NOTE: This post originally appeared on Meredith Curtis’ website January 30, 2013. All three “college kids” mentioned in this article have successfully graduated with honors. Sarah Joy, who was in high school when this was written, is at this time her only child in college. To see the original article, click here.
They were the best of times, they were the worst of times!
College years are so exciting with friendships, opportunities to meet new people from all over the world, and the thrill of learning and growing. But college can be stressful—those exams and papers! I have three people living in my house right now who are attending college. The end of the semester is crunch time around here, and sometimes stressful.
But, my kids are successful in college! They make good grades, share their faith, and build strong friendships. Mike and I managed to not just survive college years, but to thrive! How can you be successful in college? Here are some tips that work for our family!
Put Christ First
When the pressure of crunch time comes—a paper is due, an exam is on the horizon—don’t neglect your relationship with God. More important than your GPA and keeping your scholarship, walking in the favor of the Lord must take high priority.
My daughter, Jenny Rose, sets Saturday aside for the Lord (we happen to meet on Saturday right now because we don’t have our own church building). She prays, reads the Bible, encourages her friends, practices with the worship team, goes to sound check, and sings on the worship team at church. She realizes that this means losing an entire day that could be devoted to studies, but she doesn’t care. She knows the truth, life goes better when you put Jesus and His Kingdom first.
If you are in college, school is your job. Learning is your vocation. Be excellent at it. Don’t just try to “get by” or “pass the class.” Make up your mind to be excellent at all you do. Set aside time to study and treat those times as if you are heading off to work. Be diligent.
Zack is working two jobs and going to school. Some weeks the only time I see him is at LIFE group and at church. He works hard writing papers, doing projects, and studying for exams. Yes, he misses out on some fun things and will have to wait until the end of the semester to see certain movies, but Zack knows the truth: All hard work brings a profit!
Know Your Professors
Every instructor has preferences and expectations that are different from every other professor. Learn about your professor’s teaching style and expectations by reading the syllabus and paying close attention in class during the first few weeks of the semester. Ask questions if you are unsure of what his/her requirements are.
Go see your professor during office hours when they are available. My oldest daughter teaches English at UCF and she loves for students to ask for help or just come by to chat during office hours. One on one conversations will help you clarify information. Professors are happy to help students with difficult concepts or assignments.
Take Assignments One Phase at a Time
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. When you are faced with a big assignment, break it down into small manageable parts. If you have a research project coming up, you might break it down into these phases.
- Decided the exact subject/scope of your project
- Find Sources
- Make an Outline
- Write Rough Draft
- Revise and Edit
- Write Final Paper
- Print Up and Bound
Divide things up in a way that makes sense to you, but always keep the end goal in mind and know how many steps it will take to get there. Here’s an example of studying for a test.
- Read Assignments
- Listen to Lecture and Take Notes
- Review Reading and Notes
- Explain the Material to Someone Else as Simply as Possible
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep
- Take the Test
Don’t wait until the week before the test to ask for help. Always be looking ahead so that you know what’s coming. If something seems confusing at the end of the semester, ask about it early on; don’t wait!
Steven is full of ideas! He is constantly going to his professors with ideas for independent studies or guest lecturers. He makes an impact in his class because he is always looking for ways to learn and be successful in his classes.
Manage Your Time
Use a calendar, daytimer, or other form of keeping track of your schedule and class assignments. Put EVERYTHING down on your calendar, including study hours. It is so easy when things get busy to lose track of time. I had to learn to ruthlessly manage my time in college after scheduling two or more things at the same time.
If you are more of a laid-back free-spirit-type, then manage your time in blocks instead of hours. Of course, your classes are scheduled, but you can block off a morning for chemistry and an afternoon for history. When you finish chemistry, you move on to history. I like scheduling in blocks of time better using before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner. Don’t forget to schedule in dressing, sleeping, Quiet Times, and transportation.
Julianna would work ahead at the beginning of the semester, getting assignments done weeks early so that the end of the semester (when more work is due) was less stressful. She would look over her schedule at the beginning of every week and every day so that she could stay focused and disciplined.
Now, don’t overdo it here! Make sure there is empty time on your calendar so you can relax and enjoy life!
Set Patterns that Last a Lifetime!
Work hard, keep Christ first, and use wise management skills to set patterns that will last a lifetime. Relax. Don’t forget to pray about college. Your workload matters to God. He is concerned about you! Give Him your worries and confusion and ask Him to allow you to enjoy success and joy in college.
Meredith Curtis, pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of five amazing children, has been married to her college sweetheart for 30 years. She loves Jesus, leads worship, homeschools, writes, mentors ladies, and sometimes even cooks dinner! She is the author of Joyful and Successful Homeschooling, Unlocking the Mysteries of Homeschooling High School (with Laura Nolette), Beauty Secrets (with Sarah Jeffords), and several high school classes. Meredith wants to encourage homeschooling families to be joyful and successful in their homeschool adventures, all the way to high school graduation.