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Hello you wonderful, intelligent, and fabulous person. You are obviously here because you want to know how to get ahead in college. You might be an undergrad that feels a bit behind or a grad student that has been behind the entire time. No matter why you are here, I am just glad you are. I want to give some tips for you to get ahead in whatever you are doing in college. I also want to specifically target different groups (undergrads and grads) to share different ways to stay ahead in that degree.
Getting ahead in college can be quite a challenge. You honestly have to start strong in the beginning and keep that momentum throughout the whole semester. The challenging part is towards the end when you get overwhelmed with exams, projects, homework, and just life. It seems like towards the end, people tend to slip backwards, just because of how overwhelming is can be. They tend to get back into bad habits such as not exercising, not eating right, and also getting very little sleep. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. So, I am here today to (hopefully) give some great advice on how you can get ahead in college and grad school.
Getting Ahead in College as an Undergrad
I was once in your shoes. I graduated from the University of Florida in 2016 with a bachelors in environmental engineering. Any engineering degree is going to make you feel like you are behind in your studies, trust me. Somehow, and I think I know why, I stayed ahead in my studies and graduated with honors. I did it with a bit of persistence and some luck. I want to share with you some of the things that I did that kept me ahead in college so I could graduate on time and without too much stress.
1) Procrastination will hurt you
The biggest suggestion that I give people when they ask me how they can get more done but also enjoy college, I tell them stop procrastinating. I think procrastination is one of those things that will just hurt you in the long run. I get it, you might be telling yourself that you do your best work when you put it off. Well, that might be true if you have one assignment, but what happens when you get to the end of the semester and have 5 or 6 assignments and papers? Then putting it off until the last minute might not be such a good idea.
The key to staying ahead is to stat early and stay on top of assignments. Finish them early and it will free up a ton of time for you to enjoy life or do fun things. By procrastinating, you might have free time, but you’re going to be in a world of hurt when those deadlines come knocking.
2) Stay Moving
Exercise has been shown to boost productivity as well as learning capabilities. It increases energy and makes you feel so much better. The key to staying ahead or getting ahead can come from just exercising and staying healthy. One thing that I have experienced in college that seems to drag me down is just stress. Stress makes me think about all of the stuff that I need to do and I freak myself out. Exercise is a great way to reduce that stress and think clearly. You’ll see that the stuff you have to do isn’t that hard or the amount of work you have really isn’t bad. You can get it done and boom, you’re ahead in your studies!
3) Do not go for perfection
Just get started, is what I tell myself all of the time. We are all, in some form, perfectionists. The key to getting ahead in college is to throw that sense of perfection away for a bit and just get the work done. You can always go back and make it better. This is especially true e with writing. The key to getting ahead in college is to just start. Whatever it may be, just start doing it and go back to it later to make it better. I think the hardest part is just getting started. We want to make sure the paper or assignment gets an A, so we plan out so much time just thinking about it or put it off for a bit until we think we are ready to tackle it. Don’t do this, start early and just aim to get some of it, if not all of it, done. This serves a few purposes. First, if you finish an assignment, even if it’s not perfect, at least you can submit it. second, you will have something to work with and make perfect after you finish it.
Do you think papers are perfect in their first draft? Heck NO!!!! So if your first draft is at 10 PM and the assignment is due at 12 am that night, do you think you will have a perfect paper ? Probably not. Aim to get something done early so you have the equivalent to the quality of the 2 hour assignment, but give yourself enough time to perfect it. Your grades will thank you significantly.
4) Sleep, Please
Get to bed at a reasonable time. Don’t brag to people about how you got 3 hours of sleep because you were up working on your assignment that was due. No one wants to hear you brag. Go to bed at a reasonable time and get up at a reasonable time. Stay consistent and you will notice that you aren’t extremally tired all oft the time and have a ton of energy to tackle anything in your way.
You will also notice that you’ll retain more information when you are fully rested and you’ll be able to solve more problems with a clear head. I made sure to get to bed each night before 12 and wake up no later than 9 am. I function best with 8 to 9 hours of sleep and ound that the weeks where I got enough sleep were the most productive and least stress filled ones. The weeks where I would party and procrastinate were some of the most stressful.
5) Limit the partying, but don’t give it up
College is about meeting people, learning ideas, and having fun. Yes, going to parties is part of the fun and frankly, a major part of college. Does that mean you need to be out at the clubs and bars each night/? I would say no. But, it is good to get out and hang with friends and meet new people. It honestly helps build social skills and may even get you a significant other lol.
But if you want to get ahead in college, you need to sacrifice some of those “all-you-can-drink Wednesdays” and do some work. We all have to sacrifice some things in our life, you can give up a few nights on the town. Your wallet will thank you lol. I would suggest going out as a reward for hard work. Say you have an assignment coming up that is due on a Friday but you want to go out Thursday. Why not use going out on Thursday as a reason to get your assignment done really fast so you can enjoy the night without worrying about finishing the assignment for class. You can also use what I talked about in point 3. If you finish the assignment before going out then the next day, you can polish it up a bit before sending it in.
Getting Ahead in College as a Grad Student
Everything that would help you get ahead as an undergrad works well as a grad student. Sleep, not procrastinating, and limiting the partying. There are a few extra things in grad school that I want to discuss that will help you get ahead and stay ahead. Staying ahead in grad school is probably the most important thing because it will prevent you from having to stay longer than you want. So, let’s dive into some of the extra things that I can add to the list for grad students.
1) Stay in contact with your adviser
I can not stress the importance of staying up to date with your adviser. You will have a whole bunch of things that you’ll need to do for them. Some things you’ll be doing alone. You need to know their expectations and what they want from you. Make sure to meet with them at least twice a month, if not more. They are ultimately in charge of when you graduate, so you need to make sure that you are meeting their expectations and are moving along nicely in your timeline.
2) Keep up to date with all major milestones and deadlines
There are many deadlines that you will need to make sure you hit. Stay up to date with these. They include qualifying exams, paper submissions, conferences, and various other things like that. Know when they are and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for them. They may seem so far away, but time really flies by when you are in grad school. Next thing you know, you’re getting ready for graduation. Make sure to know when everything is due and that will keep you ahead.
3) Stop being such a recluse
One of the most important things that I did was reach out to other grad students and make friends with them. Yes, you will be alone a lot, but you don’t need to be alone all of the time. The best way to get ahead is to stay active in the grad school community. Talk to others, get ideas from them, and network. It helps to reduce the feelings of loneliness and anxiety as well as benefits you later. Many connections that I have made in grad school have really paid off. People that I have talked to have helped me understand complex ideas, gotten me job offers, and just became my fiends. All have helped to get me ahead in college.
Get Ahead in College With These Tips
There are a few extra tips that I want to share that can be included to either one of the above sections. These are tips that will overall help you stay ahead in whichever degree that you pursue. I am sure you have done a few of these. Let’s get started.
1) Start Early. Stay on top of assignments from day 1 of the semester
2) Stay healthy. That means exercise and eat healthy food
3) Go to networking events to meet potential employers. Nothing says staying ahead and finishing school like having a job right out of college.
4) Get a part time job to force you to complete assignments early so you can work.
5) Get a planner (like this one)
6) Stay organized. Clutter can make things difficult
7) Above all else, be kind to yourself. You might fall behind at some points but you will get back up. Don’t put yourself down if you do fall a little behind.
For those that are highly productive in college, what else would you add to this list? I truly think that if you plan things out right, you can kick college’s butt and end up on top, no matter what your degree is in. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my list. I am quite curious of what people think.
If you haven’t read my blog about Moving during grad school, I strongly suggest reading about it. That might be one way to stay ahead in college lol (link here). As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one. Peace.