December 1, 2023

What It Takes to Succeed as a Student

In honor of School Success Month, I wanted to share some of my educational experience with other students, as I found some strategies that seemed to help me while I was achieving my degree.

Before online education took root, schooling was a completely different animal. Students were required to schedule their day with classroom time in mind. This meant that if you worked a full-time career, your best bet was to take classes at night and on weekends, which placed a huge dent in your already busy week.

Once online classes became available to a wider audience, the convenience and flexibility of not having to show up for class in person became quite appealing. Being able to work on your studies from just about anywhere you had access to a computer and internet suddenly sparked joy in millions. A number of students then flocked to the online format and traditional universities found it impossible not to offer an online format in conjunction with their live classroom lectures.

While many will tout the convenience of being able to study from the comfort of their own homes, even while wearing their pajamas, or steal a few minutes during their lunch hour to catch up on studies, there are several factors to consider in an online environment if your goal is to be successful at it.

  • Self-discipline. Sometimes not having to be in a classroom means that you may feel compelled to procrastinate. Successful online students all say the same thing: it takes dogged self-discipline to maintain good grades. This means not putting off reading, assignments, research, or discussion board interaction.
  • Self-teaching. Classroom time means lectures, note-taking, and the added convenience of being able to ask your professor or classmates questions in person. In an asynchronous, online format, there is no face-to-face interaction. There may not be video lectures in your Learning Management System (LMS). You are still responsible for knowing what information is pertinent and what information is not.
  • Use your resources. It always surprises me to discover that some students do not read their syllabi from cover to cover. You can download this handy map of your course and print it out for easy retrieval. I did refer to it as a map for a reason; it is the map of your material and if you follow it entirely, you should be able to successfully move from point A to point B. Going through your syllabus should be the first thing you do in any course as it contains pretty much everything that you may need throughout the entire course. If you missed something, chances are you did not read your syllabus.
  • Note-taking. Just because there is no professor lecturing at the podium doesn’t mean you no longer need to be a good note-taker. The practice of absorbing information and truly understanding it helps if you have taken the time to read it, listen to it and/or watch it on video and then apply what you have learned to notes. There is something about writing down or typing what you need to know and you then have the opportunity to go back and review and refer to what you have jotted down.
  • Know your needs. If you are a kinesthetic learner and understand that you pick up information much better when you are actually holding something in your hands, then you may need to get creative and seek out additional resources. Again, look to your syllabus for suggestions. It also does not hurt to reach out to your professor. As the content expert, he or she may have ideas to meet your study needs.
  • The majority of CSU students work full-time, have families, and participate in their community. If you are not good at scheduling your time, you will find it almost impossible to keep up with your studies. Schedule small study times, such as 15-20 minutes at a time for hectic weeks, and then stick to your own scheduling, no matter who notices or how small it seems at the time. If something dire comes up, be sure to reschedule so you don’t find yourself falling behind.
  • Learning the communication protocol. This may be somewhat outside the realm of earning a good grade, but I believe it is entirely relevant. When you first enter a class, make sure you properly introduce yourself to your professor and to your classmates (if applicable). A simple and succinct email with just the facts and maybe something interesting about yourself and how it could relate to what you are learning is always welcome. This helps to differentiate yourself from the rest of the class. Plus, if you happen to need to speak with your professor at a later time, you have already covered the introduction. Just as people do not appreciate someone walking up to them and asking for something before even stating who they are, faculty also appreciate the same kind of consideration through email. Remember to include your name in a signature, as well as student ID number for easy identification. Do not yell (i.e.: using all caps) in an email. I could probably write an entire article on this, but I’ll stop here.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not assume anything. Just because you earned an 89 but think you deserve a 90 so you can maintain a specific GPA does not mean anything. That is not to say that you cannot go to your professor and argue your point; of course you can. We are all adults here. However, in this culture of entitlement we seem to have gravitated towards, just because you want a 4.0 GPA does not mean you will receive a 4.0 GPA. At the end of the day, I have never been asked a single time what grade I made on an assignment, for a class, or even my GPA because employers do not care. They want to know that you completed your educational requirements and can successfully perform the job at hand. That’s it. So try not to get stuck on a number. At the end of the day, the score is not nearly as important as whether you walked away with greater knowledge and understanding of the subject.

These are just some of the important items that lead to successful educational accomplishments down the road. We welcome any comments to add to the list.

While we are at it, why don’t you go ahead and give yourself a huge pat on the back for getting to whatever point you find yourself now. Remember to honor and celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Happy studying, and enjoy your road to success in honor of School Success Month!