Chapter 1: You and Your College Experience

Figure 1.1

A college student standing unsure with her backpack

Where Are You Now?

Assess your present knowledge and attitudes.

Yes Unsure No
1. I understand all the benefits of a college education for my future life.
2. I have clear-cut career interests and have already planned my college program to prepare me best for my future work.
3. I am aware of how my previous educational background has prepared me for college work.
4. I have all the personal traits of a successful college student.
5. I know how the learning process functions and make an effort to maximize my learning at each step in this process.
6. I know my personal learning style and use it to my advantage when learning new things.
7. I know how to pay attention to gain the most from my classes.
8. I am aware of my college’s policies for academic honesty and behavior on campus.
9. I know where to find all the resources of my college that can help me succeed both academically and personally.
10. I am confident I can earn the grades I need to achieve success in my college courses.
11. I know the first year of college will be the most difficult, but I am fully prepared and take responsibility for my own success.
12. I am taking steps every day to ensure I am successful in every aspect of the college experience.

Where Do You Want to Go?

Think about how you answered the questions above. Be honest with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your present skills for succeeding in college?

Not very strong Very strong
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In the following list, circle the three most important areas in which you think you can improve:

  • Relating my personal values to education
  • Choosing a program or degree major
  • Finding the best career for my interests and skills
  • Being prepared for college-level work
  • Developing a positive attitude for college
  • Successfully using each step of the learning process
  • Adapting and broadening my personal learning style
  • Getting the most out of classes large and small
  • Following all college policies
  • Taking advantage of all college resources
  • Getting the best grades I can get
  • Successfully transitioning to college and completing the first year
  • Doing everything I can every day to ensure I succeed in college

Are there other areas or skills that need more attention in order for you to succeed in college? Write down other things you feel you need to work on.




How to Get There

Here’s what we’ll work on in this chapter:

  • Viewing college in terms of your personal values
  • Recognizing the importance of making a commitment to succeed in the first year of college
  • Discovering what career and college major best match your interests and skills
  • Understanding the obstacles students like you may have to overcome when transitioning into college
  • Figuring out how to learn best in each step of the learning process
  • Using your personal learning style effectively while also expanding to include other forms of learning
  • Staying motivated and succeeding in large lecture classes as well as small discussion classes
  • Working with your academic advisor to select courses and plan your program
  • Discovering what resources your college offers students to succeed not only in classes but also in their personal and social lives
  • Understanding why grades matter
  • Understanding why the first year of college is so critical and how to ensure you make it through
  • Knowing what steps you can take starting today and every day to ensure your success in college

Welcome to College!

Congratulations on your decision to attend college! For the great majority of college students, it really was your decision—not just an automatic thing to do. If you happen to be one of the few who just sort of ended up in college for want of anything better to do, the benefits of college will soon become obvious.

The reason for this book, and for almost all college courses, is that college does require commitment and effort. Like everything else in life that leads to meaningful results, success in college is not automatic. But when you apply yourself to your studies using the skills you’ll learn in this book, you’ll find you can succeed.

When asked, most students say they’re in college primarily for the job or career they expect to follow after college. And they are correct that college pays off enormously in terms of future earnings, job security and stability, and job satisfaction. Every statistic shows that people with a college education will make much more in their lifetime (much, much more than the cost of college itself) and be much happier with the work they do.

But job and career issues are only a part of the big picture. A college education results in many other personal benefits, and these also should be part of your motivation for doing well and continuing with your college plans. Here are a few additional, less tangible benefits of a college education:

  • You will have a fuller life and a better understanding of the world around you.
  • You will gain decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  • You will meet many interesting and diverse people and have a richer social life.
  • You will gain self-confidence.
  • You will gain learning skills that can continue for a lifetime.
  • You will make wiser decisions about lifestyle issues and live healthier.
  • You will make wiser economic decisions the rest of your life.
  • You will be better equipped to deal with other people, organizations, governmental agencies, and all the hassles of daily life.
  • You will feel more fully a part of your community, the larger culture, and history.

A college education is correlated with greater success in all those areas, even though most students are usually more concerned with making it through the next class or test than the rest of their lives. But sometimes it helps to recall what a truly great step forward you are taking!

Sadly, however, it’s important to recognize that some students do not succeed in college and drop out within the first year. Sometimes it’s due to an unsolvable financial problem or a personal or family crisis, but most of the time students drop out because they’re having problems passing their courses. The two biggest causes of this problem are a lack of motivation and not having learned the skills needed to succeed in college.

A book like this one can help you stay motivated when things get tough, but it can’t necessarily give you motivation to start with. That’s part of what you yourself have to bring to college. What we can promise you is that you can learn the skills for succeeding in college.

Special skills are needed because college isn’t the same as high school. Throughout this book, we’ll be looking at the many ways college is different from high school. To name just a few, college is different in study skills needed, in personal skills related to being independent, in social skills for getting along with instructors and others on campus, in financial realities, in matters of personal health, and more.

Remember, you can learn whatever you need in order to succeed. That’s what this book is all about. You’ll learn how to get the most out of going to class. You’ll learn how to study in ways that use your time efficiently and help you pass tests. You’ll even learn how to remember what you read in your college textbooks. You’ll learn how to manage your time more effectively than you might have in the past, so that studying is less a burden and more a simple routine. You’ll even learn how things like eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise make it easier to do well in your classes.

One warning: you might not at first see an immediate payoff for everything you read in this book. When it comes to certain things, such as tips for how to take good notes in class to help you study later on for a test, you will get specific, practical advice you can put to use immediately to get a better grade. But not everything is as obvious or immediately beneficial. Some of the things you’ll read about here involve ideas you’ll need to think about. Some things will help you get to know yourself better and understand more clearly what you really want from your education and how to go about attaining them.

But we promise you this: if you care enough to want to succeed in college and care enough to read these chapters and try to use the information, suggestions, and tips presented here, you will succeed in college.


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