Top Ten Productivity Tips for College Students

Aug 20th, 2014
WCO_007-man-with-books-as-wings-206x300During your first weeks at college, you will be given a great deal of advice about what to do and what not to do.  In reality, most of that advice is hard-earned and hard-learned wisdom and would be worth listening to.  If I may, let me offer more advice/wisdom from my years as an undergraduate and graduate student plus my years as a college professor.
  1. Go to class.  You knew this would be first didn’t you?  Getting up to go to class is a habit you want to integrate right from the start.  You might have to get up out of bed.  You might have to get up from having coffee with friends.  You might have to get up from a nap on some wonderful green grass in the middle of the quad.  Wherever you are, when it’s time to go to class, get up and go.  Oh, and bring your body, your brain, and your heart.
  2. Learn everything you can – in class and out of class.  Going to college opens up new possibilities to you on an hourly basis.  You will learn from your roommates, from your professors, from weird kids who hang out where you do, from speakers who come on campus and are free to you, from conversations you have with random people, from your job that helps to pay for your college, from writing, from working on projects for class and working on projects with friends, from being away from home, from staying up WAAAYYYY too late, from getting sick and having no one there to take care of you, from reading, from classes that are offered just for students, from….  You get the idea.  College is a most phenomenal experience and it is ALL about the learning.
  3. Talk to your professors.  Most of them are introverts and they may or may not come across as easy-to-talk-to kind of folks.  But here’s the thing – nearly all of them are easy to talk to and they would be quite pleased to have you talk to them.  Make an appointment and go in and see your professors.  All of them.  Every semester.  I am not kidding.
  4. Be a grown up.  You are.  Take responsibility.
  5. Take some classes just because they are interesting.  Some classes may never “count” toward your degree.  Who cares?  If you took it because it was interesting and you learned something, then that’s what counts.
  6. If you hear about a great professor from a friend, go with your friend to class one day.  If the class is a fairly large class, no one will even notice you are there.  If the professor turns out to be as good as your friend says, keep going to the class.  Imagine how great it is to get to learn from someone by just hanging out in their classroom!  You don’t get this kind of chance anywhere except in college.  Take advantage of it.
  7. Take notes.  Read your notes right after class if at all possible (and it is possible 95% of the time).  Rewrite your notes if you took them by hand.  Not only will they be easier to read, they will be more complete and you will learn so much (and remember it) just because you’re writing it again but this time in a more thoughtful manner than when you were taking notes madly in class.  If you typed your notes, go back through them and edit what you typed.  Add more, explain fully, expand your abbreviations, and just generally take the time to make sure you know what you wrote and why.  These tiny investments of time have huge payoffs in your learning and end up reducing your study time as you get ready for tests.  Such a deal!
  8. Get your work done before the deadline.  If you “do” college right, you’ll have lots of homework all semester.  Nearly all professors tell you at the beginning of the term what is due and when it is due.  Don’t leave those dates on the syllabus.  Get them into a planner of some type.  You can use a paper planner or Google calendar or iCal or Outlook or whatever.  But put all the tests, assignments, projects, papers, etc. into your planner.  Then work backwards as far as planning how you’ll get that work done on time and maybe, maybe even before the deadline.  This is another fabulous habit to build and it serves you in college and for the rest of your life.
  9. Have fun and be smart while you’re having fun.  Learning is fun.  Hanging out with friends is fun.  Laughing is fun.  Going out is fun (usually).  Most of your decisions won’t be life changing, but a few of them could be.  So.  Be smart while you’re having fun.
  10. Do more than is expected.  It might get you a better grade.  It might not.  It might impress your professor.  It might not.  In life, doing more than is expected will make you stand out more often than not and it will always make you proud of yourself.  That is the main reason to excel – for yourself.
In so many ways, I envy you starting college. My memories of going to college are as vivid now as they were right after I graduated. Your college experience shapes you and sets you up for the rest of your amazing life. Embrace that gift and reality.