College Success Tips

I really enjoyed reading this blogpost and have shared its contents with my students and friends; I’ve also shared it with other advisers to pass on to their students. Here’s the abbreviated summary; the original post has a lot of good advice for each of these points.

Here’s my best list of what to do to succeed in college:

1. Go to class.

2. First day of every class, get two people’s phone numbers.

3. Take notes in class by hand.

4. Rewrite your notes.

5.College is your job. Your job is to be a student. It is a full-time job.

6. Go see each professor during office hours.

7. Do the reading before the class.

In sum:

– You are a student. That is your job. Spend 40 hours a week on your classes, and you’ll have time for fun.
– Do the reading. Go to class. Talk to your professors. Ask them questions.
– Take responsibility for your life and your education.

My amendment to #5 (which I tell incoming freshmen): for every hour that you spend in class, you should expect to spend 2-3 hours studying/doing homework/etc. outside of class. So going to school is approximately the same as a full-time job, but without the hard upper-limit of 40 hours per week.

As a corollary: this ratio is approximately the reverse of high school, when students spend one hour studying for every 2-3 hours spent in class. That’s because in high school, the learning happens in class. (Some AP courses in high school may be exceptions to this rule of thumb.) However, in college, the learning generally happens outside of class. My math students get me in class for 2.5 hours per week. In that time, I can set up the big picture, lay out a conceptual framework, work out a few illustrative examples, and address a few common misconceptions. Emphasis is on “a few,” because 2.5 hours per week isn’t enough time to get students to the depth of understanding that I expect an A student to possess by the end of the semester. So the deeper understanding is obtained outside of class, not inside.

I recommend reading the whole post at

See also her follow-up post

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