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College Success

This guide will provide you with resources to help you become a more successful college student.

What Does College Success Mean?

A college education is aligned with greater success in many areas of life. While enrolled in college, most students are closely focused on making it through the next class or passing the next test. It can be easy to lose sight of the overall role that education plays in life. But sometimes it helps to recall what a truly great step forward you are taking!

It’s also important to recognize, though, that some students do not succeed in college and drop out within the first year. Sometimes this is due to financial problems or a personal or family crisis. But most of the time students drop out because they’re having trouble passing their courses.

In this guide we will examine the elements of college success and what strategies you can use to achieve success in your college endeavors.

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Additional Information

College  is an investment you make for your future. The amount of time you spend preparing for college can lead to great  benefits. These benefits can be more satisfaction in your career (not just a job) and higher earnings than if you only completed high school.

Don't  waste your time or money—prepare for college and increase your ability to  meet your educational goals.

Getting started:

 

9th grade

  • Investigate college requirements and plan accordingly. Investigate which high school classes colleges require you to complete.

10th grade

  • Take a rigorous courseload. Especially if you are interested in a science major or a science career, take rigorous courses in those areas. Be aware of pre-requisites for classes you may need to take this year in order to qualify for junior and senior year classes.
  • Meet with your counselor or other guides and advocates to discuss your progress and future plans.

11th grade

  • Take a rigorous courseload. This is your most important academic year because these will be the most recent grades available to colleges.
  • Get to know your teachers. They will likely be writing college recommendation letters for you. The more they know you, the better their letters will be.

12th grade

  • Continue taking rigorous courses and doing well. Senior year grades do matter. If you are applying regular decision, your first semester grades will be in the application.
  • Use writing classes to help with your college essays. 

Questbridge

It is no secret that while college is some of the best years of your life, it is also some of the most stressful. Attending college is the beginning of a journey that leads one down the path towards a final destination — a career.

As with any journey, there are challenges along the way that test one’s mental endurance and perseverance, for better or worse. These challenges are what help shape students into productive members of society — but what is unique about the stress students face is that it can come from multiple sources, at any given time, and have a lasting impact on the future.

A recent survey conducted by The Associated Press shows that around 80 percent of college students experience daily stress from factors such as increased workloads, student debt, environmental and family circumstances.

But does this mean that all stress is bad? Not necessarily.

Surprisingly, stress serves a useful purpose in our lives. Students learn and retain more information under moderate levels of stress which serve as motivators that push students to face challenges and increase productivity, according to psychcentral.com. However, excessive stress eventually takes a toll on one’s body and can lead to physical, cognitive and emotional issues, according to ncbi.gov.Unfortunately, students with persistent stress in their lives often fail to see the warning signs until the situation is out of control.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to manage stress in college while maintaining a healthy balance.

Regular exercise is a great way to relieve stress — a good workout can release tension that accumulates during the course of a long day. However, getting enough exercise does not mean spending hours at the gym — find an activity to enjoy and stick with it. This can include going for a walk, riding a bike or getting your hands dirty in the community garden.

In addition to regular exercise, it is important to get enough sleep — between seven and eight hours a night. It may seem like a good idea to stay up late to finish an assignment or study for an upcoming exam, but in the long run it is counterproductive. A 2017 study by the American College Health Association reports that only 10 percent of college students get enough sleep to wake up feeling rested and alert.

Stick to a balanced diet. Focus on healthy, balanced meals to keep energy levels up and give one’s body the resources need to plow through a stressful day. Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult, especially when the dining hall doors open and the sweet smell of pizza overwhelms one’s senses. Try mixing it up a bit by trading out a slice for a side salad or some fruit.

However, while these are all good ways to reduce stress over time, they don’t help in the moment. When the weight of the day starts to wear me down, I turn to a few of my favorite coping strategies — reading, music and breathing exercises.

Having a good book on hand to escape into is a good way to distract one’s mind from stressful thoughts. There is something relaxing about the smell of a paperback book and the way the page’s subtle texture feels between my fingers. Whenever I have free time between classes, I like to sneak off and find a quiet area to read for while — even if it’s just a chapter or two.

Listening to music is a great stress release. Since ancient times, music has been used to heal the mind and body. I find Native American flute music to be particularly relaxing.

Breathing exercises are also a good technique to deal with stress. When you take a deep breath, it sends a message to the brain telling it to calm down and relax — which is relayed throughout the whole body. If one pays attention to breathing when stressed, one notices quick, shallow breaths. But when the body is relaxed, breathing is slow and deep. Try to mirror the way we breathe when trying to fall asleep. If that doesn’t work, try inhaling through the nose for 10 seconds and exhaling through pursed lips for another 10 seconds. Repeating these two steps relaxes the body.

Everyone deals with stress at some point during their college experience and having a support system of friends or family to lean on when times get tough is invaluable. We are only human, and that means that there are limits to the amount of stress our bodies can handle.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help from the LU counseling center or student health center when feeling overwhelmed. The services the centers offer are free, and the staff want to help students have a successful college experience. It is OK to not be OK, and there is no shame in seeking the help of others.

We are not alone with our stress. It happens to us all. But with vigilance, balance and some help, we can all reach our goal — a college diploma.

Lamar University Press, Abigail Pennington

Good study habits can make or break your GPA. Use these tips to remember facts and make the grade:

Good study habits are essential if you want to succeed in college. Whether you’re just beginning college or you’re looking for that crucial senior year productivity boost, these study tips for college students will help you max out your GPA and get on that honor roll.

  •  Good Notes = Good Grades

The correlation between good notes and good study habits is undeniable. However, taking good notes doesn’t come naturally to everyone. The trick is to record the key points of the lecture or textbook without writing down too much extraneous info. If you’re worried you’re missing important details, feel free to ask your professor during office hours. Many students also record lectures so they can listen to them later to verify their notes; just make sure you get permission from your professor first!

  • Stay Organized

Keep a detailed calendar with all your commitments, including classwork, social events and extracurricular activities. This way, you can block out time each day to study.

Organizing your class materials is also one of the most important study tips for college students. Use sticky notes to remember important textbook pages, keep your returned assignments, and make flashcards for key terms. You’ll thank yourself come exam time!

 Unplug and Reconnect

This can be tricky, since most students use their computers for virtually all their homework. Still, the Internet is the worst distraction there is, and limiting time on it is one of the best study tips for college students. Try to set boundaries for yourself: for example, no Facebook during class or study time.

  •  Don’t Cram

It’s definitely tempting to put off your studying until the last minute, but you’re much less likely to retain information this way. Good study habits come from pacing yourself. Try to study a little bit each day, rather than saving it all for the week before the exam. This will help you ward off exhaustion and remember what you learned.

  •  Don’t Over-Study

For most students, “over-studying” seems (and probably is) impossible. But if you’re the sort of person who camps out in the library, you might be doing more work than you need to.

Among study tips for college students, time management is one of the most essential. Make sure you’re studying the key ideas of each lecture or textbook chapter, and avoid absorbing useless information. If you’re not sure, meet with your professor to make sure you’re practicing good study habits.

  •  Find Your Zone

Everyone has their perfect study environment. For some, it’s a quiet reading room, while others prefer the bustle of a coffee shop. Some like to listen to music while they study, and some need complete silence. Try a few different kinds of environments and see what works for you.

  •  Take a Break!

No, really, you’ve earned it! Take a ten-minute break every hour or so, and try to take a day or two off per week if you can. It’ll help you stay energized and at peak mental condition. Given how easy it is to become overwhelmed in college, this is probably the most important of our study tips for college students.

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Ten Tips for Terrific Test Taking

When you take a test, you are demonstrating your ability to understand course material or perform certain tasks. Successful test taking avoids carelessness.

Examples of objective tests are true-false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank.

Examples of subjective texts are short answer, essay, or oral exams:

  • Analyze how you did on a similar test in the past.

Review your previous tests and sample tests provided by your teacher.
Each test you take prepares you for the next one!

  • Arrive early for tests.

List what you need beforehand to avoid panic.
Good preparation prepares you for the task at hand.

  • Be comfortable but alert.

Choose a comfortable location with space enough that you need
Don't slouch; maintain good posture.

  • Stay relaxed and confident.

Keep a good attitude and remind yourself that you are going to do your best.
If you find yourself panicking, take a few deep breaths
Don't talk to other students right before: stress can be contagious.

  • Read directions carefully!

and avoid careless errors.

  • If there is time, quickly look through the test for an overview.

Scan for keywords. If permitted, jot any notes that come to mind.

  • Answer questions in a strategic order:

Easy questions first to build confidence.
Then those with the most point value.
On objective tests, eliminate obvious incorrect answers.
On essay tests, broadly outline your answer and sequence of points.

  • Review! if you have time.

Resist the urge to leave when you complete the exam--
check if you have answered all the questions,
and not made any errors or mis-marked any answers.

  • Change answers to questions if you erred, or misread the question!

You may also find information in the test that will correct a previous answer.

  • Decide on and adopt study strategies that work best for you.

Review where you succeed and where you are challenged.
Check out your academic support center or a trusted teacher for advice.

Study Guides and Strategies

 

The college library offers a wealth of resources. Academic librarians work hard to offer services and curate resources that will be of great use to our scholarly, professional, and personal work and interests. But do we make the most of what’s on offer?

In our recent Engagement Insights Surveys, sent to both students and instructors, we asked: “Do you wish you took more advantage of the library and its resources?” We found that 75% of students and 66% of instructors said that yes, they would!

Below, we’ve shared a few ways that you can encourage students to use your college library. Perhaps you’re already taking all these steps… in which case, please add your tips for success in the comments! But if you’d like to add more “library” into your students’ lives, read on!

Seven ways you can take advantage of your college library’s services for student success:

1. Encourage students to use campus librarians as a resource. Does your course require a research project, or perhaps a reading-heavy assignment such as an annotated bibliography? Mention to students that, as they do their work, they can ask the librarian for assistance in using the library’s catalog and reference tools. Also tell them that the librarian can also help them determine whether or not a particular resource is appropriate for their needs. By mentioning this in class, you can raise student awareness of this valuable service; after all, only 30% of students in our Spring Engagement Insights survey said that they ask the librarian for help with their assignments.

2. Recommend specific library resources in your reading list. According to our Spring 2015 Instructor Engagement Insights survey, 37% of instructors do not recommend library resources on their syllabus. If you’d find yourself among those numbers—but you’d like to start making effective recommendations—here are a few tips.

If your library has reference resources specific to your discipline, or if there are particular journals or databases affiliated with your course’s subject area, list them in your syllabus. This is a great way to encourage library use while also creating awareness of the respected publications related to your field.

Of course, you can also link to specific journal articles on your syllabus. When doing so, be sure to use the “persistent link” associated with the article; when students click on that link, they’ll be prompted for their library login information. (Also note: for this to work as you wish, the journal articles in question must be available through your library’s databases in the first place.)

3. Request or require students to take part in an information literacy session. Want to see your students selecting better sources and conducting research more efficiently? Want to help them reduce their acts of (intentional and unintentional) plagiarism? Then, if you aren’t already doing so, direct them to the library for an information literacy (or “library instruction”) workshop. Most college libraries offer workshops and seminars on information literacy, covering such important processes as identifying a research topic; finding, selecting, evaluating, and citing sources; and, of course, avoiding plagiarism.

Some schools also offer sessions crafted for specific disciplines or majors, outlining the processes, sources, and style guides used in those fields. You may also be able to request a library instruction session designed for the particular needs of your course; contact your school’s librarian to see if this option is available to you.

4. Refer students to the library’s website. The library’s website offers far more than just a listing of hours and a library catalog! Typically, the sites will also include tutorials on information literacy, news about upcoming events and exhibits, and other topics germane to the services offered at the library.

Students will also find a wealth of convenient ways to make use of the library from home, such as links to electronic databases and “Ask a Librarian” online chat. What’s more, the site will include forms for requesting holds and interlibrary loans, information about making room reservations, and other important guidelines about library use.

5. Include the library’s subject guides on your syllabus. As part of their service to their institutions, academic librarians often create helpful subject guides, which are then posted to the library website. In addition to listing the databases and reference sources relevant to a particular subject or field, they’ll often include information on contacting the subject librarian, RSS feeds from insighful blogs and websites, tutorials, and videos that encourage further exploration of the subject. These guides are especially useful to students as they work through their research projects.

6. Have students take a library tour! (It’s not just for freshman orientation!) On a library tour, students will become more familiar with the location of the resources they’ll need as they complete their coursework. They may also find a great study spot, or simply become more comfortable using the space.

7. Take a trip to your college’s special collections department or archives. If you’re a history instructor, you’re more than familiar with using primary-source documents in your research. Over the course of your own education, you’ve probably logged numerous hours in archives and special-collections rooms.

However, special collections and archives have great value beyond the history course. Consider how you might incorporate your library’s valuable collections into your teaching. Teach literature? Have students look at first edition printings or manuscripts. Teach art or design? Introduce your students to artists’ books, broadsides, and other creative works they may have never seen before. Teach health? Perhaps your library has a collection of medical pamphlets, which can add to students’ understanding of how medical information has been communicated throughout the years. Teach communications? Find archived magazines and ask students to think critically about how advertisements reflected the popular culture of their time. The list can continue; we’re sure you can think of a way to use your library’s unique holdings in unique ways.

If your college library doesn’t have a special collections department, consider directing students to one housed in another local college library. Many will allow students temporary access, as long as they can prove that they’re affiliated with another educational institution. Also consider going the digital route. Many institutions have digitized selected items from their collections. While this isn’t quite the same experience as getting your hands on the “real thing,” it still familiarizes students with the process of using and evaluating these special documents.

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