By Jeff Beals
After attending our next-door neighbor’s high school graduation party, my daughter and I took an evening walk. There must be a lot of 18-year-olds in my neighborhood, because seemingly every block was filled with the parallel-parked cars of graduation party invitees.
Walking through the epicenter of graduation revelry reminded me of a note I received from a reader three months ago. He asked me to write an article about college success. He wanted me to offer advice to students about to enter college. I told him I would be happy to do that but would wait until high-school graduation season. Well, that time is now.
If you have a son, daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew or anyone else you care about who will be starting college this fall, please read on…
By the way, I’m actually quite comfortable addressing this question and fairly well credentialed in doing so. Before entering the for-profit business sector 14 years ago, I was dean of student affairs at a private college.
The keys to college success are quite similar to those of the professional world.
Responsibility. Authority. Accountability. Success ultimately comes down to three words. I used to harp on those three words when I would meet with new students and upperclassmen. In order to succeed, each individual must take total responsibility for his or her own life. You must graciously accept credit when it is due, and more importantly, you must be the first to stand up and take the blame when you have made a mistake.
If you get an “A+” on a term paper, it’s because you did the necessary work, not because you got lucky. If you’re late for class, it’s your fault, not because you got stuck waiting at a railroad crossing (you should have left earlier). People who adopt this belief are almost always more successful than those who make excuses.
Every individual has responsibility for himself or herself. Nobody else can or should make decisions for you. Fortunately, each of us has the authority to carry out that responsibility. Nobody has the right to take away the power you have over your own life. Finally, we are accountable for the decisions we make – good or bad. You live with the consequences of your decision-making and actions.
While responsibility, authority and accountability come with a burden, they are also liberating. Success begins and ends with you. People who abide by these three words enjoy more success and lead richer lives.
No Passivity Allowed
Students must take the initiative to make things happen. Successful people live active rather than passive lives. To persist in college, you must deliberately make things happen. Those students who sit in their residence hall rooms waiting for something to happen tend to turn into professionals who sit in their offices wondering why other people are so much more successful.
It may sound counter intuitive, but one of the best ways to succeed academically is to get involved outside the classroom. I saw it all the time when I worked as a college administrator – students who dropped out of school during their freshman or sophomore years tended to be isolated and not interwoven into the campus fabric.
Getting involved in a campus club, organization, Greek organization or athletic team helps you develop relationships with fellow students. These relationships consequently bind you emotionally to the school. If you are having a good time and benefiting from meaningful experiences and relationships, you’re more likely to work hard and do what it takes to stay there.
Collegiate involvement also makes the campus seem “smaller.” This is important, because going to college can feel intimidating to freshmen especially at large universities.
While earning good grades takes hard work, you don’t want to be studying 24-7. Your undergraduate experience should be one of the most fun and memorable times of your life. You can enjoy the best of your academic and social lives if you are a good time manager.
As in the professional world, time management habits are one of the single most significant factors that separate the successful from the not-so-successful. If a student is lacking in time management, there are several on-line resources that provide tips, advice and exercises. You might also take a look at my January 2011 article “Conquer the 10 Worst Time Wasters” at http://bit.ly/1rcXfvf.
Find a Mentor
Mentorship has been proven over the years to be a highly effective path to success. New students should seek out mentors on campus. They could be professors, staff members, and most likely, an upperclassman who leading a successful college career. Having a role model and a source for advice makes it easier for a freshman to live a life of responsibility, authority and accountability.
Mentor-mentee relationships tend be informal, developed over time as people get to know each other and build friendships. That said, many colleges have formal mentoring programs in which incoming students are matched with upperclassmen who have agreed to serve as mentors and follow a designed program.
Be On Campus
Finally, there’s no substitute for just being on campus. I’m a big believer of on-campus living. By being on campus around the clock, you fully immerse yourself in the experience.
However, I understand that on-campus living is not logistically or financially possible for all students. In those cases, students should spend their free time on campus. Instead of going home right after class, stick around. Do your studying in the student center, the library or the quad. Eat your meals on campus. Just being there makes it more likely that you will succeed.
Like so many things in life, college requires that you throw your whole self into the experience. Make it your passion. Be a college student with all your heart. There are some things in life that you can do half-heartedly. College is not one of them. You need to give it your all and be fully committed.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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