how to succeed

8 Things Successful Students Do

Hey everyone! A lovely man named Mike Strangstalien, MA, MFT, LPC, NCC decided to compile a list of 8 things successful people do. He has been working on this list since 1994 and continues to update this list as he does more research. I decided to share some of his amazing work here with you all by summarizing his main points. Enjoy and good luck!

1. They raise their hand in class.

Now, this may seem trivial and sometimes you’re left with the question, “How can I speak up in class if I don’t even know what I don’t know?”. However, its been proven that people who raise their hand and ask questions tend to do better. If you are unsure of a question to ask, a good technique is to go home and review the material and the next day at the beginning of class, ask your question. This not only gets you to actively participate in class, but you begin to think about the information you learned and are able to commit it to long term memory.

2. They establish routine and structure.

During the day you should try to complete your homework so that at night you can spend your time studying, reviewing and consolidating. Its been proven that studying something before bed can commit it to long term memory. Doing work at night when you’re tired can lead to poor performance and may not commit things to memory if its the first time you’re seeing the information. 

Also, try to go to bed BEFORE 1:30 am! Why is this important? Your serotonin is used up during the day (about 90%)  and is reassembled if you get to bed by 1:30. If you go to bed past 1:30 twice in a row, you miss your key opportunity to replace it and you’re left with only 10%! Do this again and you’re down to only 1%. This affects your concentration, focus, attention, motivation and memory. 

3. They go to office hours.

Those who go to office hours at least 8 times during the semester yield, on average, 0.5-1.2 grade points HIGHER than their non-attending counter parts. The main reason people don’t go to office hours is a fear of looking “dumb”. However, if you just admit to your professor or TA that you’re completely lost, they can help re-teach. Remember to be honest about your confusion because otherwise they may start their explanation off the assumption that you already know something and you’ll have wasted your time and your professor’s. This can be the difference between a C and an A! 

4. They prepare for each lecture.

Preparation for each lecture is essential. Begin by reviewing any information from the last lecture within 24 hours of first receiving this information, otherwise you lose valuable time to commit it to long term memory. Additionally, quick read assigned readings so that the lecture can consolidate what you read. After the lecture, spend about 5 minutes summarizing the major points and look up any vocabulary you didn’t recognize. This all compiles into the three-read principle. 1. Read the textbook (or other materials) beforehand. 2. Reread after the lecture and try to find the main points in the reading. 3. Reread a third time and write notes as though you plan to teach the information. This means simplifying and not writing down unnecessary information. 

5. They remain actively involved when learning, attending lecture, and while studying. 

I have a post about active studying techniques which you can find here. Active learning requires not only that you consciously try to pay attention, but also that you maintain your motivation to learn the material, the willingness to complete the tasks at hand needed to learn it, and saying to yourself, “I am excited to learn something new and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to do it”. Remember, there are kids in other countries literally dying for the right to an education. Your education is luxury, not a right. Additionally, every 15 minutes, stop and ask yourself, “how does this fit into the main idea,” and “what is it that I just read and how can I form study questions from it?”. 

6. They take responsibility for their learning.

Although your professor is there to provide you with the information, it is not their job to make sure you learn it. Often times students fail because they expect the professor to try hard to help them. This is a harmful way of thinking and it can lead to failed exams. Those who take responsibility will make sure they seek help when they need it and they will make sure they search for resources outside of what is provided. If you’re really struggling with a concept, try Kahn Academy, YouTube or asking a TA. Its up to you to earn the A, not your professor. Also, keep track of your own grades and assignments that you turn in. This way if you need to see someone for help, you’re not disadvantaged because you waited until the grades were updated online after you threw away graded papers. 

7. They understand the work load and are prepared to study 7 days a week.

Not everyone can study for hours on end every day. For this reason, those who are successful make sure they break down their studying into 25 minute intervals. Additionally, make sure you touch on this information every single day to keep your brain ready for the class when it comes time and you can avoid procrastination. You also need to be prepared for repeated exposure. This means reviewing the same material 3-7 times. This highly increases your likelihood to not only learn the information for exam, but not become guilty of the “pump-and-dump”. This is especially helpful for anyone pursuing medical school or graduate school. 

8. They have no use for negative self-talk and they are honest with themselves.

You cant commit things to memory if you feel down or you are angry with yourself! Those who are successful maintain the mentality of, “I know that hard work and commitment will lead to success,” and, “I am capable, intelligent, and worthy of excellent grades”. They also understand that any grade they receive is earned and not given. Additionally, they understand that even at the end of the day, if they get bad grades they know for a fact that they tried their hardest. Self-criticism can be more harmful than good. Never scold yourself for missing homework, doing bad on an exam, or being confused. Instead, search for ways to actually CHANGE your behavior. A change in you mentality may sound silly, but it may be the difference between having the motivation to study a little harder and laying in bed feeling bad about yourself. BE HONEST. If you are really struggling and going to office hours and studying isn't helping, drop your pride and try to find a tutor. If a tutor isn’t in the books for you due to financial situations, explain this to your professor and see if you can schedule more one-on-one time. 

You have to want it. You have to want it more than anybody else could possibly want it. Then you have to work for it. You have to work harder than anybody else could possibly work. Then you have to sacrifice. You have to sacrifice more than anybody else could possibly sacrifice. Then you have to suffer. You have to suffer more than anybody else could possibly suffer. Then you have to do it again…and again…and again.
—  Michael Carini