The Pathway to College Success

Posted: November 2, 2018 1:00:00 PM CDT

Adult hidden behind booksBy: Dayton Sealey

College is tough. You have nobody to tell you when to do something or how to do it. You are free to spend your time how you please. You will either succeed or fail, and you are the only one in control of the path you take. Some students spend every night at the library, while others are out partying. No matter the person, it is a stressful time for everyone, but college can also be the best time of your life. Here are four simple tips to help you be a successful college student.

  1. Show up to every single class. The reality is that almost every college student will skip class at least once. Once you miss one class and you survive, you begin to think that you can keep doing it, and it won’t catch up to you. One study showed that the percentage of absent students could be up to 40%, and I am confident this number has only increased with the amount of distractions we have today. This same study revealed that on average, if a student increased their attendance by 10%, their final exam grades showed an increase by a standard deviation of 0.17 (Dobkin, Gil, & Marion, 2010). That may not seem like much of an increase, but the numbers add up. Do not underestimate the power of simply showing up, being attentive, asking questions, and making sure the professor knows who you are. These things all go hand in hand with going to class and can make your time in class worth it.

  2. Get involved. Getting involved is probably the most important aspect of being successful in college. The more involved you are, the easier life will be. This doesn’t mean that you have to join every club and organization on campus. Rather, try to find at least one group that genuinely interests you. One of the best avenues to go down when searching for organizations to join is one that relates to your major. These organizations set you up with people in your same classes, who you will know and have class with for the rest of your college experience. The more organizations you join, the better. More groups mean more people, more people mean more connections, and these connections are what can make you successful not only in college, but in life.

  3. Use a planner. I know you may think using one is a waste of time, and that you would never forget when an assignment was due. However, using a planner is quick and easy and the few seconds it takes to write down an assignment could save you a world of shame when the teacher is collecting papers and your hands are empty. Planners aren’t only so you don’t forget what is due, but they also give you a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Planners can not only increase grades, but can also improve organization skills, stress levels, and time management (Kim, 2014).

  4. Divide up tasks. This idea, known as distributed practice, not only makes it easier for our brain to retain information, but it also makes studying more manageable. For example, if you have a chapter test on a Friday, you may want to study an hour Monday night, then 30 minutes Tuesday night, and then back to an hour on Wednesday. The night before the test, it is important to study, but not to cram too much material. It is much better to review the things you know, and then focus on studying the difficult topics. One study found that for any given class, two short study blocks per week might be enough to begin studying new material and to restudy previously covered material (Dunlosky, 2013). By breaking up the material, you no longer must block out 4 hours in one night to cram for a test but can instead chip away at the material throughout the whole week. This same strategy works for anything you need to get done that may take some time. So, divide it up and stay motivated. If you tell yourself, “I need to work on this for the next 30 minutes then I am done.”, then you are likely to feel a lot more motivated to put in quality work; compared to if you were about to dive into a 4-hour shift of writing a paper due the next morning.


Dobkin, C., Gil, R., & Marion, J. (2010). Skipping class in college and exam performance: Evidence from a regression discontinuity classroom experiment. Economics of Education Review, 29(4), 566-575. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2009.09.004

Dunlosky, J. (2013). Strengthening the student toolbox: Study strategies to boost learning. American Educator, 37(3), 12-21.

Kim, S. H. (2014). Evidence-based (simple but effective) advice for college students: Microaction and macrochange. The Mentor. Retrieved from

By: Dayton Sealey

Category: General, Psychology

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