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Strategies for Academic Success in College

May 27, 2012

Phoenix College Honors Program 

College is a new experience. While many of the academic success skills you used in high school will come in handy, your freshman year at college cannot be viewed as 13th Grade. Your classes will often move more quickly, you’ll be expected to do work outside of class, your instructors may or may not know you personally, and you’re going to have more “free time” than perhaps you’re used to. Your transition from high school to college can be made easier by a genuine and strong commitment to academic success. A lot of people have been down the path you’re now starting; be grateful that you can learn from them. Here are some proven ways to stay on track, learn important things, pass your classes, and keep moving toward achieving your higher education goals. 

Choose the right mindset

Your college years are about self-transformation. While getting good grades and preparing yourself for a career are certainly important college goals, your education is about so much more. This is a time and opportunity for deep self-exploration; for questioning the world; for seeing how others think and why; for re-evaluating your own values, attitudes and beliefs; for challenging yourself; for seeing what you’re made of. College is not easy – nor should it be. Go into your classes with this mindset and open yourself up to the possibilities. Take chances, step beyond that safety zone, and see where higher education can take you. 

Go to class

This is an essential concrete action. While showing up to class does not ensure academic success, it’s absolutely a pre-requisite for it. When you’re present, you not only get the material being delivered that day, but you also learn about changes to the syllabus, get reminded of due dates, hear about other opportunities on campus, and nurture your relationships with your classmates and teachers. 

Get and stay organized

Time management is one of your greatest challenges. Many of you are juggling a full academic load, work, family, and a social life. How are you going to fit what into your 24 hours? School must be a priority and it’s essential to set aside time for your studies. Also, when you’re organized, you’ll always know what is due when, be it a reading, a quiz, a paper, a speech, or an exam. Devise an organization system now rather than later, and remember to update it, keep it handy and look at it. 

Keep your phone silenced and stowed during class

Brain research clearly shows that we are not good multi-taskers, especially when it comes to simultaneously performing two or more activities, both which require our language centers. You may be able to task switch between your text message and your instructor, but your human brain cannot process both at the same time. Don’t tempt yourself by having your phone in your hand or on your desk. Besides, your teachers see you texting; don’t think they’re oblivious. Show respect to your teachers (and classmates) and they’re more likely to reciprocate if and when you need it from them. 

Know your teachers’ names and contact preferences

It’s common courtesy and smart academic policy to know who your teachers are, how they like to be addressed, and their preferred method of contact. Listen up on the first day – they’ll often provide you this information. If they don’t, introduce yourself after class and ask. They’ll be impressed you took the initiative.

Find a study buddy

Tap into the power of your classmates and find a study buddy (or two, or three). Study buddies all over campus share notes, talk over concepts, pick up handouts for each other, brainstorm together, cry on one another’s shoulder, and celebrate successes. Come to class early, stow your phone and strike up a conversation with that nice (and perhaps shy) person sitting next to you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised where it can take you. 

Use campus resources

Phoenix College has several resources on campus designed with your academic success in mind. These centers have professional, knowledgeable staff whose job (and desire) it is to help you meet your academic goals. Learn about these free campus resources and take advantage of what they have to offer. 

These resources are not just good for ‘other people,’ they’re good for you, too. 

  • Student Success Center – resources and programs include tutoring, study skills 
  • development, homework assistance, success coaching, workshops, and individual study plans. 
  • Visit them regularly in B228. 
  • Counseling Center – this free and confidential resource includes assistance with 
  • communication skills, coping with crisis, stress/anger management, relaxation techniques, career 
  • assistance, and college major selection. Find them in the Hannelly Center. 
  • Disabilities Resource Center – this center works in accordance with the Americans with 
  • Disabilities Act of 1990 to ensure access and a positive college experience for students with 
  • disabilities. Find them in the LC Building in the center of campus. 
  • Other Campus Resources include Advisement, Career Services, the Child Care Center, 
  • Computer Commons, the Fitness Center, Student Life and Leadership, the Testing Center, the 
  • University Transfer Center, and Veterans’ Services. Check out the Phoenix College website, 
  • under the Students link, for more information. 

Use the library

Modern day librarians are all about accessing relevant information. They know about databases and other resources located well beyond a common Google search – and they love to help you find it. Use their services sooner rather than later when you need help on a research project or other class assignment. Find them in person at the Reference Desk during Library hours or online 24/7 through the PC home page. 

Buy your textbooks and read them

Your instructors assign textbooks for a reason. Buy them and get in the habit of reading them, even if you don’t ‘have to’ for a test. Many academic success experts recommend reading your books earlier in the day, when you’re fresh. Find a quiet place with few to no distractions, get out your highlighter, take notes and see what you’ll learn. One popular method for reading your texts is the SQ3R Method: 

  1. Survey - before you read, scan the titles, headings, pictures and chapter summaries. 
  2. Question - actively ask yourself questions as you read such as, what are the key topics in this 
  3. section/chapter? 
  4. Read - read for comprehension, locate concepts and facts, record and reduce information in the 
  5. margins. 
  6. Review - practice and rehearse the main concepts, reflect on key learnings, anticipate exam 
  7. questions. 
  8. Recite - transfer information to long term memory. isit My.Maricopa regularly

Student Email and Student Portal

Modern colleges and universities communicate with students electronically. Phoenix College, the Honors Program, and others on campus who want to communicate with you will do so via Get in the habit of using this system. Use it to check messages, check your enrolled/drop status in class, see payment/balance information, check your ‘to-do’ list, and see grades, transcripts and a host of other items relevant to your education. Keep your MEID (Maricopa Enterprise ID) nearby; you’ll need it to log-in. 

Use the Honors website (

This website answers questions about your scholarship and keeps you current with Honors events. We monitor and update the site regularly. 

Get your sleep and stay healthy

A recent study at Central Michigan University noted that “college students are among the most sleepdeprived age group. Sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects on daily performance, including academics and driving, and has also been linked to depressed mood and behavioral problems.” Take sleep seriously; you probably need more than you’re getting. Additionally, a healthy diet, good hydration, a network of positive friends, smart sexual health choices, and little to no partying can go a long way toward helping you stay focused on your academics. 

Set aside some weekly reflective ‘me’ time

College students, and especially Honors students, are on Go Go Go mode nearly all the time. It’s highly recommended to take at least 30 minutes a week for some downtime, some quiet “me” time, where you can stop and reflect on where you are in life, what you’re learning, who you’re becoming. Whether you journal your reflections, speak them aloud to your dog, or just think about them while staring up at the clouds, you’ll find these opportunities helpful and relaxing. 

Come see us in HB111 before you get in trouble

The Honors staff is well equipped to help you meet your academic goals (or steer you toward those who can), but it’s easier for us to do so before you’re drowning. Put aside your pride and come see us sooner rather than later. While it’s ultimately your responsibility to meet your academic requirements (and keep your scholarship), let us lend you a helping hand when you need it. 

Get involved

Research suggests a strong correlation between campus involvement and academic success. Phoenix College and the Honors Program offer a variety of ways for students to get involved and feel more a part of the campus community. Some ideas include: 

• Athletics    • Events and lectures 

• Clubs          • Travel 

• Symphony    • Work study or other campus job 

• Study groups    • Service and volunteering