Ten Steps to Making Your College Career a Valuable Experience

Note: This is a guest post from Bob Hartzell of Get Degrees

When I went to college, I was right out of high school, overwhelmed by the freedom and very quickly baffled by the academic expectations. Today’s college students are often much more mature, more experienced – and in many cases, returning to school to improve a life. More often than not, college students are working as well.

Whether you’re eighteen and new to it all or you’re back in the classroom to try and make academics work for you again, college can be rough water if you’re intimidated and/or pushing yourself with family/job/education. Here are some suggestions to maximize the value of your time spent in the academic fold:

  1. Don’t let a pile of overpriced books and a quicker learning pace make you think you’re in over your head. It’s just a new environment.

  2. No matter what the professors think, classes probably shouldn’t be optional. Look at it this way – until you’re sure you don’t need it, take advantage of all the help you can get.

  3. Take notes you can read. If what you’re hearing is too much to process on any given day, find a classmate to bounce your questions off of. But don’t think you have to learn to be a court reporter overnight.

  4. This might be counterintuitive or difficult as hell – but asking a few questions of the lecturer doesn’t hurt either. Give yourself a chance to feel like you have an investment in all that academic achievement as well – have a good conversation with someone who is opening up new intellectual doors for you can be an enormous boost. There’s more payback to those classes than credits and a grade.

  5. All that reading isn’t insurmountable a chapter at a time. If you break it into manageable bites, you can get through it with a lot less indigestion – and learn more from it in the process. Besides, ignoring it will drive you crazy.

  6. You have probably heard this during your previous fifteen years in school – but plan your studying. That’s not to blow a hole in your day, it’s so you won’t blow a hole in your semester. If you do it and stick with it, life gets easier.

  7. Weekends may not always be for playing anymore. If you’re working and going to school, for sure they won’t be. Once again, the idea is to make school manageable, which makes it tolerable, which eventually may make it…really intriguing. You can build an afternoon on your bike or a few hours in front of a football game into any schedule if you hit the books when you have it pencilled in. Otherwise you’ll be trying to read a textbook during the beer commercials and not enjoying the game nor learning much either.

  8. Always do a draft. As good as you are at slamming a paper together, do yourself the favor of time for a rough draft. Bang it out like it’s a first and final, but leave time to review it anyway. You’ll be amazed at how little adjustments can make a major improvement and once again, what was once anxiety and pressure becomes a manageable chore that may just become an achievement.

  9. Now about those exams – they’re going to weigh on you no matter how well you’ve covered the material. The key to taking an exam with confidence is to do as thorough a review as you can and see at least seventy five percent of the material for at least the second time. There’s a difference between holing up for a final review and cramming.

  10. Put your best into it and then consider college the art of the possible. If you’re going through the learning process with newly tested initiative and applying standards you’ve never held yourself to before, than you can call that a victory. If you get a little better at it the first few weeks or the first few semesters, there will come a day when you know you’re doing an efficient job. That’s all you can ask of yourself.

Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. It’s your college career, your major, your degree. Resumes aside, the value of an education is an intensely personal thing, so don’t demean it by thinking you should be some other kind of student. Every school experience opens up new horizons, but you won’t see them if you’ve got misguided expectations blocking your view.

Bob Hartzell is a freelance writer for Get Degrees®. They feature 100’s of online degree programs from accredited online colleges and universities worldwide.

Photo by orangeacid


  1. Thanks for this post, I think posts like this are very helpful to college students. On my blog I also give tips for college students on how to have academic success: http://writingresearchediting.com/blog.php

  2. I’d say this too. “Never move on from something until you fully understand it, it is so inefficient”

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