Summer is orientation season in higher education, as new students attend one-day or two-day sessions to prepare them for enrolling in classes in late August or early September. I was asked to be the presenter for an event called “Your Academic Success,” and delivered it this morning. Usually the presenter goes through a 20-minute PowerPoint that’s jam-packed with information about what it takes to do well as a college student. I figured that students (and a few parents who also attended) would not remember all of that stuff, so I discussed three broad-based elements:

  1. Study Smarter. According to College Rules! How to Study, Survive, and Succeed in College, “studying smarter means knowing and using the most appropriate strategies for each particular learning situation. It means having a pocketful of approaches that you can use depending on the course you are taking, the kind of test you are studying for, and how you learn best. Studying smarter means being flexible.” Indeed!
  2. Effective Time Management. A huge adjustment for students is the move from heavily scheduled lives with lots of reminders from parents and teachers to an environment when they have a lot of freedom and increased personal responsibility with few external checks. I shared my time management system, “the three Ts”: triage (prioritize potential tasks and requests into “do now,” “ignore,” or “do later”), track (have a to-do list to manage the triaged tasks; I use Remember the Milk), and trace (have established pathways that you do automatically, like checking email right after breakfast).
  3. Follow Your Passions. I encouraged students to take classes just because they sound interesting, and to be open to choosing majors even if they don’t have explicit job connections. For the parents in the room I read some examples of careers recent alumni landed with social science majors, stressing that everyone does not have to major in a business or STEM field. One of the parents thanked me for this afterwards, noting that she and her husband both have graduate degrees in History and have well-paying jobs thanks to their well-rounded liberal arts backgrounds.

If you know a new college student please pass this post on to them, and also pass on my best wishes for a great first year!