As I enter my 30th year of college teaching (mostly at Santa Clara University) I hope that college students are mindful of a few critical rules that will help them succeed in school. For whatever it is worth, here’s my list of top 10 things I wish that all college students would do to get the very most of their higher education experience.
1. Divide the total cost of your college semester (i.e., tuition, books, room and board) by the total number of class sessions you’ll attend during the term to determine the actual cost per class session. It will likely shock you. Now, when you think about skipping class visualize the cash that it takes to attend that session being thrown in the trash or burned in a fire. The message? Don’t skip class...ever!
2. Sit front and center in classes. Avoid sitting in the back or sides of large classrooms if you can avoid it. You’ll be more easily distracted there than in the front.
3. Get to know your professors (even a little bit). Go to office hours, talk with them before or after class, say hello to them on campus. It matters and if you need the benefit of the doubt regarding something or for the professor to give you a break it will more likely happen if they know you and like you.
4. Avoid sleep deprivation. I know it is very hard to get adequate sleep in college but quality research tells us that students in their late teens and early 20s tend to need about 9 hours of sleep each night. If they don’t get it they get into sleep debt and unintended consequences occur that may compromise their mental and physical health as well as their ability to stay awake and alert in class and while studying.
5. Follow government guidelines for alcohol consumption. Males should drink no more than 2 drinks in a day while women should drink no more than 1, with a drink being defined as a 12 oz beer, a 5 oz glass of wine, and 1.5 oz shot of the hard stuff. Don’t binge drink! Research tells us that 20% of college students do in fact binge (i.e., 5 drinks or more at a time)...please don't be one of them!
6. Be careful who you hang out with. Social contagion theory makes clear that we tend to gravitate towards the behaviors and attitudes that we are around. If you live with roommates or have friends who engage in health damaging behaviors, poor attitudes, bad study habits, and so forth you’ll develop these bad habits and attitudes over time too.
7. Don’t get too grade focused. College is for learning
and it is hard to do that when you only focus on grades. Sure, if you want to attend medical school or highly selective graduate or professional schools you need to get top grades but if that is not your plan, take a deep breath and try hard to focus on learning
and not on grades.
8. Don’t cram and don’t try to multitask. Research clearly shows that cramming and multitasking are not effective study strategies. Plan ahead so that you don’t force yourself to do things at the last minute.
9. Don’t neglect health behaviors like regular exercise and a healthy diet. The campus gyms are always busy at the beginning of the semester and get empty as the term goes on. Keep your exercise program up. Research tells us to aim for about 30 minutes a day if you can do so.
10. Remind yourself everyday that college is a great privilege. The majority of people in the world and even in the USA don’t get to go to college. You do and it is an opportunity and experience that you’ll likely never have again. Make the most of it and be grateful that you can have an opportunity to engage in higher education that hopefully will provide you with lifelong benefits...some of which you likely can't even imagine now.
So, what do you think? How can you make the most of the college experience?
copyright Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP
Check out my web site at www.scu.edu/tplante and follow me on Twitter @ThomasPlante