How to Succeed in a College Course

College offers a much greater degree of freedom than high school. For some students it works out well, but others allow their new-found independence to damage their academic performance. In college, you have to take on the responsibility for your success. No one will tell you to attend class, when to study, or to do your homework. Some tips for increasing your chances of academic success in college:

Show Up

A lot of students blow off “easy” courses, thinking they can study on their own and just show up for tests. But attendance is important for a variety of reasons. Even if attendance isn’t mandatory or an official part of your grade, it can improve your standing in the professors’ eyes. Attending class regularly can make the difference between a failing or passing grade if the professor knows you cared enough to show up to class (especially if a lot of other students didn’t).

Pay Attention

With computers and cell phones, college students have plenty of distractions in the classroom. Get off the internet, put the phone away, and pay attention during class. Professors may share important information during classes and missing it could damage your grade. Take notes to help you remember important points, and participate in class discussions if possible.

Study Regularly

Study everyday (preferably right after each class), not just right before the test. Review notes from that day’s class and then re-read notes from previous classes. Repetition will help you retain information and will make studying for each exam less stressful. Create a study schedule to make things easier to remember and to keep you accountable. For more information about study schedules, read our tips for first semester college students.


If your class has a textbook or assigned reading, stay on top of it. Don’t skip assigned chapters or papers thinking you can pick everything up from lecture notes. Even if the professor covers everything on the tests during class, reading will reinforce what you learn. Just as with studying class notes, reading must be done regularly (preferably before or after each class) so you won’t be overwhelmed right before tests.

Ask Questions

If you don’t understand something, ask. Go to office hours if you don’t feel comfortable asking during class. Don’t be ashamed to ask for clarification on a topic because it’s often the brightest students that ask a lot of questions.

Successful college students know how to manage their time wisely and take initiative. The suggestions above may seem obvious if you have certain personality traits, but many students need help adjusting to college life. For more advice on achieving success in college, read The Secrets of College Success (Professors’ Guide)