As a pre-med student, I learned a thing or two about getting good grades and being successful in college. In fact, one of the most important things I learned is that good grades aren’t everything to having a successful college career. Over the four or more years you are in college, there will be many twists and turns to navigate. New friends made and old friends lost. Heart break and burgeoning love. How do you cope with it all? Here are five tips I have learned over the years to being successful in college.
1. College = Time Management
When it comes down to it, college is all about time management. If you don’t learn a thing about your major, hopefully you will at least learn something about precious, precious time; and how to manage it. Because unlike high school, in college you never feel like you have enough time. Its a feeling you get used to, so don’t let it get you down. It is helpful to categorize assignments based on how difficult you think they will be. For example, a BioChem exam will probably be very difficult, whereas an English homework assignment will be easy. Then, figure out how much time each difficulty level will require. For example, a BioChem exam may require two weeks of studying whereas English homework may take a couple hours.
Even though your English homework won’t take long, start the night before. Then, if you run into difficulties like an unexpected tough question or poor internet connection, you will have some time to remedy the situation. Things also tend to go much faster in college, so make sure you look for help the second you realize you’re falling behind. Its also important to make time for yourself, taking care of yourself and your emotional well-being is key!
2. Play the System
The fact is, you’re going to be busy in college; especially if you want to do well. Sometimes you will need to play the system a bit to get ahead. While I was an undergrad, I often found myself shuffling assignments and missing some class in an attempt to eek out as much time as I possibly could. My friends would always chide me for getting better scores than them, even though they were “better students” and never missed lectures. I learned that there are “good students”- students who attend every class, color code their notes, and go to every office hour; and there are successful students- students who know how to use their time wisely (read your notes for hours instead of coloring them for hours, trust me).
In order to play the system you have to know the system, very well. Before you start shuffling your schedule and figuring out your priorities, READ THE SYLLABUS! Know it well. Honestly, I would even memorize key areas such as the grading, attendance policy, and schedule (if that sounds too tough- read my next tip).
3. Use Technology to your Advantage
I figured this out late in my college career and it would have saved me many hours and many headaches in my earlier years. Please, take this advice and use technology to your advantage. I use a bluetooth pen, OneNote, OneDrive, and Google Calendar on a daily basis, and they all have saved my butt on multiple occasions. If nothing else you should at least store everything on the cloud, it’s truly a game changer. Forget an assignment at home? No problem, its on the cloud. Need to work on an essay between class but forgot your USB? No worries, its on the cloud. Want to look at notes you took three years ago? There it is, on the cloud (with the help of your bluetooth pen and OneNote of course).
Seriously consider using these modern tools, they will make your life much easier.
4. Hone your Writing Skills
Half the reason I started this blog was so I could continue practicing my writing skills between college and medical school. Quite frankly, I think being a semi-decent writer allowed me to get A’s and B’s when I maybe should have gotten C’s or the occasional D. Professors are much more lenient with your grade when you say the wrong thing well versus when you say the wrong thing poorly. The simple act of being well-spoken will take you far in life, and college is no exception.
5. Walk the Line
In my experience, most people in college either party hard and never study, or study hard and never have fun. There is no real in between, which is a shame because there is so much more to college than just partying or just studying. In fact, neither end of the spectrum will allow you to reach your full potential (especially not being the biggest frat bro of 2019). College is awesome because it provides you so many opportunities to pursue your passions and have fun while doing it. For example, during my Junior year I wanted to join a photography club on campus, but realized there wasn’t one. Instead of convincing myself that I was too busy with studying, I seized the opportunity and created a photography club of my own. This allowed me to meet some amazing people, attend super fun events, and greatly enhance my resume all at the same time. Plus, it didn’t feel like work because I was doing what I loved with my newfound friends.
At the end of the day its a balancing act; on one hand you don’t want to miss out on your whole college experience stuck behind the books, but on the other hand you don’t want to flunk out because of that house party the night before your final. I found that participating in school activities like clubs was a fun was to mediate the two. Also, going to parties occasionally is a good stress reliever and allows you to meet more of your cohort than you typically do in class.
Bonus Tip: Don’t freak out your first semester
I had a sixth tip from the start, but five makes a better title. This tip is super short anyways; are you ready? Don’t freak out your first semester. Its normal to feel overwhelmed when you first start, but try to not let it dissuade you. Everyone feels that way initially- I did, and everyone I’ve talked to about it has. Its normal. College is very different from high school, but you will get used to it over time. And if you don’t do well your first semester, also don’t let that get you down. It’s ok to mess up the first time you do anything; you’re new. What do you expect? figure out what you need to do differently and move on.
Those are my five tips for doing well in college. I hope you learned a thing or two about how it is as an undergrad, and this may be a topic I write on frequently as I have quite a bit of experience on the topic (being a full-time undergrad for five years and a part-time one for a year).
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