How to Succeed Academically after Admission

on February 27, 2017

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 acknowledged 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 a book entitled, 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 mid-term 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 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 much 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 to do. You can also take a survey course.


14. Look for small classes


Attending smaller classes can help you become more engaged in a subject than if you’re one of hundreds of students sitting passively in a lecture hall. 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. This will keep you from acting as a freeloader.


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 you can get involved in. 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. Just study. 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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