How to Get Ahead in College: 5 Tips for Success

illustration of a college student standing on stack of books looking happy

Finding a route that beats traffic. Spotting a great deal at a clearance sale. Getting a “friends-and-family” discount on home repairs from a local contractor. Whether the benefit is big or small, we all love to get a leg up on life. Now that you’re heading back to school—or at least considering it in the near future—you can’t help but wonder what you can do to get ahead in this next chapter of life.

It’s no secret that pursuing a college degree is a big commitment of both time and money. If you’re nervous about how to manage it all, we’ve got you covered. Read on for some simple ways to prepare for academic success, potentially save money and crush your educational goals.

5 Tips for getting ahead in your college experience

Prior to getting started in college, it can’t hurt to make sure that you’re ready for the work to come and have thought about all the ways to save yourself time, money and unnecessary stress. Work through the following to ensure you’re set for success:

1. Set up your study space

It might sound like a no-brainer to some, but this is an important step that can be easy to brush off. Make sure your study space can accommodate everything you’ll need to complete your coursework in comfort. Technology, like printers, laptops and tablets (don’t forget the chargers!), and plenty of pens and paper for those who prefer a low-fi classic approach, should be close at hand.

Testing out the space ahead of time is a good idea, too. See if your chair feels good, your screen(s) are at the right position and the noise level is one you can work with. You’re going to dedicate plenty of your time to being in this study space, so take the time to make this area as effective as possible.

2. Establish a study routine

Here’s where any type of planning tool comes in handy. Whether you keep your schedule on your phone, a paper calendar or an endless series of sticky notes, it’s a good idea to find slots of time every day—even just 15-30 minutes—where you can fit in some time for coursework.

Obviously, what form this routine takes will look different for every student. Online learning formats like competency-based education can help provide additional flexibility for how you tackle your academic workload, but the bottom line is the same: making time for school means making it a priority in your daily routine. Consistently having time built in will prevent assignments from sneaking up on you and causing a mad dash to get everything finished—and remember, assigned readings matter and should be factored into your routine.

3. Take advantage of school resources

Whether you’re attending in person or online, you owe it to yourself to really immerse yourself in what your school has to offer students. Reach out to your advisor if you have a need or a question—often they will be able to refer you to resources designed just for your concerns. At Rasmussen University, the Library and Learning Services team is able to direct you to particular reference materials or to personalized student help, such as peer educators who can help you navigate the basics of online learning or peer tutors who can help with content-specific questions you have with specific classes.

Forming or joining study groups is also a great way to plug into college life, make new friends and share study tips. The people you meet in your program can be your biggest cheerleaders as you all work toward graduation—and they can help keep you accountable.

4. Maximize your dollars and time

The cliché about stressed-out, ramen-eating college students exists for a reason! But there are ways to offset some of the financial and time commitments that college can bring. College student discounts, while not always massive, are commonly offered for all sorts of services, retailers and events—so it never hurts to ask. Additionally, work-study opportunities can be a great way to earn money and many offer experience that can be useful for your future career.

Another way to save is to see if your school offers programs that let you “ladder” your credentials, like accelerated pathways to a Master’s degree, for example. Finally, make sure you investigate any opportunities to reduce the time in your program—with opportunities to test out of required classes through self-directed assessments or other methods, you can get credit for what you already know.

5. Prepare for the future now

Remember the advice to take advantage of all your school’s resources? Study sessions and tutoring aren’t the only ways you can prepare for post-graduation life. Social, athletic, academic or volunteer groups are also a great way to connect with new people, make friends and increase your potential work network—and don’t forget your faculty, either! Making time to meet up with your instructors during office hours or other established times they’re available is a great way for them to get to know you and your interests. Remember: faculty are there to make sure you understand the material—they want you to succeed!

Beyond faculty, remember there are career services resources available as well, even if you think it’ll be a while before you begin a job search. You’re going to school to follow your passion and pursue your dreams—preparing for that can begin on day one.

Make the most out of your time

Wondering about other ways you can make the most of your academic life? Check out Rasmussen University’s Empowered Learning™ page and our article “11 Surprising Student Resources You Didn’t Know Rasmussen University Offered” to learn more about the ways Rasmussen University can help set the stage for your future success.

Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie is a freelance copywriter at Collegis Education. She researches and writes articles, on behalf of Rasmussen University, to help empower students to achieve their career dreams through higher education.

Carrie Mesrobian

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