50 Tips for College Success

I was a college student for 11 years (getting four degrees, including a PhD, will do that to you). I'm also an adjunct professor, so I've been at the other side of the classroom as well. Here are 50 things I've learned from being a college student and a professor. (I've also written a book on ADHD and college success, but I digress.)

1) The Freshman Fifteen does exist. So does the Freshman Twenty. Watch how many starches and processed foods you are eating.

2) Pizza -- the ubiquitous college snack. See #1.

3) If it's either take out a loan or quit school, take out a loan. The more time you take off from college, the lower the chances are of you returning to it.

4) If you can live harmoniously with someone in a 20×20 ft. space, you can do anything.

5) Flip-flops: Wear them in the dorm shower. Always.

6) Always attend the *real* class, and use the Internet one for review.

7) If you are not a morning person, don't schedule classes for 7am. You will not go.

8) Get involved on campus. All work and no *productive* socializing is boring.

9) Too much socializing = bad grades. Everything in moderation.

10) If you are feeling overwhelmed, are having problems sleeping, or have gone through a breakup, visit your college's counseling center. If you are feeling suicidal at any point, call your college's crisis center number or call 911 immediately.

11) There are a lot of free activities on campus. Take advantage of them.

12) Many colleges have free tutoring centers on campus. Take advantage of them.

13) Sit near the front of class.

14) Attend the whole class. Even if you feel like you will just die if you sit there any longer. Even if you feel your brain start to ooze out the side of your ear. Because we (professors) can give some really important info at the end of class.

15) Recopy your notes after class. Or if you've typed them (which is recommended), do a quick read-through after class.

16) Remember that although you are 18, your college may have the right to contact your parents if you are caught drinking underage.

17) Don't do anything stupid (read: illegal). It will go down on your permanent record. Seriously. At every college you apply to after this one. (I will probably get some pro-legalization comments on this one. My reply: Colleges don't care if you are pro-legalization if you are busted for possession. It will still go on your record and will create difficulties for you for years to come.)

18) Register for classes as early as possible. Early bird catches the worm and all that.

19) See how your first semester goes before you consider getting a job. See how heavy your course load is first.

20) Find a bank that also has branches in your hometown. Get your account connected to your parents' account so they can transfer money to you.

21) Use direct deposit and automatic withdrawal for paychecks/loanchecks/check checks. Less chance of you losing it.

22) Use virus protection and firewalls on your laptop.

23) Don't use a credit card. If you *must* get one, get a prepaid card or have a really low credit limit.

24) Reconsider bringing a car to campus your first semester. It can be a pain to park.

25) Pack the clothes you need for college, and then take half of that amount.

26) The more underwear you have, the less you have to do laundry. (Also known as the "Panty Postulate".)

27) If you are doing laundry on campus or at a laundromat, stay with your clothes. Otherwise they may walk off while you are gone.

28) I can't emphasize this enough: INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO YOUR PROFESSORS AND GO TO THEIR OFFICE HOURS. This is so important, I'll tell it to you again: INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO YOUR PROFESSORS AND GO TO THEIR OFFICE HOURS. We're nice people. Seriously. And we really like it when someone is interested in our classes.

29) Use the college's career resource center -- not just when you are going to graduate, but when you are figuring out what you want to do with your life. It's a free service. Use the free services.

30) For the love of God, please, please do not leave candles burning in your dorm room or apartment. Or those incense burning thingies. Bad things happen when those are left on.

31) If you have a tendency to be messy, your roommate may be compulsively neat. The general rule is that the messier you are, the more neat your roommate will be. Try to pull it together. Especially regarding food. Always throw out leftover food. That's just gross, messy or not. Learning how to adapt to someone else's living style is a wonderful learning experience. Really. And if you complained about having to share a room with your siblings while you were growing up, when you get to college you learn that you are actually ahead of the curve.

32) Stay on campus on weekends. If you go home every weekend because you are homesick or have a girlfriend/boyfriend back home, you will be missing out on a lot of the college experience.

33) Get your flu shots. Yearly.

34) Use condoms. Every time. (I'm assuming that some commenters might reply that abstinence should be recommended instead. My reply to that: College students will continue to have sex, no matter how many times someone tells them that abstinence is best.)

35) Long-distance relationships are a challenge to keep up when you are away at school.

36) If you get that "ick" feeling that you shouldn't be doing something or shouldn't be somewhere, stop doing it and get out of there.

37) You may feel like your parents are hovering too much. Look at it this way: they've been taking care of you since you were a baby. That doesn't just stop. Cut them some slack. The more independent and wise decisions you make on your own, the more they will have confidence in your abilities as an adult.

38) Just because you and your roommate were friends back home doesn't mean you will be compatible roommates. You find out new things about people when you are sharing a small space. But you can work it out. Even if you and your roommate are total strangers and are completely different - you may become great friends.

39) If your roommate is doing something that bothers you, ask yourself the following three questions: 1) Am I being reasonable in being bothered by this? 2) What's the best way to talk to my roommate about this? 3) What are some solutions to this issue? If all else fails and the issue is very important to you and you've talked to your roommate to no avail, talk to your Resident Assistant.

40) Practice safety. Don't walk home alone in the dark. Walk with someone. Many campuses have services where you can call and someone will walk back to your dorm with you.

41) Just because you *can* do something doesn't mean you should.

42) Use flashcards to quiz yourself when studying. And get someone else to quiz you with them. If you always quiz yourself with your own flashcards, you may skip over some that you don't know the answer to.

43) You may not know what you want to do for a major. It's okay. There are people much older than you that still aren't sure what they want to do with their lives. That's okay. See your academic adviser for help. Pay attention to which classes you really look forward to -- that can be a clue as to what you might want to major in.

44) If you have a dining card/pass - do not treat all your friends to lunch and dinner. That is real money. Real money that you will be asking your parents for when it runs out.

45) Study groups can be helpful -- but keep it to between 3 and 5 members (including you). More than that, and it turns into a social event.

46) If you have ADHD or a learning disability, apply for accommodations as soon as possible - even right after you find out you've been accepted to school.

47) Sleep. Get it. Get enough. You may be laughing at this, being a college student and all...but you need to get enough sleep.

48) Wash your hands. Often. Living in the dorms is a communal living experience. Germs love communal living.

49) Keep in touch with your friends from back home, but be open to meeting people of all different cultures and interests.

50) Enjoy your college experience - it's one most rewarding experiences of your life, academically and socially.

Dr. Sarkis is the author of "Making the Grade with ADD: A Student's Guide to Succeeding in College with Attention Deficit Disorder".