Updated: Oct 30, 2021
My son started college this week and I thought it was an appropriate time to write this post! This is for you Luke and I hope you get to read it (he actually built my website and he continues to add pages and fix my tech issues so I`m sure he WILL get to read this).
It`s important for college students to get organized within their first week of college. I have put together my top 10 tips which will help students plan with intention as they enjoy a more meaningful productive college experience. Parents can help their teenagers with these tips to prepare them for college.
1. Develop an ALL INCLUSIVE Time Schedule
You need to know HOW to manage your time. ALL your time. Schedule on a planner all class times, study sessions, extra activities, social, exercise, down time and even sleep. This helps with balancing tasks and gives a better idea of how you can utilize your time and be aware of where you are wasting time or being distracted. Realizing how much time you are actually wasting, you will become more aware of how to be more productive. Essentially, you will have more free time without guilt. You can still be flexible within your schedule and you can easily reschedule something in as it comes up.
It`s also a good idea for you to schedule your classes that concentrate on a few days, making it possible to devote entire days to either lecture or to study/work. This eliminates wasted time between classes and then having to keep shifting into new activities. If you have a lot of free time between classes, a schedule is a great way to schedule in these times to work/study. Your productivity will soar!
2. Delete Distractions
This is a big one! Think about what things distract you (phone, friends, internet surfing). Write down a list of all your distractions and decide what you are going to do about it. I`m guessing that one of your biggest distractions is your phone?! Delete some apps or phone notifications not needed. Think about how you can avoid these distractions.
Have a SMART action to keep you focused and aware of what`s getting in the way of your studies. A SMART action is specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding (why do you want this) and time bound.
Here is an example of a SMART action with a student who gets distracted with his/her phone: I will place my phone on silent during classes and when I study I will put it away so I can`t see it. I will reward myself with my phone once my study session on my schedule is complete. I will set a reminder on my phone as a notification every day so I will follow through with this action.
3. Ability to Study
Know how you study and learn best.
Examples: time of day, note taking, study groups, flashcards, learning styles, mind maps, quizzes. Keep ahead! Always be at least 2 weeks AHEAD. This helps when pressure spikes in other classes and you need to be on top of things. You do not want to fall behind and then constantly try and play "catch up." It`s no fun and not worth all the stress.
If you take notes in class, disable WiFi to avoid distractions. Multi tasking is not an option. It DOES NOT work! When your brain makes switches between activities, it affects your concentration, learning and retention. Study in a place where you can avoid the most distractions. Do not study on your bed (you will fall asleep).
4. Engage in Classes
Sit in the front of the class. Don`t skip classes. Be prepared and read through notes before the class. Take notes during class and engage in your learning. Rewrite your notes after class and make sure you understand the work. If not, meet with the professor or someone who can help you. DO NOT WAIT! Ask for help when you do not understand otherwise you will fall behind and this will cause unnecessary stress and greater anxiety. Write down questions and see the professor after class.
5. Find a Mentor and Talk to Professors
Find a mentor. This may be a professor, TA, older student or someone who can support you. College students who have mentors are more successful and happier in college. Connect with professors. Talk to them after class and show interest in their research or latest project. Ask them curious questions. Even the crankiest professors will lighten up when you show interest in their lives. Use their office hours to ask questions, get to know them and give feedback. They will also be a great source for letters of recommendation.
6. Choose Wise Friends
Find friends who share your same values, and who stretch you to be better and do better. Friends who drain your energy or bring you down will affect your mental health.
Think about these questions:
How are your friends influencing you?
How are you influencing them?
How are you developing leadership skills?
Leadership is influence. Be influencers not influenced by others following the crowd.
"Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." 1 Corinthians 15:33
7. Learn from Mistakes
How teachable are you? Pride goes before a fall. Learn from your mistakes. Confront your weaknesses. Build on your strengths. Listen to wise council and do not be foolish and prideful.
"Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." Proverbs 13:10
If you have a healthy relationship with mistakes and failure, you will move forward, grow in character and learn through the process. You need to fail in order to succeed. In fact, success depends on failure. It all depends on HOW you view failure.
"Fail early. Fail often. But always fail forward." John Maxwell
This simply means that when you learn through the process of failing or making mistakes, then you will "fail forward" as you learn to "fail successfully" as mistakes are necessary. A growth mindset focuses on the learning and not the outcome.
8. Faith and Connections
Find your place on campus. Get involved in clubs and activities that stretch and challenge you. Join a bible study to dig deep into the word of God if you are a Christian. Get out of your comfort zone. Don`t sit in your room watching You Tube or movies. If you are a gamer, put your gaming away while at college and engage with real people. These addictive activities are too distracting and will affect your grades and self development.
Find an environment where you will thrive and be motivated to become a self-directed young adult who reaches above and beyond the standard "norm" of society. Make a meaningful impact in your own life and in the lives of others.
9. Be Healthful - Physically and Mentally
Look after your physical and emotional health. The brain is an organ: a healthy body supports a healthy mind. To stay balanced, eat well, sleep well, practice mindfulness, and exercise in moderation.
Healthy food that boosts brain function and memory includes oily fish, berries, nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs and lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Ditch unhealthy snacks.
Sleep is crucial - at least 8-9 hours a night. Set an alarm for when you need to go to bed and get to bed regardless of whether your work is complete or not. Enough sleep will help you concentrate and work smarter the next day.
Mindfulness and time for prayer and self reflection is vital. We live in a very distracting world with very little time to sit quietly without any noise. Schedule (on your planner) at least 15 minutes twice a day so you can collect your thoughts and process your emotions.
Exercise is a stimulant for the creative thinking critical to success in college. Get aerobic exercise (when your heart rate increases) for about 30 minutes at least 4-5 times a week. Consistency is best (schedule this time). Stretch often between study sessions.
10. Contact Parents
Please keep in contact with your parents and don`t just call them when you need something. Even if you send an occasional "I love you" text or emoji. Keep in mind, they are your greatest support and it`s important you let them know how you are doing. If you need to set boundaries, let them know when you will be contacting them and what is reasonable.
The Next Steps:
Once you have read this, please go straight to your planner and schedule these times in. Your schedule needs to be ALL INCLUSIVE. It will serve you well and you will become more efficient and productive with your time. You will also see how much time you are wasting and enjoy your free time more because you will be free of guilt.
Enjoy your college experience and learn as much as you can. It`s not about "ticking boxes" or the degree or credential. It`s about your learning and self-development.
How are you developing into a self-directed confident young adult?
And if you are a parent reading this: How are you preparing your teenager with the above?
For more support in launching confident, competent young adults, join our parent community.