09/02/2014 01:17 pm ET Updated Nov 02, 2014

The Overachiever's Guide to Freshman Year


For nearly two decades, I've been committed to preparing the most inspiring and motivated college students for graduate/professional school, influential careers, and lifelong achievement.

I have learned that my very best students were focused, driven, and disciplined enough to follow these key steps-to-success during their first year of college:

1. Make a realistic bucket list and go for it!

2. Create personal vision and mission statements, then develop related goals. Coupled with your bucket list, your vision, mission, and goals will serve as a plan of action for the next four years of your life.

3. Manage your time. Thinking must-do, should-do, or could-do will not only help you schedule your priorities, but also control your 168 hours per week.

4. Meet once a semester with your academic advisor to select your classes and to track your progress toward degree completion. You should definitely take a critical language course.

5. Leave a good impression by dressing business casual for your first week of classes and sitting in the front of the classroom.

6. Introduce yourself to your professors within the first two weeks of classes. Don't forget to meet with them again mid-semester to discuss performance and hear suggestions for improvement.

7. Find a faculty mentor to help you apply what you're learning to real world experiences. They can also refer you to peers for tutoring and direct you toward summer research opportunities.

8. Apply for need-based and/or merit-based financial aid and undergraduate scholarships.

9. Get a part-time job, preferably on campus, to enhance your professional knowledge, skills, and abilities.

10. Become financially literate to better understand the cost of everyday life, then establish a budget. If you decide to get a credit card, please choose wisely.

11. Use social media to brand yourself. Create a LinkedIn profile and connect with family, friends, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and co-workers.

12. Meet once a semester with your career advisor to accomplish related goals.

13. Look for a summer internship at the career fair, then connect with recruiters on LinkedIn.

14. Take the Myers-Briggs and explore different career options.

15. Participate in club sports or intramurals.

16. Meet individually with your president, provost, dean, associate dean, and department chair over lunch to introduce yourself and share your academic and career plans.

17. Join a student group within the first six weeks of the semester, then run for secretary at some point during the academic year. Also, meet once a semester with your student government president to discuss opportunities for leadership.

18. Study individually and in a group for 30 to 45 hours a week in an effort to graduate with a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or above.

19. Establish your professional wardrobe with a new suit and a new pair of shoes.

20. Exchange business cards with influencers at least once a week, and remember to connect with them on LinkedIn. Stay abreast of current events and best practices, one way or another, as they might come up in networking conversation.

21. Unplug from mobile devices and social media for 12 hours a day.

22. Use your spring break to tour at least three graduate and/or professional schools, meeting with students, faculty, admissions, and career counselors.

23. Make your health and wellness a top priority -- no excuses. Get at least five hours of sleep, exercise daily, and eat plenty of vegetables.

24. Participate in community service.

25. Prepare for your sophomore year!

I genuinely hope this list helps you do more, do well and do good. It is by no means exhaustive and bound to be missing some best practices. Please feel free to add your great advice to the comments section below.

I look forward to reading your suggestions and connecting with you on LinkedIn.

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