Being a student comes with many challenges. From choosing the right courses, to passing exams, to all kinds of deadlines, succeeding in school can sometimes feel like an insurmountable goal.  But with all the “old-school” resources that can be found on campus and off, along with the amazing benefits of technology such as tutoring programs like Grad Coach, students can find the tools they need to succeed!  Below are five essential ingredients to achieve academic success:

5. Be organized

“Being organized is a journey, not a destination.” – Anonymous

Binders, highlighters, tabs, and folders are stereotypical images of school life for a reason; getting organized and staying organized is key to succeeding.  Being organized means not having to scramble to find yesterday’s notes. It means knowing that you can ignore studying for physics today because you’ve got time scheduled for it tomorrow and Thursday.  And it means that when you’re stuck on a problem that you’re sure you talked about in class, you know where to look to find the answer.  However, organization is not just a one-time task; once you get your system in place, you have to stick to it, putting your new materials in place, keeping your calendar up to date, and improving your system when you find problems. 

A good system shortens the road to the goal.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ask for help. Not because you are weak. But because you want to remain strong.
– Les Brown

Instructors keep office hours so you can ask specific questions about your courses in case general tutoring isn’t enough.  And while many students shy away from getting extra help because they’re embarrassed, it’s often the case that the most successful students are the ones who seek out tutoring and extra instruction.  Students have many resources at their disposal on campus. It’s your education, and it’s up to you to make the most of it.

4. Use school resources

Though in some classes it may not seem to be the case, academic institutions want their students to succeed.  They offer a wide array of resources to help you catch up if you’re struggling, keep you on track, and push you to do amazing things when you find your passion.  Many campuses offer free tutoring programs, and advisors will often know of study groups open to new members. Many also have Student centers that come with resumé writing help, mental health services, and even job placement.

3. Connect with resources outside of school

While on-campus resources are a great way to help you keep up with course material, they can often be narrowly focused on curriculum.  Making connections with your peers and professionals in your field can help fill in the gaps that formalized education often leaves. 

Perhaps you’re struggling to find your motivation or losing track of where your education is going to take you.  Maybe you have a hard time connecting course content to practical applications.  Or you could just be feeling lonely and discouraged at the end of a bad week.  In any case, the people you connect with while you’re at school can be invaluable resources to keep you on track and working toward success.

Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.
– Misty Copeland

Take a break!

-Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

In her New York Times Bestseller Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin illustrates the benefits of how rewarding yourself for your hard work is key for increasing your motivation and stamina.  She describes how when you treat yourself, your brain releases a chemical called Dopamine, which makes you feel good and happy.  Knowing that this is how your brain works can be an invaluable tool, as you promise yourself a reward to motivate yourself through a difficult task.  Getting through the task won’t seem so bad since you’ve got something to look forward to!

2. Reward yourself

“Work hard, play hard” isn’t just an old saying; it’s an essential strategy for succeeding in a work-intensive setting, and school is definitely work-intensive.  Working too hard for too long without any time for self-care can lead to “academic burnout”, causing fatigue, anxiety, malaise, and even depression.  To make the best of your education, you have to balance the rigors of your coursework with your personal mental and emotional needs. 

For more stunning self-motivation ideas, see Shawn Lim’s blog at Stunning Motivation

1. Show up

It may sound cliché, but “showing up” really is half the battle.  As motivational speaker Denis Waitley put it:

Losers live in the past. Winners  learn from the past and enjoy working in the present toward the future.”

If you don’t follow any of the other advice in this post, follow this piece.  Simply by showing up to classes and labs, you give yourself the greatest possible chance of success.  You become a known face to your instructors, teaching assistants, and classmates, and when you find that you need a little extra help, they’re that much more willing to offer it.  As Winston Churchill said, “perfection is the enemy of progress.”  Even if you’re having an off day, you will benefit from being present.  While you may not get the full effect of a lecture or activity, you’ll get infinitely more than if you hadn’t gone in the first place.  Studies have shown that chronic absence is a leading indicator of academic failure, and missing as little as 10% of class meetings can have seriously negative effects on your performance.  So no matter what other mistakes you make along your educational journey, keep showing up!

Showing up is half the battle.

– Woody Allen

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