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How I Succeeded in College: A Top Coach Story

I graduated magna cum laude with a BA in anthropology. It was no easy feat, but here’s how I did it:

  1. I talked to my professors.

No, I didn’t meet them at a quaint café outside the city ever Saturday for brunch, but I did make sure they knew who I was. I would ask questions before, during and after class, as well as through email and during office hours. I spoke up in class, commenting on certain things that piqued my interest. I didn’t hesitate to request an extension on a major paper if I was overwhelmed with work. What this meant is that, when it came time to apply to grad school, I had plenty of professors willing to vouch for my love of learning and dedication to my studies. Forming working relationships with my professors was crucial to my collegiate success.

  1. I swapped numbers.

When I was younger, whenever I told my father I wasn’t sure how a teacher wanted something done, he would immediately ask me, “Well, is there anyone in your class you can call?” If I said no, he would urge me to get at least one or two classmates’ phone numbers so that if ever I had a question and the teacher was unavailable, I could consult with one of them. Not only has this technique helped me clear up numerous doubts over the years, but it has also gained me a few friends along the way.

So who do you ask? And how? I would normally ask someone who seemed particularly friendly or who, based on their questions and comments, seemed pretty sharp. I would approach him or her after class at the beginning of the semester and just lay it out there: “Hey, I was hoping to swap numbers with someone in the class just in case I ever have a question or vice versa. Would you mind if I got yours?” And if my memory serves me well, no one ever refused.

  1. I found a good study spot.

One of the great things about large universities is they generally have large libraries. For instance, the library at UH has eight floors. In it you will find spaces reserved for different noise levels: spaces for those working on group projects, who are allowed to be a little louder; spaces for those working with a partner, who are allowed to hold conversations in a whisper; and spaces for those working alone, who need complete silence in order to concentrate. I fell into the last group. Over the years, I would consistently go to the library anytime I had to study, find a cozy carrel in one of the designed silent areas, and get to work. I knew if I were to go home that the dogs would be barking and my mom and brother would be talking, and that I would have a lot of trouble getting things done. Long story short, part of the reason I was so successful in college is that I knew where and how I studied best, and I recreated that atmosphere whenever possible.

But none of these techniques would have worked to the extent that they did had I not been passionate about what I was learning. That said, I urge you to find a major that genuinely interests you. Your campus’s career services center will be more than happy to help you do so.