Graduate students in class at UMass Amherst
Student Voices

5 College Habits to Help You Succeed

Many prospective students struggle with increased workload and time management when first entering college. UMass, although certainly a place to have fun, is just as notorious for its rigorous courses that are designed to challenge students on far more than the material covered in class. Often it’s the result of not paying attention to habits outside of the learning environment that leads to a dip in grades. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to help students develop healthy habits that guarantee success in college by avoiding common pitfalls of the average student. Okay, let’s go!

1. Time Management

You should have heard this a million times by now: time management is the backbone of most if not all successful students on any campus. Most incoming students have a general understanding of time-management skills, often limited to the confines of a set schedule. This understanding of time management only touches the surface level, and leaves out particular intricacies of time management that are essential for carrying a student through four rigorous years of learning. In short, the key to time management is prioritization and sacrifice.

As Isenberg students hear repeatedly, the law of opportunity cost is applicable in all facets of decision making, none more than time management. The opportunity cost of a Thursday night get-together is the loss of a good night’s sleep, time to study and revise notes, and a whole host of other consequences depending on the person. It is in these situations that sacrificing momentary pleasure for long-term gain is most favorable.

2. Exercise

The prospect of exercising can be daunting to some students, as there may be barriers to deal with in terms of physical activity on a college campus. I understand that going to the gym is not for everyone, but as modern humans, our bodies have become accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle. The majority of activity performed by the average student does not go beyond walking, standing and sitting. It is because of this lack of activity that our bodies become weaker and certain muscle groups remain underdeveloped due to a sedentary lifestyle. In short, if you have a low level of physical activity, your body will reflect that and bring a whole host of physical and mental problems for you to deal with.

The body and the mind are interdependent, and support or drain each other based on how well you take care of yourself. Lack of exercise can lead to an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms, making it much harder to bear that 8 a.m. Monday class. Look, I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist, but I don't need to be in order to understand the effects of pure laziness on the mind and body. I’m not telling anyone to run a 5K every morning or deadlift 400 lbs in between classes, but I do advise a light exercise routine to keep you calm, alert, and ready to take on the semester. You don’t even have to go to the gym to exercise: a couple pushups or sit-ups every morning can set you apart from the majority of students who do not do any form of exercise.

Pro Tip: Get a yoga mat. This encourages stretching out tight muscles, and performing light exercise to keep your body in tune. Try these out and I guarantee you will feel much better, mentally and physically.

3. Take Time to Reset

Imagine this (very soon you won’t have to, trust me): it’s the dead of midterm season, early in the morning, and you just completed your first exam. Of the day. There’s a few more you have to knock down before you're done, but your brain is fried from the all-nighter you pulled to ace your exams. As the day goes on, you continue to study and take exams until you reach your final test, by which point you are completely exhausted.

Had you taken 30 minutes out of your day to rest your mind in between rounds of exams that are hitting you harder than prime Mike Tyson, your burden would lessen and that final exam would seem less daunting. Resetting in this situation ensures that your mind can adequately recall information that you learned and memorized in the previous weeks. This tactic is an educational cheat code. Keeping your mind fresh in between arduous tasks ensures that you perform them with maximum efficiency.

4. Collaborate

We are greater than the sum of our parts. Cliché to say, practical to execute. Collaboration, or just learning to work together, is of great benefit to any student looking to succeed. I would go so far to say that it is beneficial to any person looking to succeed, whether it be in academics or not.
Collaboration is such a powerful tool because it’s what we as human beings are meant to do. It is how we survived in the past, and it is how we will continue to get by.

In an academic setting, collaborating with your colleagues will prove to be beneficial. It incentivizes you to work together to reach a shared goal, while also teaching you the value of compromise. Through collaboration, you will learn a lot about yourself and how you deal with others in a group setting. Are you a leader, a peacemaker, or do you just go with the flow and succumb to the wishes of others in your group? You can only find out if you collaborate.

5. Check Your Emails

Pursuing higher education is an opportunity that relatively few have access to. Outside of educating oneself on a preferred subject, the primary function of university  is to ensure that there are opportunities in place for students and faculty alike to further their career endeavors. Several clubs and organizations are established around campus for this very purpose. This is why the first few weeks of school are filled with career fairs and similar events. But herein lies the problem: there is a finite amount of time that all organizations on campus are in one designated space, and are looking for new applicants. After these fairs, it is unlikely that you will see or hear from them again in that way … unless you check your emails.

It sounds very simple and redundant, I am aware, but checking emails is a collegiate cheat code. Every day there is an opportunity that practically falls on your lap, waiting for you to grab it. Sure, some things may not peak your interests, but for every opportunity you turn down, there is one tailor made for you on the other side.

If I hadn’t checked my emails, I would not be here in the Admissions Office, writing to you. I am eternally grateful to be where I am today, and the only reason behind it was proactivity. I chose to look for opportunities to further my writing and photography, and quite harmoniously, we found each other. I’m aware that I am making this sound like the beginning of The Notebook, but this is really how it goes.  Seriously guys, check your inbox. You chose to attend university because you wanted to prepare yourself for the world outside beyond college. The best way to accomplish this is by finding the right organization/club/program for you. Whether you receive the SBS Pathways newsletter or one from a different college, there are always exciting opportunities waiting in your inbox.