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How to Succeed Academically after Admission

How to Succeed Academically After Admission

If you’re like many teenagers, your college goal is getting admitted.  What is far more important, however, is succeeding academically once the admission process is finally finished.  

Here are 20 tips to help you excel in the classroom:

1. Before enrolling in courses, ask your professors to recommend other teachers.

“Professors know who the experts are and who is just faking it,” says Andrew Roberts, a sociology professor at Northwestern University. “They know who devotes time and energy to undergraduate teaching and who does not.”

2. Check professor reviews.

An easy way to get started is to consult the professor ratings on Also check to see if the teacher surveys are available that your college conducts.

3. Look for professors who received teaching awards.

It can make all the difference attending classes with professors who really like to teach. There are plenty of tenured professors who only teach undergrads grudgingly.

4. Before enrolling, talk to students in a class.

Consult with students who have taken a class you are considering enrolling in and ask them about their experience.

5. Visit a professor’s classroom.

Wondering if you’ll like a professor?  Sit in on his or her class. It probably won’t take long to determine whether the class will work for you. And, if available, download a copy of the course syllabus.

6. Take advantage of office hours.

“Think of office hours as the kind of one-on-one dialogue depicted in promotional literature but harder to achieve in practice,” says Jon B. Gould, a professor at American University, who wrote the book How to Succeed in College (While Really Trying).

7. Seek out tutors.

Students can be embarrassed to use a campus tutor, but you shouldn’t be. Tutors at universities are free so there is no reason not to take advantage of them. Students of all abilities should use them.

8. Don’t wait to use tutors.

If you are enrolled in a challenging class, don’t delay getting help until you encounter trouble. While last-minute assistance before a test can be helpful, real learning can take time.

 9. Visit your college’s writing center.

Improve your writing by seeking help at the writing center. Doing so can improve your grade point average and boost your future employment chances. Writing is the top skill that employers find lacking in new graduates.

10. Take writing-intensive classes.

If you intentionally take courses that require a great deal of writing, you will be more likely to improve your composition.

11. Look for classes where you have more chances to earn a good grade.

It’s preferable to avoid courses where your grade is completely dependent on a midterm exam and the final. That’s too much stress.

“You can get a rough idea of a professor’s devotion to teaching by the kind of assignments in their syllabus,” Roberts says. “Professors who are committed to their students tend to give more feedback and are less likely to assign just a midterm and final or a single final paper.

12. Don’t stress about a major.

Don’t worry if you haven’t selected a college major when you start school. Why should 17 and 18-year-olds know what they want to study?

As a practical matter, the curriculum at high schools doesn’t include many disciplines such as philosophy, gender studies, linguistics, anthropology and many languages. That’s also true for more vocational majors such as business, journalism, nursing, forestry and sports management.

Even common disciplines in high school such as biology, math, English, history and chemistry can be different on the college level. Whatever major you choose shouldn’t handicap your job prospects. Remember, the career trajectory of most grads is definitely not linear.

13. Get exposure to many disciplines.

An excellent way to sample many disciplines is to visit as many classes as possible the first week or two of a semester. If you find courses that look more interesting, switch to those while it’s still possible. You can also take a survey course.

14. Look for small classes.

Attending smaller classes can help you become more engaged in a subject. You’ll have to show up because a professor will notice if you aren’t there. You’ll also enjoy more opportunities to actively participate in the class and will get more personal attention.

15. Try to attend an honors college.

Public universities often offer honors colleges to high-achieving students. Honors colleges can provide students with such perks as smaller classes, priority registration, faculty mentors and better housing. If you aren’t accepted into an honors college as a freshman, try again later. Some universities will accept students into an honors college if they perform well enough in their freshman year.

16. Join study groups.

Collaboration used to be considered cheating, but it isn’t anymore. The best way to take advantage of a study group is to try to do the work ahead of time and come to study sessions with any unanswered questions.

17. Consider studying abroad.

Studying overseas is an excellent way to get out of your comfort zone by exploring a different culture, improving your language skills and seeing the world which will be more difficult after graduation. Try stretching by picking a program that isn’t in an English-speaking country.

18. Get involved in extracurriculars.

Some universities have hundreds of clubs and organizations. Colleges and universities typically sponsor extracurricular fairs early in each school year.

19. Know where to study.

Perhaps you get energized studying in a loud, crowded coffee shop. Or maybe you like to hole up in a cartel in a library in total silence. Find the optimum study environment for you and stick with it.

20. Don’t multitask.

Don’t Snapchat, watch a YouTube video and answer text messages when you need to be concentrating on homework and school projects. We think we can multi-task just fine, but in reality it often hurts productivity, creativity and generates mistakes. It interferes with your focus of attention.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is a best-selling author, speaker and journalist. Her book, The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, is available on

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