The 5 Habits of Highly Successful Students
In a previous article entitled, The Power of Habit, I mentioned how powerful habits can be especially useful for students. By consistently doing an action you’ll create a routine that will make that action easier each time. This will allow you continue making accomplishments and strides even when your motivation levels are low (which will happen from time to time).
In this article, I’m going to complement what was already said by providing 5 habits that I believe students should have to do well in college. These habits derive from a combination of my own personal philosophy, the teachings of others through books I’ve read, and from others I’ve witnessed.
So, before I get into the actual habits, I want to clarify that these habits have less to do with pure academics. In fact, there’s only one habit that directly has anything to do with your grades. Rather, I personally believe that one’s mindset is a big part of what causes action.
Based on different books I’ve read about successful college students and successful people as a whole, the defining trait seems to be less about the grades they get and more about their attitudes to the world around them.
Overall, the inspiration for this article comes from a book that helped me personally change my mindset (for what I believe was the better) while I was in my later years of college. This book is called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Individuals by Stephen Covey (which I have linked to in this article).
Similar to the core thesis of the book, I will present five habits that I believe students should practice in order to be effective in the classroom and outside the classroom, Stephen Covey provides 7 habits that humans, in general, should practice to achieve the most out of life.
I highly recommend this book and I can’t say enough about how impactful it has been on my life and my perspectives.
Without further ado, let’s begin the list.
Seek Knowledge and Stay Curious
This should seem like an obvious habit but it’s not. I argue that being genuinely curious about the world around you will make learning easier. Sure, this is great for the classroom. Imagine how much easier it would be to study or learn about a new topic if you were always intrigued by everything.
I guarantee you it wouldn’t feel like a chore. But I believe that this habit should also apply to everything outside of the classroom. When you learn new things and fill in gaps in your knowledge, you begin to perceive the world differently.
I’ve mentioned this on numerous occasions, but I think the overall purpose of college is for overall growth. It’s a place where you get to meet other individuals who are similar in some ways yet different in many others. It’s an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone with mitigated risk.
During my earlier years of college, I wasn’t very curious. I easily fell into the cycle of going to class, having fun with the same friends every day, doing homework, and repeating that process day in and day out.
Looking back on it, there was so much more I could’ve done with the opportunities around me.
For example, currently one of my goals is to become fluent in Spanish. In college, I could’ve easily joined a club to focus on speaking and learning Spanish the way natives speak it (colloquialisms and all). Realistically speaking, if I had done that at least minimally, I would probably already be fluent in Spanish (if not mostly fluent), have new insights about different Spanish cultures, have gained new friends as part of the experience, and I would almost definitely have set myself up to be far more marketable in the long run when it comes to careers. The payoff would have been exponential.
With that in mind, I encourage everyone to seek out more opportunities to learn. And it needs to be outside of the classroom. Attend more seminars and events.
During my senior year I, attended a small Elevator Pitch workshop. It was completely free and the speaker presented strategies and methods to design a useful elevator pitch (we even had to practice towards the end which was terrifying—I hate public speaking). Guess how many people showed up. Only about 7 people attended and for 3 of them it was mandatory for another organization they were a part of.
The point that I’m trying to make is to stay curious about things and keep trying to expand your mindset. The more you learn about the world, the more interesting it becomes. Also, most of these events in college are free and once you graduate you’ll likely have to spend a significant amount of money for a similar (or worse) experience.
Take advantage of it while you can!
Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight
Deriving from an old Japanese proverb, the literal meaning of this saying has been debated numerous times. Personally, I believe that this proverb is a lesson in diligence. One of the greatest habits that I believe a student can have is the ability to stay diligent and to persevere even when things get a little tough. Inevitably, stress will find you. That’s life.
You could get low grades after studying relentlessly for a test. Your parents could place an annoying amount of pressure on you to succeed or live up to their expectations. You may find yourself struggling in your relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend or even with friends in general. Perhaps you’re just overwhelmed by what lies ahead in the future; the unknown frightens you to no end.
These are all very common issues that students in college face. But the bottom line is that a good student is able to see through the negativity and continue to do what’s best. They are able to see their goals out to the end and make things work.
Study hard and Study Often
This is the only real academic tip on this list. It involves basic management of your time and the ability to study. Through most of my college life, I would typically wait until a few days (1-3) before an exam to begin studying. During those times, my stress levels would increase especially if I had about a day or so remaining and still didn’t understand the material as well as I had hoped. The main issue was my timing. Whenever you begin to get notes on a chapter is when you should begin studying.
There seems to be a strange mentality that studying needs to be pressing your face against your notes or writing out overwhelmingly long study guides to prepare for a test.
I’ve tried those techniques and they don’t seem to work very effectively. What researchers have found to be the most effective method is to study in small bursts.
When you have some time in between class, just take 15-30 minutes (whatever you’re willing/able to spare) and concentrate on the material. Quiz yourself in your head. If there are key terms, memorize them while they were mentioned in class so you can connect the relating information.
Study hard for a short amount of time but study frequently. The beauty of this method is that you’ll be able to study, do well on tests, AND still have a social life. You won’t need to pick and stress yourself out. Trust me on this one.
Even skimming your notes for several minutes after your class will pay dividends.
During my senior year of college, I used these techniques and they make an absolute difference. If you follow these tips you will be able to study enough, have a great social life (I had so much more time than most of my friends despite taking 6 classes, two of which were 4-hour lectures, that it was actually a little annoying), and get plenty of rest to keep your brain healthy.
Don’t be Afraid to Change Your Mind
New people to meet from a variety of backgrounds means that inevitably you will run into others with different interests or beliefs. While many will cling to the beliefs they were raised with to the very end, I argue that this is a poor mentality.
Part of growing and learning is challenging yourself and your knowledge-base. It’s possible that someone from a different background can provide an alternative way of thinking that you had never considered or enlighten you to a way of life that you never knew existed.
These things are positives, not negatives. An effective student understands that being open-minded is a great way to develop both intellectually and emotionally.
Why intellectually? Well, you’re learning something that you never knew before. Or, at the very least, you’re hearing a perspective that you may have never considered. This will enhance your overall level or rationality and make you much better equipped to make decisions for yourself later on down the road.
Why emotionally? As you meet different people with different perspectives and mindsets, you’ll likely face a situation where someone challenges you to the point where you must admit that something you once believed was true is actually incorrect.
For many people, this can be a difficult pill to swallow. However, accepting your gap in information and adjusting will help you in the long run. There are many scenarios that you’ll likely face as a student that will push you out of your comfort zone and force you to at least consider pathways you never knew existed. By allowing yourself to get challenged more, you’ll develop a resistance to differing opinions which will overall boost your emotional intelligence.
Understand that being open-minded and considering the opinions and beliefs of others doesn’t mean adopting those beliefs or ideals. Just like some people prefer a vegan diet while others love meat, everyone has an opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion.
The important aspect is being intelligent enough to not shut down the opinions of others (since every opinion or ideal will lead to growth when you’re willing to change your mind).
Visualize the End Goal
This habit is extremely important. Know what you want for yourself in the future. An effective student has a goal in mind from the very beginning. They know what career they’d like to be a part of. They’re educated about the career. They understand the requirements. They understand the necessary courses. And they’ve developed a plan to get there. That last part is extremely important. They develop a plan to get there.
A goal without a plan is merely a wish. Without action, wishes don’t come true.
Take time to consider the future. Ask yourself where you’d like to be in 5, 10, 20, and 50 years from now (I know, it’s a lot to consider). Doing this will allow you to reverse-engineer the steps you’ll need to take to reach your goals.
For example, if one of your long-term goals is to write an award-winning novel, you could consider the possibility of taking additional writing courses on the side. Perhaps you could also invest your time into more meticulous reading and personal writing. Visualizing the time-frame will allow you to consider your time more realistically.
Without a definitive time, frame for completion, people tend to put things off until it’s too late or until they lose interest. Don’t make that mistake. Make a goal, give yourself a definitive timeframe, and be sure to make the time realistic. If your goal is to win a triathlon within 2 months and you’ve never run in your entire life you may need to rethink your goals (unless you understand yourself well enough to know that you can definitely train enough to meet that goal’s timeframe).
Make it a habit to set goals every 1 or 2 months and review them every month or so beyond that. Sit down and see what you’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done. Break each goal into tiny pieces and figure out what steps are required to reach that goal that you have. Also, be sure to write it down. Many people (especially college students) are overconfident in their ability to memorize things or keep track of details.
Don’t make life difficult.
By writing your goals down they’ll stick with you more and force you to follow through.
These are my 5 Habits that I believe create highly effective students. I urge anyone reading to adopt these habits and challenge themselves more. Did you find the article interesting? Be sure to share it via social media by using one of the buttons on the left side of the web page. Also, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
This book is an absolute game changer and has been credited by many leaders, experts, and successful individuals as being one of their favorite books. You can purchase a copy from Amazon using the link above. Also, if you use that link, not only will you receive a copy of the book but I’ll also receive a kickback which would be a great benefit to the website and allow me to create more effective content for students. Thank you for reading and as always, stay positive!