There is no formula for collegiate success. For one, our goals are not the same nor are our journeys toward those goals. What may work for one student may not work for others.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to blindly fumble around before finding success in college. Often, there are common strategies you can employ to put yourself in a position to succeed.
The defining characteristic of college is independence. You have more autonomy over yourself, your decisions and your actions.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this independence is choosing for yourself how you want to spend the rest of your life, as your four years in college will likely have some bearing on your future career.
That is an immense responsibility. Within four years, you will likely have cemented, to some extent, your future.
So find what you love. Find something that you will not only feel comfortable dedicating your life to but also something you would enjoy spending the rest of your life doing.
Don’t commit too early to a major. Try different classes. Figure out what you do and do not like. You may tap into some intellectual curiosity you did not know existed. You may find something so fascinating that your way of thinking changes.
Once you start taking the classes that interest you, you will find college academia becomes so much easier. Even if the classes are harder and the grading tougher, you will enjoy the daily grind and routine studying. Learning will be fun, and that almost always correlates with success.
You will also have independence outside of the classroom. Often, the people who graduate from college with the most meaningful experiences are those who turn what would otherwise be unproductive into something productive. Fill your free time with meaningful engagements and experiences for you.
The best way to do this is to explore clubs and student organizations. If you are interested in writing there will likely be several publication outlets on campus. If you are interested in community building there will almost certainly be service organizations. Even if you are interested in what might seem to be the most esoteric of things there will still likely be something to match your interest.
Many prospective college students equate collegiate freedom and independence with extended partying and alcohol use. For some, this is an inevitable part of the college experience, although there are a significant number of students who choose to abstain. I cannot tell you to avoid drinking altogether; each person makes that choice individually. However, the danger is that the occasional drink becomes more frequent or that partying turns into over-partying.
That, however, doesn’t happen except when time is left unfilled. Joining organizations that match your interests, partaking in important extracurricular activities such as joining university research groups on campus, will keep you from developing unhealthy and, in some cases, what may become dangerous habits and behavior.
In the long run, you won’t remember the number of parties you attended or the number of drinks you were able to drink. You will, however, remember what organizations you were a part of and what you did to positively impact change either on campus or in your community.
As a final remark, find the right balance between education, extra-curriculars and relaxation. Don’t let academics consume you. Don’t overextend yourself with too many activities outside of class. And don’t forget to take a break every now and then. Have fun — in healthy ways — with your friends.