Success in college depends on many different conditions, some of which are out of a student’s control. Even so, there are still a number of controllable factors that students can recognize for success in college. Success in college is not limited to academic performance. Many students earn average grades, but develop such extensive networks and leadership experience that their extracurricular experiences end up being more valuable than their scholarly experiences. Moreover, a student with average grades and who learns about a variety of cultures through unique international and regional experiences may be considered more successful than a student with slightly better grades and who was socially isolated. Success in college, then, may be determined by a variety of measures and considerations. Even so, academic performance remains an integral component of determining collegiate success. Explored in this paper is a step-by-step formula for success in college.
The first step is to build a foundation of knowledge. This may seem odd, given that a major purpose of college is to learn. However, there are certain implicit expectations that college students will have a basis of knowledge that allows instructors to build off of such knowledge. High school and any pre-collegiate experience gained are intended to provide this foundation of knowledge. For many students, in contrast, this foundation of knowledge was never established. Moreover, virtually any prospective college student can benefit from an expanded vocabular, understanding of the world and government, and the basics of psychology, physics, biology, sociology, and so forth. These foundational educational components can be tapped into in order to write high quality paper, even early on in one’s academic career. In addition, this foundation allows students to connect ideas from various fields with ease, increasing information recall. This step begins before entering college, but should continue throughout the first few years of college by searching for information when gaps are found. For example, if an instructor speaks of a topic under the assumption that all students will know about the topic, a student can search for information about the topic later, further building his or her foundational knowledge.

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The second step is to learn how to study effectively. This step requires studying experience, rather than simply relying on learning about how to study. Studying is a requirement for success in college. Yet, there is high variance in the study performance of students. Many students study for hours, only to do poorly on examines. Other students study for short periods of time and do well. Such variance is partially explained by inherited factors; that is, some students can retain more information for longer periods of time than others. However, most variance is explained by the differences in motivation and study skills. In fact, Putwain, Sander, and Larkin (2013: p. 642) found that the self-efficacy that students showed with regard to study skills and behaviors was a major factor for academic performance. Students who were highly motivated and who demonstrated knowledge of effective study skills performed better. Also, the researchers found that certain emotions promoted learning while others discouraged learning. Many students performed poorly on tests because of worry and anxiety that stemmed from insufficient studying or poor studying habits. Effective studying skills and habits, then, are a very important component of success in college and should be developed as soon as possible.

The third step is to work towards developing a deep understanding of grammar. In writing, especially, grammar is the key to concise and transparent expression. Expressing ideas without strong grammar allows for mistakes, ambiguity, and misunderstanding. Succeeding at any academic level requires a focused approach and one that is aimed at making a little progress at a time towards one’s long-term goals (Rovaris, 2005: p. 91). Developing one’s grammar is the third step here because there is an expectation in college that one will develop one’s grammar throughout one’s collegiate career. Thus, freshman and sophomore students are not expected to write all that well grammatically. But success in later years will require the development of grammar. This step requires practicing writing and learning from one’s grammatical mistakes. Effectivley, every student should challenge himself or herself, which will lead to improved results (Fortes, 2014: p. 249). Similarly, this step requires purchasing grammar and English materials or reviewing free grammar materials online. In any case, every early college student can benefit from studying grammar and reviewing one’s own writings extensively.

Success in college depends on many different aspects. Building a foundational knowledge is the first step, because such knowledge is required to full grasp what is being taught in college. Learning to study effectively comes next, because studying is so important to learning and spending one’s time effectively and efficiently. Next, developing an understanding of grammar through practice and learning from one’s mistakes is required before a student can become an advanced student and one who achieves much later on in his or her academic career. Finally, for most, college may not be successful if it does not include a component of social achievement and finding a broader purpose. These four steps, if followed, will lead to success in college.

  • Fortes, M. (2014). Guest Editorial: How to Succeed in Your Professional Career—Some Suggestions. Drying Technology, 32(3), 249-250. doi:10.1080/07373937.2013.867801 Retrieved from:
  • Putwain, D., Sander, P., & Larkin, D. (2013). Academic self‐efficacy in study‐related skills and behaviours: Relations with learning‐related emotions and academic success. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(4), 633-650. Retrieved from:
  • Rovaris, D. J. (2005). How to apply and succeed in graduate school. Black Collegian, 33(1), 91.
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