5 Life Hacks for Success at College

5 Life Hacks for Success at College
Beth Dumbauld

By Nick Carter

Have you ever felt like you failed a test so bad you immediately wrote yourself off as failing the course? I’ve been there. The feeling of helplessness can be suffocating. But the feeling of success can be exhilarating when you know you have what it takes to rise to the challenge. There’s almost nothing better than a course--or a degree--seen through to completion, particularly when you’ve had to push through roadblocks along the way.

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For those inevitable academic or time management challenges, here are five life hacks for success at college that will get you to your personal finish line:

Have a Goal

Setting a goal is critical, yet many people bypass this important step. In order to succeed, you should define what success is to you. For a course, it might be completing assignments by a specific date and earning a specific grade. Or if you are concerned about completing certain course topics, it might mean committing to course completion by knowing--and using--support services, like tutoring, before you even enroll.

If you think you’re running a 5K when you’re really running just a 100 meter dash, then you might be closer to the finish line than you think! On the other hand, if you think you’re running a dash when you’re really in a 5K, then you might be doing all the right things for the wrong race! Once you know your goal, you’ll be ready to make a plan.

Break Down the Problem / Develop a Plan of Action

The more specific you can get about a problem, the more likely you are to find a solution. It’s easy to approach problems like an astronaut being asked to give street directions on how to get to Disney World. But the more specific you can be, the more useful your plan will be-- and you will feel in control when you take that necessary first step.

Break down any issue you have into specific smaller goals in order to reach your ultimate goal, while enjoying a series of smaller successes along the way. You can help yourself get to your goal by simply breaking it down.


“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” - Bruce Lee

If you run into an academic problem, you’ll need to do something new to reach your goal, but you’ll also need to take something away as well. Otherwise you will find your life becoming more and more unbalanced. Think about it – if the amount of activity you can handle is 10, and you add 1 to that, you’ll be on overload. This is why so many New Year’s Resolutions get dropped by mid-January. Try cutting down on tv binge watching temporarily to make room for increased study time, if need be. If more time is required in one area, you’ll need to cut time in another. If more effort is required, cut effort elsewhere.

Understand where you can get support in your efforts. And don’t shy away from asking for help.

Get Help from a Mentor!

The shortest route to success is by getting help from people who already know the ropes. In a college setting, this could be your academic advisors, your professors, or teaching assistants who’ve already found success in the courses you’re now taking. By connecting with and learning from a mentor, you’ll be cutting out tons of time and effort spent learning lessons the hard way. (Psst. . .Be ready to put your mentor's suggestions into action. To make sure you do, remember to simplify.)

Consider Alternative Sources of Credit

Maybe you need credits faster than you’re able to earn them at your college or university. Fortunately, there are now alternative sources of college credit you can turn to. Exams-for-credit and online courses offer options for you to transfer credit to your school to accelerate your degree program. And StraighterLine’s self-paced, transferable courses are a great place to check out what your options are.

Not sure where to start? Get your free personalized degree plan today!

Nick Carter is a student advisor who has worked with StraighterLine since 2013. With a drive for customer service, Nick has found a niche at StraighterLine helping students get one step closer to finishing the degrees they need, one course at a time.

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