How to Succeed in College: 2023 Edition – Part One


Welcome to our 2023 guide on how to succeed in college. This exclusive ten-part guide will cover everything you need to achieve college success. As you’ll see, being a successful college student is more than just attending class or getting good grades. Our tips for college success are holistic, designed to help you maximize and optimize your college years. That’s because achieving success is about so many different things: Academic accomplishments, gaining useful skills, building a valuable network, making fulfilling and meaningful friendships, self-care, and even – dare we say it? – having fun.

Success is a Mindset

The first and most important thing that you need to know for college success is that success is a mindset. It’s a way of approaching a situation. It’s not necessarily an attitude; it’s a cognitive lens. And you also need to know that success is in the eye of the beholder.

Identify How and When You Will Measure Success

Success is different for everyone. It doesn’t help to have overwhelming goals. It does help to break down your goals into semesters, weeks, days, classes, and so on. What does success mean to you? It’s OK if that changes.

If you’re really drawing blanks on this, try to make “SMART” goals. Those are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. “Be an academic success” is not a SMART goal. “Earn a 3.6 or higher GPA this semester” might be SMART-er.

Start every semester, week, and day by writing your SMART goals. You also might find it helpful to write SMART goals for each course. These don’t have to be the same as the course objectives. Just ask yourself what success would look like to you, for you, in this situation, and how you should measure it. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) rely on grades as measurements.

Instead, think about your values and what you want to get out of your college experience. Some good SMART goals at different levels (For the time, course, day, or semester) are “Talk to three new people,” “Do statistical regressions in Excel without looking up the formulas,” “Hold a five-minute conversation in Spanish,” or “Find four sources for my sociology paper.”

SMART goals aren’t everything, though. Achieving a mindset of success is not just about goals.

Be Ready to Find Value in Unusual Places

You could resent a class that feels like busywork, tedious essay writing, or a professor who doesn’t always teach in a way that corresponds to your preferred learning style. But why waste your time on it? You signed up for the class, or have to take it, so now the challenge is on you to find your own success and your own value in it.

Class too easy? Find a way to make it more challenging: Ask the professor if you can modify some assignments to build your essay writing skills.

It’s not just about classes. Maybe you’ve been stuck with an awful roommate, someone so atrocious your own social life is suffering. Reframe it as a challenge, and a way for you to improve your resilience, conflict resolution skills, and communication.

It’s Never Too Late to Start to be Successful

Whether this is your first semester, your third attempt at college in ten years, the tenth week of your third term, or whatever, you can always choose to cultivate a success mindset. This will help you be one of the top college students. You can’t change the past, or magically think your way out of a bad start to the semester or college, but you can always choose to make a change in how you approach it. Why not choose to start doing that today?

We can’t always plan ahead for every one of life’s curveballs, but if you stay focused on your goals – even if they change – you’ll be better positioned to be successful in college.

Above all, view everything you do as an opportunity to be successful, and success as something that is neither binary nor quantitative. College success requires you to have a growth mindset, and if you decide to view challenges as opportunities, you will have a growth mindset in no time.

That wraps up Part One. Tune in next time for Part Two: Work Smarter, Not Harder. Got an opinion on this? Leave it in the comments!