Dr. Clementine Msengi ©2018

 What does it mean to be academically successful? You may think it means achieving the highest grades in your classes, but there’s much more to it than that. Academic success also involves the kind of person you are the influence you choose to have on others. Academic success can be measured by your investment in becoming the possible best version of you by maximizing your educational experiences. Here are a few tips for how you can achieve this goal.

Get involved and get to know people. Build a support system and become part of a support system for others. Get to know your school and its resources. Take advantage of organizations and campus events. Participate positively in class and outside the classroom from the very first day.

Participate. Go to your classes. Professors do not always follow the content of a textbook. Tests and exams are often based on lectures, discussions, and class participation. You can’t know a professor’s expectations unless you’re present in their classroom. Choose a seat in front, use body language that shows you’re engaged, answer questions, participate in discussions, come prepared, take notes, and work to the best of your ability . . . and put away your cell phone.

Don’t wait to ask for help. Make an appointment with the campus tutoring center to learn how to review material, master content, and maximize your learning. If you’re having trouble, talk to your professor right away.

Get to know your instructor. Visit your professor during office hours during the first few weeks of class and introduce yourself. Ask what you can do to be successful. Know each professor’s policies on attendance, missed classes, missed and/or late assignments, make-up work, due dates, penalties for late work, special circumstances, cell phone use, and other matters.

Accept constructive criticism. Professors provide valuable feedback when they critique your work. They provide their observations so you can learn. Approach your assignments with a teachable spirit. If you find your work marked up, be grateful for the significant time that your professor or teach invested helping you learn to improve. Instructors who provide little feedback rob students of the opportunity to learn. Accept feedback positively and learn from it.

Get organized. Use a calendar or planner.Schedule major assignments, quizzes, tests, and exams. Include study time, work, and campus activities. Professors assume that a student studies two hours outside of class for every hour spent in class. A student carrying an average load of 16-18 hours per week should study 32-38 hours a week in addition to class time. College is equivalent to a full-time job, and time management is critical for success.

Take comprehensive notes. Learn to summarize and identify main points.

Write down anything the professor writes on the board or presents by PowerPoint. If you have questions or are confused, ask for clarification during class or immediately after. If you have difficulty taking good notes, find someone in class who does it well, and ask if they can teach you how to organize as you listen and write.

Challenge yourself. Lean on support systems to help you study: use the campus tutoring center or join study groups. Look for student tutors who have passed the course already. Be open to thinking critically about new points of view and learning from people whose backgrounds are different than yours.

Remember, academic success is not about a grade—it’s about investing in yourself as you build the character and skills for a successful future.