In my four years at college, I’ve learned a lot. Not just in classrooms and from textbooks, but also from the experience of living independently, being in a college community, and getting ready for life after my degree. In everything from little, everyday moments like studying with my friends in the library, to the big, memorable occasions like celebrations and graduations, I’ve grown and changed. Today I’m sharing what I’ve learned with you in my four years at university. Here are my 88 college tips for making the most out of your college years!
College Tips: Academics
1. Get to know your professors. They are your best friends when it comes to succeeding in college, whether that means getting an A, passing the class, or getting through the semester stress-free. Having a positive relationship with a professor makes a huge difference for classes, advice, and recommendations.
2. Go to office hours. Professors make time to see you outside of the classroom— take advantage! This is a great time to review concepts from class, ask questions, and get advice.
3. Don’t skip classes (often). I’m all for a mental health day every now and then, but do your best to go to class as often as possible. There really are things you can’t learn from a textbook.
4. Get a tutor if you need one. There is absolutely no shame in getting extra help. If you’re unsure how to do that, check out this guest post on seeking academic help when you need it.
5. Get organized. Is it any surprise that I would recommend this? Getting organized for school is such a crucial step for staying on top of your assignments, work, and schedule. To get started, check out my Ultimate Guide to College Organization and 45 Tips to Stay Organized in College.
6. Take advantage of the extra resources on your campus. Almost every college has resources and help centers on campus to help their students succeed. Look online to see if your college has a tutoring center, departmental tutors, or academic student leaders on campus. These people can help you understand new concepts, improve your essays, and even work on balancing your schedule!
7. Take classes outside your comfort zone. I’m a religion major, but in four years I’ve taken courses on everything from computer programming, to geoscience, to health statistics, to German cinema! In part, that’s due to distribution requirements and a liberal arts education, but I have no regrets about choosing these classes. College is a time to explore and expand your boundaries, outside and inside a classroom. Challenge yourself. Learn something new. You won’t regret it.
8. Find what motivates you and reflect on it often. Motivation is truly the foundation of success. I need goals to keep pushing me forward, so I constantly reflect on my goals to keep myself moving forward. To get motivated to succeed in college, check out my Ultimate Guide to College Organization.
9. Work hard and don’t mess around. College may be some of the most fun and formative years of your life, but it should also be a time to focus and hit the books. Your education is costing someone — whether you, your parents, or someone else — a lot of money. Don’t waste it.
10. Figure out your best study mode, and find a good place to study. Some people study better with friends, music, and snacks galore. Others prefer peace and quiet. Find what works for you and stick to it!
11. Get to know your dean or adviser. They can help you if need be. Deans and advisers are great resources when you’re struggling academically or personally and need some help. They can vouch for you when it comes to dealing with your college administration.
12. If you procrastinate, find ways around it, or learn to work with it. Do your best to work around your procrastinatory habits by figuring out what’s holding you back. Is it perfectionism? Overwhelm? Exhaustion? Figure it out and find ways to address it. This article may help you, as will this one, and I have a whole chapter about procrastination in my college eBook, How to Succeed in College.
13. GPA is important, but it’s not the most important thing. It won’t make or break you. Remember that it’s just a number.
14. Consider a double-major or a minor if you have multiple significant interests, but know that sticking with one major is fine and can still get you a job. If you love Biology and Music equally, there’s no reason you can’t study both. But if you’re truly passionate about only one subject, that’s fine, too. Employment has a lot more to do with tenacity, experience, and ability to learn than it has to do with your actual major.
15. Ask upperclassmen which professors and classes changed them or helped them learn the most. Take those classes.
16. Drop and switch classes if need be, but do so early so that you don’t fall behind. In college, there are few things worse than struggling to keep up.
17. Get your distribution requirements and harder classes out of the way early. This will give you more freedom later in college to take the classes you’re excited about.
18. If you have special needs or require accommodations, go after them. Connect with a health or disability group on campus, reach out to your disability resource center, email your professors, and get the help you need.
19. You don’t have to know everything when you come in. It’s okay to spend some time wandering.
20. Make outlines for your papers. When it comes to essay writing, I’d be lost without an outline. Learn how to make one in this Ultimate Guide to Writing a College Paper.
21. Make study plans for your finals. Not sure how? Check out how to make a study plan for final exams.
22. Learn the class material when it’s taught, instead of cramming before every exam. There’s no reason to come to class only to zone out, and then stress like crazy weeks later as you cram for finals. Show up to class, in every sense of the word. You won’t regret it.
23. Keep an assignment list. It can save your butt when it comes to keeping track of everything you need to do. See how I do it here.
24. Don’t cheat. Even if you don’t get caught, living with yourself afterwards will not be fun.
25. Use the library, and become familiar with its catalogue. Knowing your way around your college library is like a secret superpower when it comes to studying or writing final papers. It will save you time and energy.
26. Take a wide variety of classes in your first two years. Focus in on your passions after that. This lets you get your distributions out of the way, discover your passions, and meet new people early on in college. Once you’re more settled and know what you want to study, you can dig deep in the major.
27. Get familiar with citation guides. Nothing ruins a paper like sloppy citations. Whether your professor prefers APA, MLA, or Chicago, know what they want and learn how to do it. Hacker and Sommers’ Pocket Style Manual will get you a long way.
28. Learn to write well. Be clear and concise; avoid clichés. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White will teach you the basics, and my good friend Taylor recommends Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style for adding some style.
29. Don’t plagiarize. Ever. If you get caught, you’ll be kicked out, and if you don’t, you still have to live with yourself. This includes paying someone to write your essay for you. It’s cheating. Don’t do it.
College Tips: Technology
30. Back up your files. Nothing worse than hitting page 10 of a final paper just to have your computer crash and lose all your work.
31. Get a calendar. iStudiez Pro works well, and can sync to your phone.
32. Invest in a good laptop. It will be your lifesaver.
33. Don’t get so caught up in technology that you forget to actually study. A good flash card app is great, but it can’t compete with hard work and dedication.
College Tips: Community
34. People are the most important. Make time for friends, family, and people you’d like to know better. School is significant, but friends come first.
35. Remember people’s names when you meet them. It will make a great impression when you see them again.
36. Avoid eating alone. Meals are a great time to spend with friends. Instead of eating dinner alone with some Netflix, invite a few friends to the dining hall, or just to have Ramen or take-out in your room. Use that time as social time.
37. Don’t sign up for everything at the org fair at once. You won’t go to all the meetings, and you’ll resent getting emails all year long reminding you to come to bellydance practice. Just choose a few things to sign up for.
38. Try a lot of things and don’t be afraid to leave them if they don’t suit you. At the same time, try something new. Go to an org’s open meeting (without giving them your email address). Check out different religious and spiritual organizations. Attend guest lectures.
39. Go to the orientation events. Orientation is a great time to make friends and get to know your campus. Don’t miss out!
40. Join your dorm community. Whether you have a dorm council or an in-dorm crew club, check it out. It’s a wonderful way to meet the people around you, and hopefully make some new friends.
41. If you want to make change happen, join your student legislative body. Make your voice heard.
College Tips: Dorm Life
42. Always pick up your laundry when it’s done. If you come by an hour or two late, chances are you’ll find it on top of the dryer, or on the floor.
43. Find the best time to do laundry. People tend to do laundry in the evening, and laundry late at night will disturb your neighbors. Find a good time for you when you won’t be competing with others for the last dryer.
44. Communicate with your roommate about issues. If there’s a problem, talk it out. If you can’t figure it out, bring it up with your RA. There’s no need to seethe in silence all year long because she ate your bananas.
45. Be a good roommate. Be courteous, respectful, and don’t eat your roommate’s food. I was bad at this. Don’t be like me.
46. Get to know people outside of your room, your floor, and your building. There is a world outside of your dorm. Discover it!
47. Don’t gossip. Dorm walls are thin. Gossiping is a great way to ruin relationships and give yourself a bad reputation. Just don’t.
48. Wear shower shoes. You don’t want to know what people do in college showers.
49. Have a shower caddy. Trust me, carrying a little shower tote is infinitely better than holding an armful of shampoos and conditioners while trying to keep your towel closed. They’re like $10 on Amazon. Worth it.
50. Get multiple towels that you like and are comfortable using, so that you don’t need to dry off with a damp towel.
51. How you decorate your room is not nearly as important as how you feel in it. Decor is exciting, but ultimately your only goal is to create a space that’s cozy, comfortable, and good for friends and studying.
52. Don’t bring all your clothes. They take up tons of closet space, and you won’t wear them all anyway.
College Tips: Study Abroad
54. Do work in your study abroad program. If you get Ds and Fs, you’ll end up having to redo a semester at your school, after your other friends have graduated. At the same time, have fun! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
55. Say yes to as many experiences as you can. Travel, go to events, see guest lecturers. Make the most of it.
College Tips: Health
56. Don’t eat all the fried and sugary foods in the dining hall. Everything is fine in moderation, but constant indulgence is a great way to get out of shape fast.
57. Try to have vegetables and/or fruit with every meal. This is a great way to curb hunger and get your nutrients in.
58. Many colleges have an on-campus nutritionist. If you’re struggling to be healthy at college, consider making an appointment.
59. Find the college gym. They often have free exercise classes for students. It’s a great way to stay active and have fun.
60. Sign up for an activity or fitness class if you don’t like going to the gym. Classes are fun, and easier to stay motivated through than a work out by yourself.
61. Whether your area of weakness is nutrition, physical activity, or finding peace and balance, there are great resources and videos online. A simple Google search can go a long way.
62. Seek professional help or counseling if you need it. It’s often free and always confidential. Learn how to get started with counseling here.
63. Find spiritual life on campus. Be willing to explore.
64. Sleep enough. Prioritize this – it will make you a happier and healthier student.
65. Finals is a terrible time in terms of on-campus stress levels and community. Make sure you make time for yourself to be human amidst all that studying.
College Tips: Career and Finance
66. Try getting a part-time job or get involved a serious org on campus. Aside from financial benefits, it looks great on a resume.
67. Have a standing resume, but change your resume for every job you apply to. Personalize and perfect your resume for each opportunity.
68. Take advantage of the career services office. They’re there to help, and can often connect you to great scholarships, jobs, and fellowships you may not have heard about.
69. Keep track of your money. Learn how to in my guide to making your first college budget.
70. Events often have free food and swag, if you’re trying to save money. Attending those lectures and events is also a great way to expose yourself to more experiences and learn more things.
71. Take your time choosing a major or a career path. It’s better to weigh the options carefully than to dive in unaware.
72. Consider where a BA will get you, and know whether or not you need higher education or further schooling to get the job you want.
73. There are tons of discounts available for college students. Do some digging and find the best ones for you.
74. Sell back your textbooks. It’ll help you recoup some of your start-of-the-semester costs.
75. Learn to network. Whether that’s in person or online, make professional connections. It can make a big difference in the job market later on.
76. Learn to perfect your LinkedIn profile. I love this helpful article by Endless May on how to create a hire-worthy LinkedIn.
College Tips: College Life
77. Find a balance in work habits and other habits. If there’s one thing I wish I could change about my college experience, it would be finding better balance.
78. Buy ear plugs. They will make your life significantly better. I like these wax ones, which block out all noise.
79. Please don’t brag about your high school accomplishments. College is a clean slate.
80. Don’t lose hope if you don’t meet your best friends right away. It took me a year and a half, but now I have an amazing group of best friends at college who has made my years here so much more worth it.
81. Call or email your parents sometimes. They most likely miss you.
82. Don’t give up on your dreams and aspirations. Sometimes, you will feel discouraged. Just keep going; you will get there.
83. Don’t be afraid to NOT have summer plans. It’s okay to use the summers to work on your life, not your resume. At the same time, it’s smart to have some work experience or an internship or two under your belt before you enter the workforce. Consider taking your freshman summer to have fun, and your summers after that to work and prepare for life after college.
84. Become friends with your Resident Director. They are wonderful people and being friends with them will benefit you in the long run, whether you have questions, need help, or need someone to talk to.
85. Befriend your RA! They are there to help you, and they can actually be pretty cool people (as a former RA, I may be a little biased).
86. Learn to say no, whether that’s to an opportunity that would overwhelm you, drugs at a party, or something else that is probably not a great idea. It’s a lifelong skill.
87. Read for fun! It can help bring some balance into your otherwise hectic life.
88. Enjoy your life. This only happens once; make the most of it.