How to succeed at university

(CollegeDegree360 / Flickr)

Succeeding in university is not a cakewalk, even for those that flew through high school with ease. It takes hard work and dedication to flourish at a high level. Living away from home for the first time can be a huge change, and professors aren’t going to be breathing down your throats to study or hand in assignments. The choices that you make are going to determine the quality of your university career, so here is some advice on how to succeed at university.

Go to Class

Even if your professors are generous enough to attach sets of notes or PowerPoint presentations to online servers for students to access, there are still many benefits of actually attending the lectures. Professors often give helpful hints on possible exam questions mid-lecture and expand on subject matter beyond the textbook. If attendance was not useful, professors would have already been replaced by technology.

Attending lectures also gives students the opportunity to ask professors or peers questions on the subject matter, exams, and upcoming projects.

Ask Questions and Participate in Lectures

You are not a keener if you raise your hand or volunteer to answer questions. Professors encourage class involvement, often allotting a portion of final grades to classroom participation. Making comments or asking questions shows your professor that you are paying attention and are willing to become an active participant in your education. If you do have a question or something to say, express it. Chances are that someone else might have similar thoughts about the course or material.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It means that you are strong enough to admit that you cannot do everything on your own.

Your professors were once students and realize that problems arise in memorizing and understanding course material. The majority of professors have set office hours, or have made themselves available by either phone or email. It is better to ask questions earlier on than waiting until the last minute before exam time or when essays are due.

Collect contact information from classmates so that you can communicate with them when you are unsure about the content in class. This is especially handy when you need to catch up on missed material after you have missed a class or have come in late.

Student Services also offers academic advisors, career counseling, the academic skills centre, and personal counseling to help with various personal and academic problems that you might face.

Come to Class Prepared

Professors expect students to come to class with completed assignments on the day that they are due, with those failing to do so receiving late marks or failures. Contact professors ahead of time if emergency events arise that prevent you from completing or submitting assignments.

Professors list the required texts and additional academic readings for the course in the course outline. It is important to come to class with the readings read so that you are not only familiar with the topic, but are able to contribute to possible discussions. Some professors will test students on readings, give assigned reports, or end class early if not enough students have come prepared.

Make a Schedule and Use It

There are many dates to remember for each course, with assigned readings, discussions, assignments, essays, reports, and exams. All of the dates will begin to pile up and there are few things worse than having a mid-term exam or a ten-page essay sneak up on you last minute if you procrastinate.

Purchase a day planner or use the calendar built into your phone or computer to write all important dates and events in the calendar. Save yourself some unneeded stress and keep an eye on the upcoming events and deadlines.

Maintain Your Social Life

It is easy to become overwhelmed by university life, but it is equally important to maintain a social life as it is to keep up with academics. This doesn’t mean that you should be partying every night until the wee hours of the morning or turning your dorm room into a holding cell with nothing but textbooks, it’s about finding out what balance works for you and allows you to enjoy an effective student life.

It is time to change your behavior if your partying is negatively affecting your schoolwork, because at the end of the day, education is what brought that the majority of students to university.

Take Care of Yourself

Leading an unhealthy lifestyle, with little exercise, unproductive sleep, and damaging eating habits is a vicious cycle that many university students fall into, caused by stressful schedules and living on a budget.

Finding time to go to the gym or develop an exercise routine can be challenging, especially in the cold fall and winter months. Exercise is not only great for physical health, but also mental health as it helps to reduce stress and produce endorphins that alleviate feelings of depression.

Rest is vital to academic prosperity, as going through all phases of your sleep cycle assists in learning and memory function.

While foods like ramen noodles and macaroni might be inexpensive, there are many budget-friendly alternatives to pre-packaged foods high in sodium, sugar, and fat. Fresh produce, lean meats, legumes, and whole grains are all a part of a healthy diet, which can help with weight management and prevent health issues.

It is truly possible to go to university and maintain a balanced life. Pay attention to your schedule, decide on your priorities, and take a break every once in a while, and you will be just fine!

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 104, Issue 2, September 10, 2013.