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How to be a Successful College Student

Being a successful college student involves finding the balance between having fun and studying hard.

Academic success doesn’t come naturally for all college students; these tips for success will help students recognize the signs of academic and personal struggle.

The sooner problems are recognized and solved, the better!

College students who don’t cope well with the challenges of the school environment and new stressors may be more at risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, unhealthy relationships and emotional health issues such as depression.

Coping with college stress can help students live healthier, happier lives. To learn more about being a success college student, read How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students.

And here are several tips on success for college students…

How to be a Successful College Student

“The first few months of college in particular can be tough,” says psychiatrist Edward Poa, MD, medical director of the Compass Young Adult Program. “For many students, it’s their first time outside the structure of their home. New college students have to learn how to manage their own schedules and take care of themselves, shop for themselves and manage a budget. On top of that, they’ve lost their usual high school support network. New college students have to build a new social support network from scratch.”

Here are the top five signs that a college student is struggling:

1. Change of mood or habits. Rapid, unexpected changes may signal adjustment problems, which will interfere with college students’ successful achievement of goals. Dressing differently, not calling home, withdrawing from friends, and changing eating habits may be signs that a college student is struggling.

2. Poor grades. Declining grades and frequent withdrawals from courses could be signs of lack of success in college. To succeed in college, students need to recognize possible problems early.

3. Financial problems. While it is normal for college students to hit their parents up for money, students who are struggling may ask for more money than usual, or more frequently.

4. Extreme social behaviors: isolation or “too much partying.” Spending too much time alone or too much time with friends can detract from student success at college, and interfere with education goals. Another potential problem is if the college student spends excessive amounts of time at a new boyfriend or girlfriend’s house, and stops spending time with family, roommates and friends.

5. Excessive sleep. Many college students keep erratic schedules and like to sleep in on the weekends after a night out. But if college students sleep for more than 10 hours a day, there could be a problem. Excessive sleep is a sign of depression, which will interfere with student success.

Signs of alcohol or drug abuse in college students:

  • Need for extra money.
  • Extremely busy time schedules; they’re rarely around to talk.
  • Job loss. Dropping extracurricular activities, such as volunteering or college clubs.
  • Poor grades and course withdrawals.
  • Erratic or unusual behavior.
  • Signs of depression
  • Change in moods or habits.
  • Excessive sleep or fatigue.
  • Weight loss or weight gain.
  • Poor hygiene habits: not bathing, dressing without care.
  • Loss of interest in school, activities, and life.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Thoughts of death.

How Parents and Friends Can Help College Students Succeed

If your son or daughter is a struggling college student, you might find Tips for Surviving College for Parents of New Students.

Let college students vent their feelings every day if they need to, but don’t let them cry on your shoulder or complain for hours. Redirect the conversation to interesting topics.

Encourage healthy activities: joining newcomer’s or other clubs on campus, sharing true feelings with roommates or trusted classmates, exercise classes like yoga, practicing spirituality, seeking a counselor’s help if needed.

Take mentions of depression, eating disorders, or unhealthy relationships seriously. Get help.

To help college students achieve goals at school, encourage them to eat nutritious foods, learn time management skills, and build a healthy support network of friends.

Fast facts about the mental health of college students:

  • Students with mental health issues, addictions or eating disorders often don’t seek help, even if resources are free and convenient.
  • Poor students are more prone to depression and anxiety disorders, and less likely to seek help.
  • Most psychological disorders occur before age 24.
  • Female college students are more likely to seek help for psychological disorders, eating disorders, alcohol abuse or drug addictions.
  • The incidence of psychological disorders on college campuses is rising.

Are you thinking about graduate level study? Read How to Get Into Grad School – Master’s or PhD Programs.

If you have any questions or thoughts about for student success in college, please comment below…

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5 thoughts on “How to be a Successful College Student”

  1. I’m going back to college (university, actually) in September, and I’m a bit nervous about it. I love school, but also love the freedom of not being in school! My MSW program is only 2 years long, so…I’ll enjoy the best parts of being in university and keep telling myself I’ll be out of school before I know it…

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks, Chanen, for your tip for college students! One on one coaching is a great way to be successful, and so are peer counselors and study groups. Universities and colleges really do want students to succeed, and most offer many different resources for help and guidance.

  3. A suggestion that I have is to take advantage of all the college or university has to offer. Campus advisers can help but look into whether your school has one on one counseling. InsideTrack is an organization that has dedicated itself to student success through one on one coaching.

  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    This is very cool – thanks for sharing your music with us, Kiley! That’s amazing that you sing about the major problems in the world….I hope you do get the word out to a wider audience.

    As far as networking suggestions, I think you’re well on your way. Posting on youtube is fantastic, and having your own website is also great. Keep posting on websites like mine, and – most importantly – keep the faith!

    Best wishes,

  5. Hi Laurel,

    I thought you might find this story interesting. My sisters and I have a band called Truth On Earth. We write, produce, and sing original songs about major problems in the world such as Factory Farming, Cyberbullying, Starvation and Child Abuse to name a few. 70% of our profits go to those who are working on real solutions so that we can get earth on track and leave a planet worth inheriting to future generations. We would appreciate any networking suggestions you might have that would help us get the word out to a wider audience. At truthonearthband.com you can hear our music and read more about our mission. We just added our first music video “Factory Farm” to our youtube page as well.

    Hope to hear from you. Thanks,