Navigating the university system is arguably its own form of success, but this doesn’t always translate into career success. Students who are able to think past the college years while still enrolled in school develop certain kinds of habits, which stay with them long after graduation. These habits often set apart one job applicant from another. College is a great place to refine these intangible skills.
1. Visualize long-term success: The most successful former college students report visualizing their ideal future regularly. This might include acceptance into graduate school or future employment with a company, non-profit or independent organization. Whatever the student’s particular goal, the act of visualizing itself enables the type of habits that lead the student through the university system successfully.
2. Define your terms: Success is a term that has different meanings depending on the person’s conceptual skills. College is an environment built to challenge and refine these definitions. Make room for the concept of success to evolve. For example, a temporary failure in a classroom can be handled in a manner that still contributes to the student’s long-term vision of success.
3. Time management: Consistency is the key ingredient of academic success. Managing time often includes juggling multiple and sometimes conflicting obligations. For example, college students are often employed while enrolled, which splits the time available for studying. Family and social pressures will also compete for precious hours. The most successful college students learn how to set realistic limits and communicate these firmly but politely to family, friends and even employers.
4. Review goals periodically: Every college student goes through a period of change or transition at some point. For example, the original goal might be to obtain employment in a particular field; however, complicating evidence often emerges during the course of study. This can make the student aware of new options that weren’t obvious before. The ability to revise a goal and prioritize accordingly is an ongoing life skill that will serve the student well beyond graduation.
5. Organize: Time management goes hand-in-glove with organizational skills. The learning process requires regular blocks of time in order to master the material for an exam, for example. Partition periods of reading into shorter and more frequent blocks of time instead of doing one all-night session.
6. Health management: College can introduce a higher level of stress than the student is prepared to handle. This is the perfect time to do a crash-course in nutrition planning, exercise and even meditation. Successful college students tend to be open to learning how to maintain their concentration through diet, exercise and creating a home environment conducive to learning. This requires active participation, and the benefits of learning self-care are life-long. Emotional wellness is closely linked to academic performance, and college is a great place to learn about the connection between emotional and physical health.
7. Cultivate mindful habits: Mindfulness is a great skill. It can be applied to so many situations in college. During a lecture, listen mindfully, and take notes using this awareness to track your ability to stay focused. As a bonus, the notes will be more useful later. Accept the idea that you’ll only get a chance to do anything once; there is never time to repeat tasks. This is just something you get the hang of with regular mindfulness practice.
8. Embrace responsibility: The challenge of organizing various aspects of your life is a deliberate move into adulthood, so embrace this process. College is more than just coursework; it involves financial planning, personal care and negotiation with various entities and individuals on a regular basis. When the student has an attitude of willingness to take on responsibility, it will manifest in different areas of life. This attitude alone often opens doors that would otherwise have remained inaccessible.
9. Be resourceful and persistent: Recognize that the most important opportunities for growth often manifest as insurmountable obstacles. Critical thinking is one of the most important mental tools that can be used to develop the resourcefulness and persistence necessary to make it through each course. The development of critical thinking over time will enable the student to evaluate a variety of situations in ethical as well as material terms. Resourcefulness can also mean figuring out how to engage with the professor in a more constructive way that gets the most out of your time. This might involve showing up during office hours with well-prepared questions, for example. Apply critical thought to every situation, and the rewards will continue for a lifetime.
10. Plan to receive feedback: Feedback comes in a variety of forms, and successful college students have a strategy for receiving feedback. The best-case scenario is called constructive feedback. This is often given by a professor, and it is designed to provoke intellectual growth and development. Develop the ability to remain neutral while receiving the feedback, and allow it to sink in overtime. Stay open to feedback because it’s the reason you’re enrolled in an educational environment in the first place.