College is not simply a continuation of high school. For one, college will usually take a lot more work. Further, much of the work is independent and self-directed. Therefore, succeeding in college will require a different set of skills, a different work ethic, and longer work hours. Ultimately, a ‘more of the same’ strategy (using the same work methods you used in high school) will not generally lead to a successful outcome.
Develop a Strong Work Ethic
In college, be prepared to work hard, to work independently, and (importantly) to work smart. It might seem, at first glance, that college will require fewer hours of work than high school. High school students spend about thirty-five or forty hours a week in a classroom. Typical college students, on the other hand, spend about twelve to fifteen hours a week engaging in classroom instruction. However, classroom time is only the beginning of college instruction. More of the instruction occurs through self-directed study. For every hour of classroom instruction, expect between one and three hours of homework.
While it might seem obvious, it bears mentioning: attend class, each and every class if possible. Avoid skipping classes, and only miss for illness or other emergencies. Students will often assume that they can get what they need from the textbook and so fail to attend class; however, often class lectures or discussions will cover material that is not specifically discussed in the text. Also, it is not just class content that you will miss if you skip a class; you will also miss explanations of the content (which can be essential for a student who is struggling to comprehend complex concepts), important assignment announcements, instructions for successful completion of assignments, and test dates.
Organize a Work Schedule
Develop a Good Work-Life Balance
Work to eliminate or at least reduce stress as much as possible. (See “Reducing Stress.”) While your priority should always be academics, it is good to cultivate a balanced experience, allowing time for fun, relationships, and enriching experiences. Schedule time for these sorts of activities, if necessary. Consider rewarding yourself for the successful completion of tasks. Developing an extrinsic motivation such as allowing time for a favorite television program after completing homework, or buying yourself a pair of concert ticks as a reward for a good grade on a test is a good way to become your own best motivator.
Get to Know Your Instructors
Introduce yourself on the first day of class. While your instructor might not remember your name immediately, doing so begins the process of becoming acquainted. Participate in class discussions. Many instructors will assign participation grades; therefore, it is in your best interest to be an active participant in classroom discussions, and participating will also help your instructor to know who you are. Attend office hours if you have specific questions about course content. While there may be other resources on campus for getting help, it is generally best to go to the course instructor first, as the professor will be better able to outline course expectations and to explain key course concepts. If you have an emergency, let the instructor know as soon as possible. If you need an extension on a deadline for an assignment or need to schedule a make-up exam because of an emergency, ask ahead of time, not on the date an essay is due or on the test date. However, never assume that the extension or opportunity for a make-up is guaranteed. Many instructors will refuse, so it is best to make these sorts of requests as infrequently as possible and only for genuine emergencies. However, an instructor who knows you and who knows your situation may be more willing to work with you.