7 Habits of Successful College Students

View all tags
Jen Fiengo
Two hands throwing graduation caps in the air against a blue sky.

College is hard, there is no denying it. Balancing loads of assignments, studying for exams, and the occasional online course is not for the weak. 8am's and late-night studying has become a norm these days. However, it does not need to be as overwhelming as it all sounds. Effective college students are all around you, whether you can see it or not. The girl behind you in the cafe line just aced her chemistry exam and the student worker making lattes just landed his first internship. Success in college is easily attainable if you put your mind to it. I have compiled a list of 7 habits that motivate me, as well as some others, to be the most effective college student they can be.

1. Wake Up Before 9am When You Do Not Have Something to Be Up Earlier For.

I know this sounds impossible (and honestly irritating) for most, but it has made the biggest difference in my success since I started. Getting up at 9am as opposed to 10 gives you a whole hour of time that you would lose. You could get ready, eat breakfast, and do a chore or two within that time. By getting yourself up earlier on those days where you do not need an alarm, you open up an hour, if not hours, of your time to study, do homework, attend campus events, and get out there. When you get up later than 9am, by the time you are up and fully ready for the day, it is almost noon. That is half of your day GONE. When you get up at 9am, you can get your day started and be doing your schoolwork sooner, giving yourself some personal time in the afternoon.

2. Use A Digital Planner You Can Access Anywhere.

I understand, paper planners are so cute to customize and use the fun stickers in the back of the book, but what good are they if you are not constantly carrying them around. Digital planners are FREE! That is my favorite word as a college student, and I know it's one of yours, too. If you're like me, color coding your planner makes you feel accomplished and organized. I tend to use my regular iPhone calendar, but I have recently been exploring some digital calendar apps that I like, as well. Take the time to browse the app store and find one that interests you, get it on your computer and phone, and boom! Your due dates, events, work schedule, and activities are all accessible wherever you'd like. Finish an assignment on your phone? Open the app and check it off! Sitting in the library and finishing the book you wanted to read but didn't bring your phone? No problem, check it off on your laptop. Digital calendars just make organization that much easier.

3. Make Time for Yourself.

This idea relates back to getting up early. While success in college starts with being a good student, it also helps to be a functioning person, as well. No one I know lives a happy, healthy life by sitting at a desk writing essays all day. Enjoy drinking coffee? Take yourself on a little coffee date as a reward for finishing your assignments for the week. Make time for friends and family, not just schoolwork. Rest and relaxation are just as important as staying busy. If you are tired, it is more beneficial to take a nap rather than push through your work. You are not yourself when you are tired, so take an hour, set an alarm, take a restful nap, and wake up refreshed and ready to continue your work. My favorite thing is to go hang out with my friends and cook; it is my way of managing stress. Sometimes, I'll get my work done early so I can go to a friend’s place and have dinner with them. It feels like a fun reward for keeping up with my schoolwork. Making time for myself has greatly impacted my success at college, especially when it comes to mental health.

4. Join clubs and organizations.

College success is not just about grades. College is supposed to be a step above high school in the sense that you are gaining real-world experience and have the choice to do what you want to do when it comes to your education. So, you're paying all of this money just to attend class? STOP THAT! Everyone has something they love no matter what they say. That being said, there is a club for everything, as well (and I know this to be true, my college has a Quidditch team). Pick something you love, whether it be art, science, music, sea turtles, cooking, or even Quidditch, and go to your university’s website and find the club that relates to your interests. I recently joined a sorority, which I never imagined I would do. It was the best decision I have made in college so far. I have met so many new people, gained so many new experiences, and furthered my education more than I could've sitting at a desk.

5. Get Exercise.

Walking up the stairs doesn't count, but I wish it did. Exercise is not only good for the body, but it is enriching for your mind, too. Getting exercise helps release toxins through sweat, helps many manage stress, and helps keep us healthy. Exercise is unique to all. The gym isn't for everyone (and by everyone, I mean me), so don't feel like I'm pressuring you to go to the gym. Going for a walk around campus with your friends, driving to a nearby outdoor shopping center and walking around, going for a run by the beach, or going for a swim when the weather is nice are all good ways to get exercise easily. My favorite thing to do is go for a walk on the beach. I always bring a friend, put my phone away, and we walk until we don't want to anymore, whether it be 20 minutes or 5 miles. Getting outside has helped me be successful as it makes me feel healthier, which in turn, makes me feel happier.

6. Find Your "Study Spot."

By finding your study spot, you now have a set place to go that reminds you of studying. I love background noise (and coffee), so I frequently find myself wanting to study in Starbucks on campus. If you like a quieter setting, head to the library or a quiet corner in a building with a lot of windows. I love sitting on a windowsill and looking outside while I study, it feels so refreshing. When you choose to go to this spot for no reason other than doing schoolwork, you'll train your mind to associate that place with studying, increasing your chances of actually studying. Playing light music in your headphones or having a snack to pick at while you study helps a lot, too. Just keep trying different places until you find your spot. I promise, it is so worth it.

7. Put Yourself Out There.

College comes after high school for a reason. High school was there for the sole purpose of showing up, learning, and going home. College, however, was made to open you up to the real world. By sheltering yourself, you are wasting your tuition money. Yes, classes and learning are very important, but what's the point if you don't attempt to apply what you learn? Make that resume, attend club meetings you are interested in, join that honor society, say yes to that community service event, and say hi to that person passing you in the hallway. By allowing yourself to open up, you will find that there are so many new opportunities out there that you never knew about before. How will you know what you like to do without trying new things?

College is a place for learning, experiencing, and exploring, so make sure you are making the most of it. Be successful by keeping yourself organized, planning your events, making time for yourself, joining clubs, getting exercise, finding your place, and putting yourself out there. Make college your experience, don't let college force you to experience it.

Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started!