10 Habits of Successful Students

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what habits successful students have. However, some habits seem to be common among many high-achieving students. Many students struggle with time management, especially as assignments become increasingly difficult. Where university students are resorting to buying essays, there may be issues of workload and time pressure coming into play.

Successful students have a fundamental understanding of time management and planning ahead of time. They do not, however, need to be planning specialists to be effective. When it comes to the most basic habits of successful students, there are a few things that almost all of them do.

1. Set short-term and long-term goals

Successful students dedicate time each day to working on their long-term goals. Meanwhile, they use daily goals as motivation to keep them going. These goals can be as simple as “get class assignment done” or “get work done for two classes today.” More advanced students may have multiple daily, weekly and monthly goals. For example, they may have a goal to get work done for all of my classes, as well as a goal to focus on an extra class that is becoming too demanding.

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to make progress on your goals each day. Using the Pomodoro technique will help you get more done faster.

2. Stick to a weekly study plan

Planning ahead is one of the most effective time management techniques. It allows you to avoid last-minute panics and the frustration that comes with having to rush to finish assignments.

One of the common complaints from students is that they never have enough time to complete all their assignments. As assignments get increasingly difficult, students need to dedicate more time to planning ahead. They need to figure out what they’re going to do well in advance.

One of the most effective ways to use your time well is by chunking. Chopping large tasks into small increments is one of the most effective time management strategies. Large tasks are often so intimidating that they can fill your mind with anxiety. Chunking breaks large tasks into smaller, simpler sub-tasks that are easier to manage. Instead of thinking, “I need to do a large project”, you can think, “I just need to complete four sub-tasks”.

3. Understand how to take notes

Some students enter class, take out their notebooks and pencils, and begin transcribing everything the teacher says like an efficient note-taking robot.

Other students will drop down at their desks and sit… contentedly listening (or not) to what the teacher has to say.

The right balance is somewhere in the middle, and successful students use a variety of various note-taking approaches. 

The Outline Approach

The outline method, as the name implies, is arguably the simplest. If the teacher is well-organized, the content will most likely be presented in an outline format. The student’s role here is to notice when the teacher has moved on to a new topic and to keep their notes generally structured beneath each topic (albeit this isn’t an exact science).

The Formal Method

Express your creative side by taking notes how you see fit. Drawing graphics, connecting notes with a mind map… the concern here is that you take too many liberties and omit important information. However, if you are more “out of the box,” this may be something to consider.

Cornell’s Method

The Cornell Strategy is a more advanced method. You take notes in the right-hand column during class and then develop questions and terms on the left-hand side as soon as possible following class. You can then use these notes as a study guide, going over the right side and attempting to remember what each question or term means.

When everything is said and done, even a crude copy of what the teacher puts on the board is a start, and you may build from there.

4. Conduct their research using active recall

Students who practice retrieving crucial facts from memory, whether using an app like Quizlet or through old-fashioned paper note cards, nearly always perform better on quizzes and examinations.

The official name for this technique is Active Recall, and the procedure is simple.

  • Step 1: Write down the word, notion, or problem that has to be solved.
  • Step 2: Without glancing at any notes or information, write down or recite the definition, explanation, or solution.
  • Step 3: Compare your response to your notes and amend any errors.

In contrast to passively reading the textbook or leafing through notes, research has shown that this strategy greatly improves exam performance, and it is one of the lesser-known habits of successful students that people discuss.

5. Handle their mistakes correctly

When it comes to mistakes, the most successful students don’t dwell on them (nor do they avoid them). Some students might become down on themselves because of a missed question on an exam. Unfortunately, perceiving their failures in this light nearly invariably ensures that they will not learn from them and improve the next time.

As a result, it’s critical to promote a growth mindset: the belief that your skills and abilities aren’t fixed but may be improved over time with practice and effort.

With this form of self-talk students are much more likely to investigate their mistakes and work hard to repair them so that they learn what to do correctly the next time.

6. Know how to use their most valuable resource: The Professor

Students who attend office hours do better on examinations and papers, are happier in their classes, and feel more connected to their college, classroom, and professor. 

College professors have lots of experience teaching large classes. They’ve seen it all and they’re able to convey their expertise on a given topic more effectively than just about anyone. That being said, there are still some gaps in understanding that occur between students and their professors. 

College professors tend to be very busy people. You need to be creative in finding them and in using the time you have when you do find them. Make sure you have a specific, concise question when you meet with your professor. Otherwise, you’ll waste time in conversation that does nothing but increases your stress. Once you have the question clear in your mind, write it down before your meeting so you can use the time efficiently.

7. Create study groups with their peers

In order to be successful in college or university, it is important for students to create study groups with their peers. By studying with others, students are able to benefit from different perspectives and learn from one another. Additionally, being in a study group can help keep students accountable and on track with their studies. When students work together, they can bounce ideas off of each other and come up with new ways to approach material. Finally, studying in a group can be more enjoyable than studying alone and can make the process less daunting.

8. Take advantage of all the resources on a college campus

Most colleges and universities offer a variety of resources to help students succeed in their studies. These resources can include tutoring services, writing centers, libraries, and computer labs. Many students don’t take advantage of these resources because they don’t know about them, or they don’t think they need them. However, using these resources can help you get better grades, save time, and reduce stress. If you’re not sure where to find these resources on your campus, ask your professor or another student for help.

9. Ask for help when they need it

Although college students are adults, they are in a new environment with people they may not know well, so many are reluctant to ask for help. However, successful students recognize that asking for help is a sign of maturity and initiative, and they approach instructors or upperclassmen when they need assistance. As a result, they get the most out of their college experience and earn good grades.

10. Stay healthy

Successful students stay healthy by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. This may seem like strange advice, since many college students appear to do the exact opposite. However, getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly does make you more successful and doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Plus, you don’t need to be fit to go to class—just begin gradually and increase your exercise level as you get into the routine. And if you can’t squeeze in a workout, at least get seven to eight hours of sleep per night and eat healthy meals whenever you can. 

In conclusion, remember that success is a process, not an event. It takes time, effort, and perseverance to develop successful habits. But the payoff is worth it. When you develop successful habits, you set yourself up for a lifetime of success.

To get the most out of the changes you could make this year, go over the list above and pick 1-3 that you can put into action this week.

  • What steps will you take to secure your success?
  • And what will you use as success criteria to determine if they are fruitful or not?

Select the habits you want to improve, answer the questions, and then give it a shot.

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