Make College Work for You


The #1 Key to Success in Your Academics in College

­­The #1 Key to Success in Your Academics in College

Is Getting to Know and Work Well with Others


The blog post from last week looked at overall college success in the everyday experience of a college student: being successful in your classes (learning), being successful in your organizational involvement (doing), and being successful in your life (being).

This blog focuses on a student’s academic performance, on studying, on success in class, on tests and assignments, and on . . . yes, grades and a student’s overall G.P.A. Let me focus on one of the best kept secrets to student success in college, and that is the extent to which you work well with others, collaborate, and help each other in your paths to college, career, and life success.

Success in Your Overall Academics and Specific Classes: Learning

Doing well in your classes is not something that you accomplish alone. Remember that it takes two to tango. To be successful in class, you need to be willing to work well with your instructors and their requirements. In this way, you will be practicing important skills in working with diverse people and their different styles of working.

Different professors, lecturer, and T.A.’s have different ways of teaching. There are some who will fit you like a glove. Their teaching style is a perfect fit for your learning style. Other instructors may not fit your learning style. When an instructor’s teaching style does not fit your preferred learning style, you have two options:

  1. You can switch to another section of the course with a different instructor or just drop the class altogether;
  2. You can step up, find out what you need to do to succeed in the class, and then do the work necessary to succeed.

When you can accomplish the second of these two options, note that beyond learning the material in the class, you are also learning and developing your skills of resilience and adaptability, creative problem-solving, an effective work ethic, and critical time management.

Let me share a personal story from my junior year in college when I ran into trouble in one of my classes:

This was a class in Social Theory that was especially tough. The readings were hard and long and the material challenging. The class included two take-home midterms and one final exam. For the first midterm, we had write two long essays based upon the course readings. I worked really hard on that exam and turned in a 21 page exam. I was really shocked the next week to get a 2.5 (B/C) as my grade! I thought that I had written a strong exam, but I ended up with a “not-great” grade

I spoke with the professor, learning that what I wrote was not what he was looking for. But I still didn’t really know what I did wrong. I think I was a bit embarrassed to explain my confusion to the professor.

Anyway, another student who sat near me in class had received an “A” on the exam. I asked him if we could meet in the library to talk about the exam and what I did wrong. I didn’t really know the other student outside of class, but he was very happy to help out. I think most people usually are.

Never forget to reach out to others for help in class or on the job. Also remember to step up to help others: when they ask and also when you notice they may need some help but, for whatever reasons, haven’t asked for your help. You can request and offer help. If others say no, that’s okay. Everyone is in a different place with different responsibilities and situations.

Anyway, when I met with the other student, we first read each other’s exams. His was actually pretty superficial but touching on most of the key points in the readings. My essays, instead, were thoughtful, just referencing select aspects of the readings. The other student looked at me and said, “You thought too much. This prof wants to know that you did the readings, giving you points for every reading and concept you note. You needed to think less and include more.”

So I had not done what the professor wanted. Six weeks later, we had the second midterm. What do you think I did? Yes! I did exactly what the other student advised me to do. And I not only referenced the material in the required readings; I also cited some of the recommended texts. Guess what happened?! Yes! And because I had included the recommended readings, I set the class curve, and raised my average all the way up to an “A”!

So, before seeking extra help, even though I was working hard in this class but on my own, I was getting, at best, a low “B” grade (perhaps even just a high C!). It was only after meeting with my professor and later a top student that I learned how to study and test differently for success in this particular class.

No one is an expert in all areas, and even where one has particular strengths, one can always learn more. As you develop your teamwork and leadership skills, you will naturally work well with others as you step up to help them in different ways and also accept help from them. This is really what life is about—helping each other along their respective ways in life, work, and study.

Since learning is your main job in college . . . you want to be successful as you study, “hit the books,” and work with other students and your professors.

And after you graduate and in your volunteerism and career, you will succeed because you are committed to success.

And being committed to success means being committed to growth, learning, development, progress.

And as we have seen, being committed to growth, learning, development, and progress means giving help and accepting help—namely working well with others.

This will help you to develop a personal commitment to learning throughout your life and in your career and community service. In this way, you will accomplish that much more in life. In this way, you will make that much more of a difference in the world. In this way, your life will matter that much more. There are so many problems in the world that desperately need problem-solvers, so work hard, get help when needed to succeed and overcome barriers and difficulties, and continue to live a life of learning and growing. Remember that a strong oak tree never stops growing.

And as I’ve shared with you here:

The #1 key to success in college is also the #1 key to success in life

and the #1 key to success in the workplace

and the #1 key to success in virtually anything:

The #1 Key to Success in College Is Getting to Know and Work Well with Others

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