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How to Succeed in College: 99 Student Success Tips

By Publisher
| Last Updated May 20, 2022

Here's how to succeed in college in only four words: Have good, consistent habits. Sounds pretty simple, right? Maybe a little too simple? After all, what defines "good?" Many people achieve college success by paying attention to what works for other students. Yet, that's not always a sure-fire method. Some students do well in spite of their bad habits, which can make it hard to sort out what will actually work for you. Thankfully, plenty of time-tested advice exists to help you out.

It all boils down to this: Successful students tend to practice habits and mindsets that allow them to feel in control of their education. They don't study harder; they study smarter. They often experience less stress than other students. And they enjoy the learning process rather than seeing it as merely a means to an end.

Of course, knowing how to be successful in college also requires knowing your own definition of success. For this article, being a successful student means following through on your college or trade school education and doing what's necessary to put yourself in position to establish and sustain a rewarding career after you graduate. (It doesn't necessarily mean having the highest grade point average among your classmates, although that could be one outcome.)

What follows are 99 tips on how to succeed in college inspired by advice from a diverse range of people, including popular authors and researchers like Cal Newport, Daniel Coyle, Kelly McGonigal, and Olivia Fox Cabane. Some of these tips may not work for you, and that's OK. But the more of them you try, the more likely it is that you'll find yourself moving toward college success.

Student Success Tips

5 Essential Tips for How to Choose College Classes

How to Choose College ClassesDetermining how to choose college classes can be a real challenge when you're not sure how to evaluate your options. Plus, your initial course selection may not necessarily align with the overall goals you've set for your education. That's why it's important to keep a few simple things in mind as you go about picking your classes.

The following tips can help you clarify your options.

1. Challenge yourself.

If you want to know how to succeed in school, then this is an aspect that can't be ignored. Seek out courses that stretch your limits. Understand that learning, by its very nature, is a challenging process. So embrace that challenge.

2. Follow your interests, but stay open.

Your curiosity can guide you to many of the most rewarding courses. But it can also blind you to choices that may benefit you just as much, if not more. So take care not to rule out courses that seem beyond your interest. Many students find their paths to success accidentally because they have to take courses they didn't initially want to take. Stay open to the possibility of pleasant surprises by making room for a few subjects outside the pull of your curiosity. You might just discover new strengths you never knew you had.

3. Don't wait to pursue your strongest interests.

The sooner you get started in the subjects that interest you most, the better. It gives you a chance to really determine whether or not you feel they are something you can stick with and grow from. (Some students find out that their interests pointed them in the wrong direction.) It's always better to change your focus of study early on instead of far into your college experience.

4. Seek out classes that help you build marketable skills.

Knowledge and theory are important. But once you graduate, you'll need to demonstrate that you can actually do stuff that employers will pay for. So it's a good idea to pay attention to the skills that are in high demand and mix some of them into your education.

5. Pursue different classes in completely different subjects.

Taking widely divergent courses lets you acquire different types of knowledge and skills that you can connect and use together in new ways. This approach often leads to the development of innovative thinking, which is a highly prized skill in today's economy. And many employers love to hire people who can provide extra value outside of their main skill set.

10 Proven Tips on Setting Smart Goals for Students

Setting Smart Goals for StudentsWondering what the best approach is to setting smart goals? For students in college or trade school, it's an important place to start. A surprising number of students haven't thought much about it. They enter school without having a clear idea of what succeeding in college means for them personally. And they forget to map out all of their reasons for going to school, which means they often miss out on the powerful benefits of goal setting for students. But right now you have the chance to make sure you get it right.

Following some or all of the 10 tips below can make a big difference in your ability to get the most out of your education.

1. Imagine your ideal outcome.

Success in college begins with a sense of what's possible. So it's much easier to accomplish your goals if you can visualize what you want. It gives you a clear purpose. It provides a beacon of hope to help guide you during challenging times. And the great thing is that it doesn't have to be permanent. As you change and grow, what you imagine can change and grow with you.

2. Approach college with the right attitude.

One of the most important habits of a successful student is treating school as a gift of opportunity rather than as a necessary evil. The students who thrive are not content with being average or just skating by. Instead, they focus on using their time in school to maximize their individual potential as much as possible.

3. Take charge of your education.

The best results come from staying proactive. So don't wait to be told what to do. Seek out ways to go beyond the minimum required. Stay alert to new opportunities that will help you grow in some way. Take calculated risks. Put your future in your own hands instead of hoping that someone else will come along and lead the way for you.

4. Get the "whys" right.

If you want to become a successful student, then you have to go to school for the right reasons. That means valuing results that have real substance instead of fleeting or elusive outcomes like fame, prestige, or recognition. Be honest with yourself about why you want to go to school. Make sure your reasons line up with things that stick around—such as personal development, acquiring marketable skills, improving your understanding of the world, improving your ability to provide for your family, and so on.

5. Focus on actually learning, not just on your grades.

When you prioritize gaining deep knowledge, retaining what you learn, and mastering valuable skills, the grades tend to take care of themselves. So don't obsess over trying to avoid bad grades. If you get them, simply learn from them and use the experience to improve your habits. Grades are only one measurement of your progress. They never tell the whole story. Only you know whether or not you are really learning something. Never forget that employers expect you to back up your paper degree with actual knowledge and abilities.

6. Trust the small steps.

Success isn't some grand event that happens overnight. It's developed every day, little by little. Think of the process of achieving your goals more as evolution than revolution. It takes time. Make sure you master all of the small stuff so that it eventually adds up to something big.

7. Dream bigger.

Although your short-term goals should be reachable, your long-term goals should feel just out of reach. If you always feel like you've got everything in the bag, then your big goals probably aren't ambitious enough. By dreaming a little bigger, you stretch your potential, sustain your drive, and increase your chances of reaching your vision of success.

8. Stay mindful of negative self-talk.

If you catch yourself saying or thinking that you're not worthy, that you're not talented enough, or that the things before you are too hard or impossible, take a few moments to really listen. Then identify these negative words as the lies they are. They aren't really a part of you. Are you going to give your goals up to them? Students who succeed know how to keep them away by choosing more constructive words to tell themselves.

9. Seek to master at least one skill better than anyone else you know.

In the job market after you graduate, skills will be the main currency. So by planning from the beginning to be an ace at things that employers value, you can give yourself a head start on your classmates in the race to stand out after graduation.

10. Plan on amplifying your strengths.

It seems counterintuitive, but placing too much focus on strengthening your weak areas can sometimes decrease your chances of success. Instead of spending a majority of time improving their weaknesses, many of the most successful college students dedicate the bulk of their energy to honing and maximizing what they are best at. That doesn't mean ignoring the other areas; it just means taking advantage of who you really are. We're each good at different things. By building on our strengths, we can each become great in our own ways.

11 Powerful Tips on How to Stay Motivated in College

Student with books in the libraryUnderstanding how to get motivated in college is essential. We've all had times when our enthusiasm takes a dip and we aren't sure how to keep going. It's completely normal. Yet, like most of us, you probably just want a way to turn those feelings around and start moving forward with confidence again.

These 11 tips for staying motivated in college can revitalize you and help you stick to the goals you've set.

1. Explore your surroundings.

It may sound strange, but one of the best ways to appreciate the path you're on is to walk along a different one now and then. Take time to discover some of the hidden gems in your area—like fringe art galleries, quirky cafés, and less-traveled walking and hiking paths. Step beyond your usual interests and expose yourself to new kinds of art and music. Stake out your own nook in a place you haven't explored before.

2. Do the work anyway.

Maybe you're afraid of failing. Maybe you fear criticism. Maybe the very idea of success makes you nervous because it means that you have to grow and change to reach it. All of these fears are unnecessary—and you can defeat them. So face your fears head on. Then chase them away by doing the stuff you're in school to do. Successful students sometimes call it practicing stubborn persistence. It's one of the biggest secrets in any student's success. You have to push on. You have to keep showing up. You have to do the work anyway.

3. Don't wait for permission.

One of the greatest things about college is that you get to steer your own ship. You don't need permission to pursue the things that will make you successful. Other people might have reasons to wish you weren't in your position—like jealousy—but you don't have to seek their approval. The momentum to succeed starts within you. And only you.

4. Beware of self-help overload.

Good advice can be helpful. But only if you follow it by taking action. Some students binge on self-help and personal development advice so much that they eventually burn out and lose the motivation to do anything. They never bother applying any of it to their own lives. Instead, they use it as a way to daydream about success rather than actually doing anything about it. So take advice in small doses, but be skeptical of it also. Not all so-called good advice will be good for your individual situation.

5. Turn self-doubt into a positive.

Getting a bad grade isn't the end of the world. And having a few negative thoughts isn't so bad either. The truth is that an obsession with self-esteem can work against you. It can blind you from your weaknesses and give you an unjustified sense of your greatness. It's more helpful to embrace the fact that you are not perfect. Experiencing a little self-doubt can help you stay focused on more of the details and avoid mistakes. Self-doubt can also motivate you to work harder. It exists to remind you that you're learning and still have plenty of room to grow. That's a good thing.

6. Slow down your expectations.

College isn't a sprint. It's more like a marathon. So you may have to lessen your expectation for instant gratification. Successful students tend to understand that part of learning how to stay motivated in school is learning how to stay patient and trusting the process. Avoid getting too far ahead of yourself so that you can enjoy the present and keep up your momentum.

7. Focus on what you truly want.

It's easy to feel out of control, like you're doing a bunch of stuff that isn't leading anywhere. Your enthusiasm for school might decrease. So it's essential to keep refocusing your motivation. But the key to getting motivation in the first place is to have a clear vision of what you're trying to achieve. That's why you have to define what success means to you. What does it look like? Every day, write down a reason that you are in school. Write down the main things you want to get out of the experience.

8. Keep a daily progress journal.

Building self-awareness is one of the best ways to stay motivated in college. You need to be able to evaluate how well you're doing each day. So set daily goals. Then, before going to bed each night, take a moment to write something simple like "All Done" if you've completed all of your tasks for the day. If you didn't, then quickly jot down why you weren't able to. This way, you build a system for being mindful of your actions and holding yourself accountable.

9. Put away your past.

Reminding yourself of your previous achievements can certainly provide a confidence boost from time to time. But you don't want to get stuck on them. People who become masters at what they do get there by acknowledging how much they still don't know. They operate from a mindset of never being fully satisfied. They know there is always more room to grow. It's what keeps them moving forward instead of just relying on past achievements and eventually losing ground.

10. Recognize guilt for what it really is.

Feeling guilty about something can actually be a sign that, on some level, you expect to gain pleasure from it. Your brain is telling you that it should feel good. Then it's making an irrational moral judgment about it. (We often feel most guilty about things that are pleasurable.) But that can have a dampening effect on our willpower to tackle things that involve hard work. So, when you feel guilty about not following through on a school-related goal, it's a good idea to stop and recognize that this is what might be happening. Once you do, you may feel a lot more like taking action.

11. Tackle the hard stuff.

Understand that the most difficult projects or goals can only be accomplished step by step and over time. It can be hard to recognize any results while you're still going through the process. But, just like building muscle, conquering your hardest challenges increases your strengths and abilities so that the challenges that follow get a little easier. That's one of the secrets to sustaining a passion for what you do.

8 Simple Time Management Tips for College Students

Time Management Tips for College StudentsBeing a student can sometimes mean balancing your school work with your personal life, work life, and extra-curricular activities.

To ensure you can make the most of your training without shortchanging other areas of your life, it's important you learn how to manage time in a way that lets you handle everything successfully. The eight time management tips for college students that follow are designed to help you do just that.

1. Prioritize the big stuff.

It sounds simple enough. But knowing how to become a successful student requires truly understanding this piece of advice. Unless you have urgent tasks that absolutely must be handled right away, it's better to use your time working on important things like writing major papers, studying, practicing the skills you want to master, or making connections with important people.

2. Keep a routine and guard your time.

In college, time is the most precious resource. That's why successful students often make sure that nothing interrupts their carefully planned routines. It's OK to be spontaneous once in a while, but the more consistent you are at using certain periods of time for the same types of work, the more benefits you'll be able to get from your education.

3. Break your time outside of class into small chunks that match your body's natural rhythms.

Generally speaking, a person's energy waxes and wanes in roughly 90-minute intervals throughout the day. By paying attention to when you feel more awake and focused, you can schedule your most challenging tasks for those times. Then you can leave the less-challenging stuff for the dips or use the low-energy times for refreshing naps or social and recreational breaks. This way, you can get everything in without feeling like you're missing out or ignoring your studies.

4. Use a daily planner to list and schedule your tasks.

Many students find that using an electronic calendar along with a daily handwritten list provides the best system for organizing their time. Space out your big tasks on the calendar and set alerts for any important deadlines. Create a new list each day of all tasks that must get done, and make sure you have times on your calendar where you can fit them in. Scratch off each task as you complete it. If you don't finish all of your tasks, then start a list for the next day and transfer them over.

5. Start the important stuff right away.

Lots of students procrastinate regularly, but you probably don't want to be one of them. The more you procrastinate, the less likely you are to succeed. At least, that's true of most people. Playing catch-up all the time is a recipe for stress and burnout. Instead, it's smarter to start on important things like big reading assignments, research papers, and exam prep as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the more your subconscious can filter ideas and work on problems for you in the background. It also gives you a chance to actually enjoy the process at a more leisurely pace. No cramming necessary.

6. Plan ahead for your hardest days.

Letting the hard days sneak up on you is never fun. Besides, there's no excuse for it. Make sure you have the syllabus for each course you're taking, and highlight all of the most challenging components like major class projects, midterms, and final exams. Then start setting aside time on your schedule to prepare for them well in advance of when they happen. Make notes to limit partying and other distractions before those times. But also plan to reward yourself with some memorable fun after getting through those days. By doing this, you might just turn what would have been your hardest days into your easiest.

7. Avoid overcommitting.

Although it's tempting to think that saying yes to everything will make you a superstar, doing so may have the opposite effect. That's why one of the most reliable ways to succeed in college is to trim down your activities to only the most important ones—the ones that provide clear benefits to your personal development, education, or career preparation. Saying no is often the best thing you can do.

8. Minimize your multitasking.

It takes time to get into the appropriate headspace to be your most effective at different types of tasks. In fact, numerous research studies show that the more people multitask, the less effective they are at what they're trying to accomplish. Many of the most successful people know this and manage their time accordingly. They give themselves the space and permission to give all of their attention to just one important task at a time.

7 Easy Ways to Make Going to Class More Beneficial

Smiling students in a classroomThe simplest actions are sometimes the most powerful—and overlooked. So it's good to be reminded of them. And when it comes to going to class, you might be surprised by how much you can gain by being mindful of a few key things.

The seven tips below provide common-sense advice on attending college classes and getting all you can from them in the process.

1. Show up to every class.

Being a successful student only happens by being present. Missing classes can mean missing out on important information and good opportunities for improving your understanding of the material being taught. Your class attendance also has a big impact on the impression you leave on your instructors. Even in large classes, they notice. They will be much more willing to give you support when you need it if you demonstrate your commitment by showing up consistently.

2. Get there early.

Feeling rushed isn't a good mindset to begin a class with. By arriving to class five to 10 minutes early, you give yourself the chance to slip into the right headspace, feel relaxed, and go over your notes and any reading material again that might be discussed in the upcoming session.

3. Stay attentive.

It isn't enough to just show up to class. You also need to stay awake and interested. Texting and other distractions make you lose focus. They make it hard for your brain to absorb the information it needs for making sense of the subject matter you're trying to learn. This is true even when you feel like you're multitasking well. If you wouldn't nod off or text your friends during an important meeting with your boss, then you shouldn't do it in class either. You'll have more success by treating your classes like your job.

4. Take smart notes.

Don't try to capture everything being said by an instructor word-for-word. Instead, listen for the big ideas and capture them in your own words. Taking notes this way lets you concentrate fully on understanding the material being presented rather than frantically transcribing stuff that makes no sense as you're writing it down or typing it in. Many students find that they learn the material better if they handwrite their notes on paper. Of course, typing works better for others. So experiment and see which way is best for you.

5. Stay organized.

Keep separate folders and notebooks for each different class so that you can easily find what you need, when you need it. Obviously, this is easier if you use a laptop and have minimal paper items to worry about. If you do go with paper, use loose-leaf paper inside folders instead of spiral notebooks. This will make it easier for you to organize and rearrange your notes and any class materials in smart ways that help you study.

6. Ask questions.

Don't worry if they seem annoying. Students who thrive know that asking timely questions is a key driver of success. The longer you go without understanding something, the harder it becomes to continue without feeling lost or discouraged. By asking questions in class, you might also be helping other students who wanted to ask the same things but were too shy. It also helps to keep a running list of questions during class or as you study. Even if you don't get the chance to ask them in class, you can often follow up on them over email or during your instructor's office hours.

7. Find someone to partner with in each class.

You're only human. So, you might have occasions when you just can't make it to class. This is when you need a friend who will be there. They can share notes with you and fill you in on what you missed. Having a friend in each class also makes things much less awkward during those times when you must choose somebody to partner with on a project.

13 Painless Studying Tips That Boost College Success

Student studying on a laptopSome college students like to keep their best studying tips a secret. Yet plenty of other successful people have been generous enough to share what's worked for them in school. They've shared how to study for a test, how to remember what you learn, and how to maximize your time and resources. It's all about learning and studying smarter.

The following 13 study tips don't require much effort, and they can provide a lot of benefits.

1. Do the work.

In certain situations, such as group assignments, you might have the chance to indulge a lazy streak and hide behind the work of other students. It's best to resist that temptation. We all learn better by doing things ourselves. By not taking advantage of every opportunity to learn or practice something new, you only cheat yourself.

2. Minimize useless distractions.

Knowing how to be a successful student means knowing how to put aside things that decrease your ability to concentrate. Studying effectively requires being able to focus only on what's in front of you. So make sure you don't clutter it all up.

3. Find a few different quiet locations.

Changing study locations throughout the day can help you avoid burnout and keep your mind sharp. Choose locations that are isolated enough that you can be alone and free of interruptions. A mixture of indoor and outdoor spots can also help to break up any feelings of boredom.

4. Study no more than about 90 minutes at a time.

After a certain point of continuous study, the human brain becomes less effective at retaining information. You get diminishing returns. So, instead of trying to do a bunch of cramming in one session, it's better to space out your studying over several days into shorter concentrated bursts followed by breaks or changes in activity. By working this way, you allow your subconscious the time it needs to sort through the information and make the connections that lead to deep understanding.

5. Keep your body moving.

Movement can help your brain process ideas better, which is essential for finding solutions to the complex problems that are sometimes part of class assignments. Exercise is especially good for keeping your mind sharp. So rather than sitting around while you study, you might find it beneficial once in a while to get up and go for a walk, jog, or bike ride while listening to a recorded lecture or a voice recording of your own notes.

6. Be selective.

You don't always have to read every last word of assigned material. For example, some professors assign optional reading material that can enhance your understanding of the subject matter but which doesn't introduce any new concepts. In such cases, it might make sense to place your focus on the main reading materials and skim the rest just before your next class. Use good judgment based on your overall course load and available time.

7. Stand up and explain it out loud.

When trying to learn difficult concepts, it sometimes helps to practice explaining them in your own words. For many students, this process works especially well if they walk around a little while doing it or have someone else present just to listen.

8. Organize your notes.

This is best done during times when you're not studying. Date all of your notes and make sure they are grouped in a logical way within the appropriate class folders. Make sure to include all of the questions you gather while reading, studying, or attending class so that you can easily follow up on them.

9. Seek help right away.

The longer you wait to ask questions or get help when you need it, the harder it becomes to keep up in your classes. So don't shy away from looking for good mentors or study partners. And when you're really feeling stuck, make use of any extra access you have to your instructors. That's what they are there for.

10. Take advantage of your school's resources.

Student Success TipsBeyond the library, your school may give you access to labs, studios, and special equipment during non-class hours. So use them to practice your skills. Successful students don't let such opportunities go to waste. They take full advantage of anything their schools offer that can help them improve.

11. Keep the right tools on hand.

Obvious items like a dictionary and highlighters are important. A laptop or other computing device with access to the Internet is also essential for many college programs. Free online resources like video tutorials, seminars, and classes from other institutions can be invaluable in helping you fill in the gaps of your education or just helping you understand things better. Many successful students also like using digital voice recorders (or recording apps on their phones) to capture class lectures and ideas for different class projects.

12. Create flashcards.

When you need to memorize information, flashcards can work exceptionally well. The key to making them effective is using them throughout your courses. You won't benefit from them as much if you only use them during last-minute cramming sessions. Spend a little time each day going through the ones you have and creating any new ones as necessary. This process will help you remember the information long after you take your exams and finish your classes.

13. Don't overdo it.

If studying always feels hard to you, then you probably need to change your approach. Many students study too much. It's better to stop as soon as you feel like you have a reasonable handle on the material. If you feel like you're putting in a lot of time and not getting anywhere, it's a sign you need help. The more you try to push on by yourself, the less chance you'll have of grasping what you're trying to learn.

7 Effective Test-Taking Tips to Help You Ace College Exams

Students writing examsAfter practicing these test-taking tips, you might actually feel calmer—and maybe even a little bit excited—about the activity that so many students seem to dread. Taking college exams doesn't have to be a negative experience. Once you understand what to look out for and how to approach each question, tests can become less intimidating.

With the following seven tips for success in college, you can maximize your test-taking performance.

1. Arrive early.

Beginning a test in a state of panic or urgency is probably the last thing you need. Most people feel nervous enough about exams without adding the extra heart-pounding stress of arriving just as everything is being handed out. Besides, getting to your testing location at least five or 10 minutes before exam time gives you the chance to calmly review some notes, make sure your pen or pencil is in good working order, and acclimate to the setting. Plus, having a friendly chat with other early arrivers can be a good way to calm your nerves.

2. Look over the entire test.

No surprises: That's one of the benefits of skimming over the whole exam before you begin. Makes sense, right? You want to have a good idea of how long it is. But you also want to get a feel for where most of your time will have to be spent. By looking at every question right away, you allow your brain to start figuring out the answers for you subconsciously.

3. Carefully read the instructions. Twice.

A lot of test takers get points docked simply because they fail to follow directions. It's silly. Why put yourself in that kind of hole before you even begin? It's so easily prevented. Make sure you understand exactly what's expected of you. If the instructions are worded strangely or seem unclear, then ask for clarification. Chances are, you won't be the only one who needs it.

4. Do the easy questions first.

Managing your time well during an exam is essential. Part of doing that involves consciously choosing your plan of attack. Think about it: Diving straight into the hardest questions will suck away a lot of the time you have for answering the ones that are no problem for you. And it can set a tone of frustration. Instead, ignore the order in which the questions are presented on the exam. Unless told otherwise, you don't have to adhere to it. You're more likely to succeed by answering the questions that are easiest for you first, followed by progressively more difficult ones. It maximizes your time and gives your brain a chance to work on the hard stuff in the background.

5. Answer every part of a test question.

With all of the pressure that comes from trying to complete an exam on time, it can be easy to overlook questions that have multiple parts. But many college instructors will mark an entire answer as wrong if you haven't addressed each part—even if you answered one part correctly. So don't be in such a rush that you miss the details. Approach each question as if it might be multi-faceted.

6. Move on if you get stumped.

Every exam question should come with a rule: no loitering. If an answer isn't coming to you, no matter how hard you're trying, then it's best to move on. Hanging out will only increase your frustration and create more stress for you as you try to finish the rest of the test before running out of time. It's better to stop your obsession and do as well as you can on the other questions. You can always come back to it later if you end up with some time remaining.

7. Look over the entire test again.

Once you're finished, take a deep breath. Give yourself a few moments of calm. Then try to look at the exam again with fresh eyes. Check for any mistakes you might have made. Proofread your answers. And pay attention to how well you followed the instructions. This gives you the chance to correct any errors and take care of anything you may have missed.

7 Vital Tips on Money Management for College Students

Smiling student in a libraryIt's true: A lot of subjects are more appealing than money management. For college students, especially, thinking about finances is often less than enjoyable. But that's exactly why it can pay to make the effort to learn about the role of money in your educational and life goals. With even a basic level of knowledge, you can begin getting a lot more out of your schooling experience than you thought possible. You can make money something that works for you, not against you.

These seven tips on managing money in college can help set you up for success.

1. Learn how financial aid works.

Many students have little or no understanding of this subject. But it can truly pay to take the time to learn about all forms of financial aid. The knowledge you gain could help you save thousands of dollars.

2. Be mindful of exactly how much debt you're taking on.

Any time you're signing up for student loans, it's smart to know the amount you'll have to pay back. Will the salary you earn in your new career be enough to let you comfortably repay your loans? Be conservative. Remember that you're likely to start out at an entry-level wage.

3. Create a budget and stick to it.

Having a solid financial plan that accounts for all of your income and expenses can increase your sense of confidence. It should be based on your goals as a student as well as on your post-graduation plans. The more detailed your budget, the more you can pinpoint how well each expense is assisting you in achieving the life you want. It forces you to narrow down the things that are most important to you. And when you commit to following that kind of plan, a lot of decisions get much easier. Most schools have people who can assist you in setting up your budget or putting you in touch with an appropriate mentor.

4. Track your spending.

Part of having a budget means always being aware of what you're buying. It keeps you accountable to your ultimate goals. Unplanned splurging on extra entertainment or stuff that you don't need makes it harder to reach the outcomes you're going to school to achieve. So take note of everything you spend, and weigh its value against the impact it makes on your future. Ask yourself: Is it worth it? If so, just make sure it has a place in your budget.

5. Set up an automatic savings plan.

Sure, saving any amount of money as a college student can be a real challenge. But if you're able to generate even a small income while going to school, it's a good idea to try. You may need your savings later on when looking for work in your new field, setting up new living arrangements, or when being presented with an unexpected opportunity that requires a big cash investment. If you set aside a certain percentage of each paycheck to go directly into your savings account, then you free yourself from a lot of the temptation to use that money unwisely.

6. Beware of credit cards.

Big banks often see college students as easy targets for credit card offers. Think about it: They can generate a substantial profit by charging high interest rates to people who may only be able to afford making the minimum payment each month, if that. But despite their "special student offers" and enticing on-campus promotions, credit card companies end up getting a lot of students into financial trouble. It's true that building good credit is important. But, as a student, you should probably only get a credit card if you know that you'll be able to pay your balance in full each month. If not, it's best to resist.

7. Set savings goals for the most expensive things you want.

It's OK to want shiny things like new cars or once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences. And you should absolutely pursue them. But unless you're independently wealthy, you probably don't have the means to instantly satisfy those big desires. What you can do, though, is include them in your budgeting. Make time your ally. Putting aside even a little bit of money each month for the big-ticket items eventually adds up to the ability to get them without credit. And the bonus is that you'll probably enjoy the item or experience much more than if you had put yourself into a financial hole to make it happen.

12 Wellness and Health Tips for College Students

Girl smiling in the sunshineStaying well is crucial to achieving your college goals. And many health and wellness tips you'll encounter are useful, but not tailored to students. When you think about the different kinds of social and academic activities you might be involved in, the importance of your physical and mental well-being is clear.

These 12 health tips for college students can assist you in having more fun and feeling more rested and ready to take on what's ahead.

1. Prioritize your sleep.

Getting consistent, good-quality nights of sleep is one of the most important things you can do if you want to succeed. It will help you stay more energized, productive, and open-minded. And it will provide you with more mental clarity. Make a habit of getting your eight hours of sleep at the same time every night. You might just be surprised by how much it pays off.

2. Take short naps.

Over the course of a long day, your brain can start feeling foggy. And you can become more vulnerable to stress, frustrations, and heightened emotions. But learning anything well requires a clear and open mind. That's why a quick nap (15 to 30 minutes) in the middle of your day can be so powerful. It's a way to reset your mental sharpness and restore your emotional balance. As a bonus, it can also awaken your creativity and help you solve problems you might be stuck on.

3. Maintain good friendships.

We're social creatures, which means relationships shouldn't be ignored. Having genuine friends who care about you is something to be cherished. So even though succeeding in school requires a strong focus on your studies, it's still important to make time for the people you've connected with and who will give you help and encouragement when you need it most.

4. Seek laughter and fun moments you'll remember.

A healthy balance of work and play is essential to maintaining a positive outlook. And there are no better forms of play than those which make you laugh. Engaging in amusing activities can greatly reduce your tension and anxiety. So don't be shy about joking around or looking for comedic opportunities. As long as you're not harming yourself or someone else in the process, it's a terrific way to stay level-headed.

5. Practice kindness toward others.

Getting through school can be full of emotional highs and lows. So it's not surprising that some students experience mental health challenges. Being successful in college requires resilience. But most people overlook one of the best ways to achieve it: helping other people without looking for anything in return. It's a gift to those you help, and it has a way of boosting your own emotional well-being, leading to more energy and confidence. And your caring actions don't have to be big. Even a simple smile or hello to a stranger can sometimes give you a lasting boost.

6. Lay off the caffeine and trendy "study aids."

Giving yourself unnatural boosts of energy with caffeine or other stimulants is certainly a popular part of our culture. But that doesn't make it wise. It's true that there's no harm in enjoying some coffee or energy drinks in moderation. The problem comes when you start relying on those things to compensate for lack of sleep or as a way to "keep pace" with your classmates. Abusing stimulants in that way can lead to very serious health and behavioral consequences, especially if you form a habit using uppers like Ritalin or Adderall inappropriately. Follow your own path without resorting to artificial boosters. When you succeed without them, you'll feel proud you did.

7. Read for fun.

You don't have to ignore reading the books or magazines or blogs that you find entertaining just because you're in school. In fact, making time to read for pure pleasure is an essential way to keep your mind engaged and receptive to the other stuff you have to read for class.

8. Express gratitude.

"Thank you." Say it to the people in your life. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Being thankful is a state of mind that is worth creating. Many successful people believe it is the key to their happiness. Admittedly, life provides lots of moments in which gratitude is the last thing you feel like expressing. But it is those moments that offer the greatest opportunity for practicing it. Over time, a consistent habit of thankfulness leads to a greater sense of peace, confidence, and inner security. You'll respond to challenges and cope with stress more effectively.

9. Don't skip meals.

Just like sleep, food plays a fundamental role in physical and mental health. Your brain and body aren't likely to function very well if they aren't getting quality nutrients on a regular basis. Eat a balanced diet, avoiding overly processed foods. And try to limit your consumption of sugar. By eating healthy food at regular intervals, you can ensure that your body has the right fuel to take on all of your student responsibilities and other activities.

10. Stay physically active.

Moving your body through daily exercise can provide all sorts of benefits. For example, it usually leads to better sleep. It can improve your mood. And it's well-known as a way to relieve stress. Besides, you don't even have to work out in a gym if that's not your thing. Sign up for a sport. Or just go for regular walks, hikes, or bike rides. You can even crank some music and dance. Just dedicate at least a small chunk of time each day to moving your body and making your heart beat faster. You'll be rewarded with good-feeling endorphins and a sharper mind.

11. Party responsibly.

It's so easy to feel invincible, even as an adult who knows better. Social occasions and other events that involve alcohol or recreational drugs sometimes tempt even the most responsible of us into giving in and going against our better judgment. But it's crucial that you have lines you won't cross. Drinking and driving, for instance. It doesn't take much to arrange for a cab or designated driver. And it's always smart to have a responsible friend keep tabs on you and not let you go over pre-planned limits. You can do the same for them. That way, someone has your back. You don't have to resist temptation or peer pressure alone.

12. Seek help if your mental well-being declines.

If you feel lost, hopeless, or depressed, isolating yourself will probably only make your inner world darker. The important thing to remember is that those feelings are nothing to be ashamed of. So reach out instead. Find people you can talk to—those who will truly listen. And don't be shy about getting help from a professional counselor. More people than you may realize need that kind of assistance. It's OK. You're human.

7 Hot Tips on Career Preparation for Students and Grads

Girl smiling in the sunshineCareer preparation is the number one reason that most of today's students are in school. And a good number of the skills that can get you noticed by potential employers are learned outside of the classroom.

Whether you're a recent grad or still in college, the seven career prep tips below offer proven ways to enhance your marketability as an aspiring professional.

1. Participate in hands-on learning experiences.

The people who have the greatest competitive edge in the job market are the ones who've had real practice at using marketable skills. Employers want to know that you can put what you've learned into action. That's why internships and practicums are so powerful. They give you the chance to work on real-world projects and interact with experienced professionals in your field. But many schools also offer chances to develop relevant abilities through on-campus activities. Seek out such opportunities as often as you can while still in school so that you're ready to hit the ground running when you graduate.

2. Make a list of your skills and achievements, with specific examples.

It should go without saying, but employers want to get a feel for how well you can actually perform the skills they value, not for how well you can copy and paste overused buzzwords. You'll want your resume to reflect your practical achievements. So, rather than just listing generic statements that are used on millions of other resumes, take the time to put together short-but-specific examples of your own relevant experiences. Use action-oriented language to state how you accomplished something using a particular set of skills within certain constraints or timelines.

3. Take advantage of your school's career services.

Making the transition from school to career can feel intimidating. But a lot of colleges and trade schools make a point of providing their students and graduates with assistance in this area. Often, you can get help with sharpening your self-promotional materials, such as resumes and cover letters. You can sometimes run through mock interviews and get solid advice on how to improve your responses. And you can frequently take advantage of job-search services and on-campus career fairs.

4. Practice showing eagerness and enthusiasm.

People enjoy hiring and working with those who convey a sense of excitement about the future and their potential contributions. In part, that's because energy of that nature is infectious. But it's also because it shows genuine passion and drive—traits that most employers deeply respect and admire. And by demonstrating those qualities, you're more likely to land the job you want on terms you'll feel good about.

5. Learn all you can about the places you most want to work.

You probably wouldn't ask a stranger to live with you without first knowing everything you could about them. So why approach a potential employer without doing your research? If you're hired, you'll be spending a whole lot of time together. For it to work out, you'll have to be compatible with each other. Never assume that a quick glance at an organization's website is enough to know what a place is all about or what the culture is like. Dig deeper. For example, search for articles about the organization on Google. Browse its social media sites. The more you know, the better you'll be able to respond to interview questions and ask intelligent questions of your own.

6. Purchase appropriate interview attire.

Few of us think that it's fair, but we all get judged by our appearance. Of course, that doesn't usually result in any huge consequences. However, when looking for a good job and a start to a new career, you'd be wise to pay special attention to how you're dressed and groomed. If you're not sure about what clothes to buy or how to put together a professional look, seek advice from a school counselor or someone who is already successful within the field you're going into.

7. Cultivate a professional attitude.

Your state of mind will play a big role in your ability to achieve career success. It doesn't just contribute to your level of motivation; it also impacts how you're perceived by others. So practice being open to constructive criticism. Stay curious and willing to learn and try out new things. Maintain your honesty, integrity, and a good work ethic. And make it apparent that you really care about the success of the organization you work for and the people you work with.

12 Eye-Opening Tips About Networking in College

College students socializingWho you know is often crucial to your success. So networking in college is easily one of the most beneficial activities you can take up. Your efforts can pay off long after you've graduated. And making connections isn't just about making friends. It's about giving you the benefits of other people's power and influence. It's also about building a good reputation.

Use these 12 tips to develop the kinds of professional relationships that will serve you well for a long time to come.

1. Start early.

Developing good contacts is something that happens over time. Think about it: You can't just walk up to somebody and force them to like you or want to help you. Growing your network requires more finesse. It's a courting process built on authentic interactions. So, begin your efforts as early as you can while still in school. The sooner you start, the more quality contacts you'll have by the time you graduate.

2. Get to know your instructors.

Teachers at the college level can be great resources when it comes to building your network and finding hidden opportunities. They are often well-connected or at least know which direction to point you in. But the key to getting them to open up and offer extra help is usually to treat them as regular people who have real lives outside of school. Visit them during their office hours and show interest in the things they might be working on. Just be careful not to grovel. If you come across as genuine, instructors tend to be delighted by the chance to provide any assistance they can. That could be anything from writing a glowing recommendation letter to introducing you to a great mentor.

3. Join clubs and other organizations related to your interests.

This one should be obvious, but it's amazing how many people never explore these kinds of opportunities. Clubs are tailor-made for developing new friendships and getting access to information that might not be easily obtained elsewhere. Plus, they don't necessarily require much of your time. You can generally choose how often—and to what extent—you wish to participate in a club or association's activities.

4. Volunteer for community service projects.

Contributing your time to good causes can reward you with more than just positive memories and proud feelings. It's also a way to meet people who might one day be able to help you in your professional life. For instance, they could become good character references. And they might even keep you in mind anytime they come across leads for career opportunities that would interest you.

5. Hang out in places that are outside of your comfort zone.

The people who can help you might not be in the places you expect. Each of us has a unique combination of interests. So you do yourself a disservice if you project only what you like onto the people you're hoping to meet. Do some experiments. For example, go to a wine-tasting event even if you know nothing about wine. Chat with the people there. Tell them you're a novice. See what comes out of it. Do the same thing for other interests you have little experience with. Fascinating, fun, and helpful people often pop up in the most unexpected places.

6. Listen more than you talk.

The surest way to seem interesting to other people is to show genuine interest in them first. Letting them talk about themselves increases the odds that they'll see you as fascinating. It makes them more receptive to getting to know you. And giving them the opportunity to tell their stories lets you listen for clues that can lead you to useful insights, follow-up questions, or opportunities to connect on a deeper level.

7. Demonstrate humility.

Nobody likes a know-it-all or someone who brags all the time. Most of us respond better to people who show a little vulnerability. After all, why would someone offer any kind of help to you if you act like you don't need it? Experienced or well-connected people are generally only willing to mentor or assist those who are confident and enthusiastic yet still open to learning new things and receiving constructive criticism.

8. Show respect.

Always value the people you meet, until you're given a clear reason not to. Good connections stem from giving everyone the benefit of the doubt at first, regardless of what you think you know or may have heard about them. One of the most basic demonstrations of respect is remembering a person's name. So, as you meet new people, practice saying their names back to them. Then, as you get more involved with certain individuals, show your respect by validating their feelings, opinions, and suggestions, even if you disagree. We all come at things with different backgrounds and ways of seeing the world, but it's important to realize that we each also have blind spots in our own thinking. Giving respect helps you stay open to opportunities and leads to a wider understanding of the world.

9. Speak well of other people.

Gossip is a favorite pastime for countless people who don't realize the harm that can come from it. Word travels. So you always have to be mindful of what you're saying and who you're talking to, especially when it comes to talking about other people. But the biggest danger of negative gossip isn't necessarily that it could get back to the person you're talking about. Instead, the biggest danger is often that you'll be written off by the people you're talking to. They might start imagining all of the negative things you could say about them later on. And that can kill a potentially good relationship before it ever has a chance of getting started. But when you find ways to speak nicely about others, it can have the opposite effect. It's much better to have people imagining all of the good things you'll say about them when they're not around.

10. Don't chase popularity.

A lot of people can see right through someone who is only motivated by the prospect of fame or superficial acclaim. Unless popularity is your only metric for success, you're probably better off staying true to who you are. Most people are more attracted to those who are authentic than to those who are clearly faking something about themselves in order to gain approval or social standing. It's the difference between gaining lasting and useful relationships or accumulating a bunch of shallow acquaintances who won't be there for you when you need them most.

11. Practice empathy.

We all experience struggles. And we all carry around some degree of insecurity. It's part of what makes us relatable to other people. But sometimes we forget these common elements in our personal interactions. We shouldn't. Being able to understand and acknowledge the legitimacy of another person's plight is a powerful skill. It leads to a deep sense of bonding that can be used to propel a relationship forward, even a professional one. Plus, it makes you more attuned to the real motivations behind people's thoughts and actions, which makes communication easier.

12. Be generous.

Generous people tend to be successful people. But generosity doesn't have to involve giving away money or material goods. In fact, you might get the best returns from sharing your time or expertise. You might not see yourself as a mentor, but you likely know how to do at least one thing better than someone else who could use the help. As you learn new things, practice giving back and sharing your knowledge. And don't overlook the power of recognizing someone else's achievements. That's another way to be generous. A simple but heartfelt compliment can be a powerful thing. You never know when the favor might be returned in a positive way you didn't expect.