduate with as little debt as possible. Your future self will thank you.
Master your study techniques.
Everybody learns differently. Some people learn visually, some audibly, some are hands-on learners, etc. Pinpoint your learning style, and tailor your studying technique to fit this style. If that means taking the time to make flashcards before each test, recording a reading of your notes to playback to yourself later, or setting up a study session with friends, make sure to factor in this preparation as part of your study time.
Nurture professional connections and friendships.
In this world, your success will greatly depend on your connections. Start early, establishing friendly and professional relationships with professors, coaches, employers, and even others in your field. Swap e-mails, social media invites, phone numbers, etc. in order to stay in touch. Don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation letter, job opportunities, collaboration, or guidance. Your future job will probably come from someone you know.
Organize your schedule.
Organization is important, especially when it comes to your schedule. Make a point to keep a planner filled with important dates and special events marked clearly. Update it each semester as you receive your syllabus for each class so that you will know how much time you have to complete each assignment. Also, include your work schedule, internship days, activity schedule, and personal events so that you can juggle everything evenly.
Participate in extracurricular activities.
We alluded to this point earlier in the list, but extracurricular activities are important to your college experience. Not only will they give you an opportunity to learn new skills, but they will also enable you to make new connections with other people (and as you already know, connections are important). Potential employers will often note these activities on your resume to use as talking points during an interview, so make sure you have something on there to discuss.
Hone your writing skills.
Writing is a skill that you absolutely need to perfect, and not just for school papers. Future employers may ask to see a writing sample from you which will demonstrate the mastery of your writing skills (and could make or break the opportunity for a job). If you struggle with writing, get help. Find a tutor, read books on writing, or watch videos on the subject. You will not make it out of college without writing papers, and you won’t be as valued in the workforce without being able to produce a decent piece of writing.
Read, read, and read.
No matter what your major, you will be reading a ton. Professors will sometimes assign an entire novel, collection of essays, or several hundred pages of a textbook to read and be ready to discuss by your next class. Don’t skip those assignments. You can read just about anywhere, and you don’t want to be lost when your next lecture is based on the material that you were assigned.
Don't get overwhelmed.
Pick and choose your classes and activities based on what you can handle. Also, factor in additional tasks such as work and rest. Plan out your days, weeks, and months every semester so that you know what you are up against, and balance out your workload so that there is time to accomplish everything that you have to do. Also, prioritize each task based on what is most important to accomplish each semester and what can be pushed back to a later date.
Take advantage of pre-owned & rental books.
Books are really expensive. Be frugal about college books, and try not to purchase brand new books. Instead, look for used books. If you purchase your books two to three weeks before classes start, you may be able to find them online for a significantly cheaper price than the book stores on campus charge. While you can sell your books back to the book stores at the end of each semester, they will not take certain books back, and you will only receive a fraction of the cost of the books that they will take back. Also, check to see if your campus bookstore has a book rental program where you can rent the books for a cheaper fee than the book costs and not have to worry about selling them back at the end of the semester.
Contrary to how it is portrayed in movies, college is not an endless party. It means getting yourself to class on time, doing your homework, and setting goals for yourself. Make sure that you are taking advantage of the opportunities that come with a college education. Find out what you want to do with your degree, which clubs/sports/activities you want to join, and what type of people you want to meet. Then, tackle these goals with full force. This is the time when you have to start making adult-level decisions for yourself. Make sure you make responsible ones.
Take your internship seriously.
It’s wrong to assume that an internship is nothing more than a requirement to breeze through in order to earn your degree and find a “real” job. Experience is crucial in the workforce, and a strong performance in the internship could be the key towards a future job with their company, a referral to another company, or a strong reference for a job that you find yourself. Treat it seriously. In the end, it could mean more than your GPA.
Learn how to learn.
One of the main goals of a college is to teach you how to learn. This means exposing students to topics that they may not be familiar with and teaching them different ways of absorbing information or finding the answers to the questions they are asked. Take these new learning concepts and apply them to future classes, and later, at your job, in order to get the most out of your college experience. Not only that, it will help you earn a passing grade.