The first semester of college can be a difficult transition for many students. Newly graduated 18-year-olds often think that the same things that helped them succeed in high school will create a plan for success in college. While some of the tricks of high school will help, college asks much more of students than high school does and there is often a bit of culture shock for new students.
Likewise, adults who have been out of school for a long time might feel just as lost. Most adults who are returning to school have been in the workforce for some time and often are looking for a change of career. In the current economic times, schools are also seeing a surge in students who are unemployed and are looking to gain a new skill set to bring to the job market with them.
Whether you are a new high school graduate or an adult returning to school, these five tips will help anyone succeed in college.
- Be present: It sounds so simple, but many students skip classes thinking that attendance doesn’t matter. Most professors are aware of who their students are and take attendance daily. Not showing up regularly shows your teachers that you don’t care about the daily happenings of the class. Don’t expect your professor to return emails asking what you’ve missed if you haven’t taken the time to show up. Missing class means missing any important discussions or announcements that came up that day. There is no substitute for being in class as much as possible.
- Speak up: Professors (usually) want to hear what their students have to say about the course material. Certain classes are set up to be discussion based classes, and if no one is willing to speak up, the discussion will fall flat. For a class to be interesting and dynamic, it has to have input and insight from a variety of perspectives—this can only happen if everyone in the classroom participates. Students are often hesitant to speak up because they are afraid they might offer a wrong answer. Don’t let this fear stop you. A wrong answer might simply take the class discussion in a new direction and your professor will appreciate your bravery in speaking up.
- Be tech-friendly: Every class has some sort of technological component. Even if this is simply typing a paper for an English class, you’ll need to at least be able to format a document and type with some ease. If you have been out of school for a long time, this might be a tough one, but many campuses have tutoring centers that will help students learn basic computer skills. If you aren’t much of a typist, it may be a good idea to sign up for a computer class early on in your college career so that you can learn basic computing skills. In addition, don’t discount friends and relatives who are tech-savvy. If you can enlist the help of someone you are close to, do so.
- Be punctual with assignments: The professor has set up the class to follow a certain schedule. He or she likely has other classes to keep track of plus other personal or professional responsibilities. In addition, it’s unfair if all of your classmates worked hard to meet a deadline and you are the only one who exceeds the deadline. Don’t expect the professor to adapt the schedule to your needs. In extenuating circumstances, some professors may be willing to grant you an extension on a deadline, but expect that to be the exception, not the rule. This isn’t because professors like to be sticklers; it’s simply because in order to keep themselves organized, professors needs to keep to the schedule that they set for the semester.
- Time management: Most people take several classes during a semester, and if you are a returning student, you likely have work and possibly family responsibilities as well. Even if you don’t have extra drains on your time, students frequently underestimate the time that coursework will take. It’s a good idea to look at the syllabi for all of your classes together and plug the due dates for various assignments into a planner. In addition, budget your time during each week so that you will have time to do your various reading and homework assignments.
Whether you are fresh out of high school or returning to the classroom after many years, college is a hard transition. But there is a lot you can do to help yourself succeed; remember that your professors are individuals and try to adapt yourself to their particular style. They don’t call it the old college try for nothing—keep plucking away and you’ll find your groove.