(ARA) – Got your extra-long sheets? Check. Flip-flops for the shower? Check. What about your school-branded hoodie, hat and T-shirt? You may think you’ve thought of everything for your first year of college, but without a plan to achieve success you are still unprepared.
Sara Rathburn, associate dean of Student Affairs at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and Maximillian Matthews, student engagement advocate and coordinator of Academic Support at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, offer habits to help you make the most out of your college experience and lay the foundation for an academically successful future.
1. Get involved
“Freshmen who feel connected to campus through student organizations and campus events tend to strive for success,” says Matthews. Getting involved will not only enrich your college experience, but it will also pay dividends once you graduate. According to Rathburn, “Your college degree will one day show that you have knowledge in a field. Your out-of-class experiences will demonstrate that you have a skill base to go along with that knowledge.”
2. Get out of your comfort zone
Don’t be afraid of new experiences. “College is a time to test yourself – make mistakes, grow your strengths,” says Rathburn. She recommends trying something completely new, such as joining a club dealing with a topic that is foreign to you.
3. Manage your time
“Make the most of every minute,” says Rathburn. “Every hour of every day presents a choice – decide early on in your college experience that you will make the most of your time.” Matthews agrees. “Freshmen should get in the habit of prioritizing and planning ahead to balance their workload and increase productivity,” he says.
4. Manage your money
College not only helps you prepare to pursue a successful career, but can also teach you the skills that are necessary for financial success in the future. Rathburn suggests making meals instead of eating out, taking advantage of free local events, and making sure what you want is really what you need. “Don’t sacrifice a financially secure future for fleeting fun now,” she says.
5. Go to class
Even on days when you feel like sleeping in, Rathburn recommends making it a habit to go to class. She encourages students to make the most out of their time and financial investments.
6. Overcome fear of seeking help – talk to faculty and staff
Both Rathburn and Matthews recommend communicating with your professors. “Freshmen should get in the habit of letting their professors know when they will be late, absent or have questions about class material,” says Matthews. Rathburn adds, “Speak up and make yourself known. Building connections can lead to greater opportunities today, tomorrow and in the years to come.”
7. Personal organization
“Develop a system that works for you,” says Rathburn. She recommends starting a filing system that is simple and can be built upon.
8. Learn about resources
Whether you need a tutor, help with a resume, or have questions about financial aid, campuses offer a variety of resources designed to help guide you through every aspect of your college career. Matthews recommends attending campus events, especially orientation. “Freshmen need to know who to go to when they need help, not only in academics but in financial aid and career counseling. This is why freshman orientation events are essential.”
9. Remember your goals
“Stay focused,” says Rathburn. “You are starting college for a reason – remember that reason. Let that reason motivate you when you are bogged down with homework or struggling with an assignment.”
10. Be an active learner
“Active learning means concentrating on the current task, taking notes and asking questions,” says Matthews. He says that if freshmen practice active learning from the beginning, “it will be natural for the remainder of their time in school.”