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4 Principles of Success for New College Students

Use these 4 principles in college and you’ll likely avoid a lot of problems

As a college professor for many years I actually really enjoy teaching freshmen and trying to help them transition to college by talking quite frankly about behaviors that can be helpful or harmful during this very important life transition. These topics are now personal for me as I send my own son off to school this fall. He’ll head to Dartmouth which is 3000+ miles away from home and his watchful parents.

After many years of working with these young people I truly believe that if new students can follow the following 4 principles they’ll generally do fine in college and avoid some of the frequent troubles many students often find themselves in.

1. Take self-regulation seriously!

2. Don’t skip class…ever!

Sure, sometimes students need to miss a class session due to sickness or an athletic competition but having a casual attitude towards class attendance is a very big mistake in my book. They miss class and they fall behind often making it that much more difficult to catch up. Students should go to class…every class and do themselves a favor and sit close to the front and center as well. If they are front and center they'll be less distracted and faculty will engage with them more.

3. Use student resources!

Colleges today tend to offer lots of student resources….which should be used freely and with gusto! Schools today provide so much in terms of student services that include academic and personal advising, peer mentoring, disability resources, psychological counseling services, campus ministry, and so forth. Tuition dollars pay for these helpful and comprehensive services and so students should try and get their money's worth!

4. Time is money!

Speaking of money...think of time as money to be managed and managed well. Students too often don’t use their free time (e.g., time between classes) productively. This is a problem in that students too often wait until the end of the day (when they are tired) to study and get things done. This is a big mistake. Using time between classes for study and other productive activities is critical to academic success. Wating to do anything of importance at the end of the day is a big mistake.

If students follow these 4 simple principles they’ll likely avoid many of the typical problems students encounter during their transition to college life. And for me, I hope that my son follows these principles too. He'll be glad he did.

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Copyright 2014 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP