Freshman 15: Tips for Academic Success

While it’s important to know how to socialize in college, how to be a good roommate, and how you’re going to pay for schooling, when it all comes down to it, college is about learning. And while there may not be quite such a big push for high GPAs and test scores in college, it’s still crucial that you do well academically, as that can impact many other factors about your college life and future.

So, here’s some advice that I learned the hard way during my first year of college. Learn from my experience, so you know what to do when it comes time for yours!

1. Go to class.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, or how many times I’ll say it in the future, but going to all of your classes is seriously important. I know (believe me, I know) how tempting it may be to blow off a class that doesn’t take attendance, or that you just don’t feel is important. It can be especially difficult to convince yourself to go to class if you get stuck with a bad professor or the class isn’t how you thought it would be. And I’m not saying you have to have perfect attendance, I know there will be sick days, accidents, or “mental health” days, and those are okay. But I also know it can snowball quite quickly once you realize that you can get away with not being there. Because at first, it doesn’t seem like it has much of an impact on anything. Next class period you get the notes from someone, you go about your business, no harm no foul. But it’s what happens after that that is key – because if you continue to miss classes, eventually it will come back to bite you. Skipping a class period here or there may not be the end of the world, but when you start be absent more than you are present, it becomes a problem. Remember, you’re paying to take these classes for the sake of your future, so treat them like the investment they are and just go to class.

2. Meet your professors.

Another thing you will hear a lot and probably ignore is that you should go meet all your professors at their office hours early on in the semester. I know I didn’t think this was important last year; I figured I would connect with them in class, and that would be all I needed. But college courses are a lot different than high school. You might only see a certain professor once a week, and they might have upwards of a thousand other students to be concerned about, not to mention their own work and research (because most professors aren’t there solely to teach you). In a lecture hall of 600 students, you may not care if the professor knows who you are by more than where you sit every Tuesday. But when it comes down to crunch time (aka midterms), or your first test score isn’t anywhere close to where you thought it would be, you’re going to want to connect with the prof. And trust me, instructors will be much more inclined to help out a familiar face, or to offer some resources or suggestions that might benefit you more than if they’ve never seen you before (this also goes back to the being present in class thing, because professors aren’t going to help someone who doesn’t go to class). Plus, getting friendly with your instructors can lead to research, fellowship, or senior project opportunities down the road, as well as wonderful letters of recommendation for jobs or scholarships.

3. Study the bulletin.

I know the last thing you want is to do more studying, but it’s important to be familiar with the policies and guidelines your school has as far as credits, general education courses, major requirements, and anything else you need to get your diploma. At my school, we were required to fill out a four year academic plan of which courses we were hoping to take as part of an honors course I took. We plotted what we would need to fulfill our majors, degrees, university guidelines, and much more. A majority of the students weren’t required to do this, and it seemed like a pain at the time, but looking back on it, I can’t honestly understand how anyone who doesn’t complete this exercise gets along. I consult my plan for everything, rearranging sticky notes and studying my course guide whenever there are any changes. Most colleges have their academic bulletin online or in print in the registrar’s office or somewhere on campus, so I recommend picking up a copy and becoming familiar with it.

4. Visit your advisers.

These are the people who will help you along the way with any questions you might have during your college career. They can definitely help you with the previous step, and are always on hand to assist in charting out your path and making sure you’re on track to graduate. Make sure you take the time to get acquainted with them, and to visit them at least once a semester. They’ll help with everything from which classes to take to what you should major in if you find yourself having an existential crisis (those happen often in college, don’t worry).

There are plenty of resources on hand to ensure that you are academically successful in college. Take the time to become acquainted with what your university has to offer, it can do nothing but good in the long run.