College Study Do's and Don'ts: Tips for Thriving in College

For many college students, achieving academic success in college is quite different than academic success in high school. Here are key do's and don'ts -- proven studying tips to survive and thrive in college.

Even the best high school students often arrive to college unprepared for the rigors of their college curriculum. They face a much faster pace, multiple deadlines, more assignments and homework, and much more reading in college than in high school. In fact, many studies show that most h igh school graduates are simply not prepared for college... and once in college, many are not prepared to succeed.

To help students with this growing problem, we present our top tips for succeeding academically in college... our college study do's and don'ts.

Do take responsibility for your success or failure at college. In college, you control your fate, and the more you work at your studies and the more you actively participate in your classes, the higher the probability for academic success. If you don't take college serious and don't study to the level you need, don't blame others for your weak academic performance.

Do set reasonable -- and achievable -- academic goals each semester. Push yourself to perform at your highest level, butdon'tmake those goals so high that fall into a downward spiral.

Do buy a planner and/or develop a system for keeping track of all your assignments, readings, and papers -- most of which you can get from the syllabus of each course you're taking. And do invest in some time management education if you do not have much experience juggling multiple demands on your time (including classes, homework, friends, clubs, sports, social gatherings, group meetings, etc.)

Don't expect your college professors to be anything like your high school teachers. The best students take the time to learn what each professor expects from students -- and then devise a plan to live up to those expectations.

Do take time to review your current studying strengths and weaknesses. By understanding yourself better, you'll be able to maximize your strengths while overcoming -- or at least minimizing -- your weaknesses.

Do develop a regular time to study and read your textbooks, but don't make that time late at night or while lying in bed. Anddofinish the readings that are assigned for each class -- so you can be better prepared for understanding and questioning the lectures and participating in discussions.

Do develop a good note-taking system -- both for reading assignments and for class lectures. Find a system that works for you, such as outlining, or develop your own.

Do consider breaking up your studying into smaller chunks throughout the day; you'll face less burnout, have more time flexibility, and retain more information by doing so.

Don't get in the habit of skipping classes. Attending class is a critical component of learning the material -- and class notes are often a key part of studying for exams.

Do find a study system that works for you, but don't make it cramming the night before. There are numerous study techniques, such as outlining, flash cards, study groups, etc., and you need to find the one -- or the combination -- that works best for you foreachsubject.

Do start researching, planning, writing, and editing papers well in advance of the deadline, and do seek the assistance of the professor if you are having a hard time getting started with the paper. Don't hand in a paper straight from the printer that you have not edited and proofread at least once.

Do seek out assistance when you find yourself struggling. Besides the professor and your classmates, most colleges have an academic support center that typically offers assistance in learning how to study, time management, and note-taking, as well as tutoring for a variety of subjects (including English, math, and foreign languages).

Don't study for the sake of studying. Putting more time into studying will not help you achieve better grades; instead, you need to study smarter.

Do ask your professors for copies of old tests and papers or projects. Some professors keep old exams on reserve at the library -- or even on their Websites. Having an idea of what to expect is extremely useful in studying. For major papers and projects, again, it's useful to see how the professor grades these types of assignments.

Do attend any review sessions the professor offers -- especially before the first test -- and do study beforehand so you can ask questions you still may have about the material.

Do find a way to balance studying with all the other things that college offers. The best students blossom in college -- both personally and academically.

Don't compare your academic performance to anyone else. Each person is unique, and comparing yourself to others just sets you up for disappointment -- or worse, failure.

Do live a healthy lifestyle -- getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. In fact, some of our best students say the key to their success is diet and exercise.

Don't panic if your grades are not where you hoped or expect them to be, but do develop a plan of action (seeking help from your professors or academic support center) to improve your grades.

Final Thoughts on Learning and Studying in College

You'll learn more in college than you expect -- and sometimes the learning will not be reflected in the grade you receive. As long as you follow the study skills advice in this article, you should be well on your way toward academic success.

Finally, let me leave you with one the philosophy of one of my favorite former students. Her mantra? "Work hard to play hard." And that's what college is all about -- learning new subjects and preparing for a career and lifelong learning, but also having fun as you transition into adulthood and discover who you really are and what you want from life.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key academic terms by going to our College Success Glossary

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He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

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