The Seed to Success

Academic Advice for Incoming College Freshman.

Earlier this year, I ecstatically began a part-time job as a tutor in mathematics and science. I love teaching and utilize this zeal to explain even the randomest of questions that my students come up with (if table salt is made with chlorine, am I going die? is a recent favorite). While my job definitely keep me on my toes, I sometimes worry that my students are not emotionally or academically prepared for their future course work. In particular, I am finding that many of my younger students are in the dark about their looming matriculation into college, as some are finishing up their junior and senior years of high school.

According to All Gov, 3 million students will attend some form of higher education. This is an increase of about 4.9 million since the fall of 2000. Despite this, it was found that the retention rates of college students may be plumeting. In particular, first-year students are a major concern in the increasing drop out rates, seeing as only 1 in 3 will not return for their following year, according to U.S. News Education. In a previous article, I explored where first-years students struggle academically and emotionally. This suggested that the personal attitude of a student is heavily correlated to their academic performace.

In reference to academics, many first-year college students find that they cannot handle the hefty workload that accompanies university classes. A major reason for this may be that students matriculate into college with the attitude that they can do well simply because they were successful in high school. However, college acadmics are vastly different from that of high school. For example, colleges tend to assign larger assignments in a shorter time frame in addition to expecting students to balance copious classes on top of work, extracurriculars, living expenses and more. Moreover, memorization and then regurgitating facts are all but a distant memory. According to, first-year college students lack the ability to approach exams that require conceptual thinking. Although academics are frustrating for college freshman, these difficulties are amplified when a student isn’t emotionally ready for college. In particular, students lack the discipline they need to stay on track in their college courses. In other words, students are not ready to take on responsibility for their own coursework and may not even know how to balance it on top of other tasks.

Robert Feldman discusses his paper to improve first- year college student success.

Although some students may not be too fond of it, they need to alter their approach to college in order to safeguard their academic performance. In particular, they can follow advice from various college success books that have proven to be helpful to many oustanding graduates. For the most part, these will require academic discipline and even patience from students who do not already possess these habits. My top 10 favorite study habits come from Cal Newport:

  1. Don’t do all of your reading
  2. Create a Sunday Ritual
  3. Start long-term projects the day they are assigned
  4. Befriend a professor.
  5. Study in fifty-minute chunks
  6. Schedule your free-time
  7. Study two weeks in advance
  8. Don’t study in your room
  9. Use three days to write a paper
  10. Study with the quiz-and-recall method

Overall, transitioning into college is not always an easy feat. While it definitley is different in many aspects, a big challenge bestowed on college freshman is their ability to tackle school work successfully. Factors that may affect a student’s performance include their academic and emotional maturity levels. However, even if students do not harbor these skills prior to college, they are not automatically destined for failure. By following the advice listed here or from advisors and other college students, incoming freshman can ensure their own success when they enter university.