Keys to Success in College & University…
A Letter to My Younger Self

Many people have asked me what the keys to success in college and university are.  My answer is not focusing on getting outstanding grades.  Yes getting good grades will help you get into medical or law school, but most of us don’t take that path we’re just looking to finish our degree or diploma. 

Side note if you’re considering becoming a lawyer check out this hilarious disclaimer written by Tucker Max (author of “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell).  I think he’s bang on with his thoughts as to why someone would want to be a lawyer.  And I can verify his thoughts because I spent seven plus years in that environment.

Since hindsight is always 20/20 there’s a lot I know now that I wish I knew then.  A letter to my younger self.... my keys to success in college and university.

Keys to Success in College & University Before Enrolling into Program 

  • Make it a priority to research which program and school you want to attend.  Yes your last year of high school is stressful and your social life is important but this is the next few years of your life (possibly the foundation of your career).  I was apparently “too busy” to select a program so my parents pretty much did it for me…. Yikes! 
  • Focus more on the program, not the school because maybe the school that the herd is going to has a lousy program for the one you want to take.  Your focus should be on the best education possible. 
  • Choose a program you actually have interest in AND offers employable skills.  Sure taking business seems like a no-brainer but you’re going to hate your life if you don’t like working with numbers. 
  • Selecting a program with co-op is your best choose because you’ll not only come out with an education but work experience.  And if you’re fortunate even a job!!!  Often times companies who take co-op students will hire them afterwards.

TIP:  Not sure if you should take a program or a course?  Brainstorm what type of career you want and then ‘Google’ people that already work in that profession.  See what their bios say.  Find out what kind of education they have and/or experience.


Keys to Success in College & University While in Progress 

  • Get organized and use a calendar or organizer.  Deadlines creep up fast.  Even to this day I use a cheap paper organizer (I still prefer it to electronic) and write down all important dates.  It gives me a quick visualization of my schedule and it helps me stay focus.  A great idea is to set yourself interim deadlines on large projects so you’re not leaving everything for last minute. 
  • Don’t judge a program based solely on one course.  There’s always going to be some really dry courses in your program that are going to be painful to get through.  

TIP:  A former professor once said to pick a course by teacher, not by subject.  A great teacher can make any subject interesting.  I wish I knew that!  I was picking my courses based around my social schedule…. Horrible! 

  • Connect with at least someone in your class that way always have someone to touch base with if you miss a class (never!) or you need clarification on material.  
  • Don’t forget to connect with the teacher.  This is especially important in large or online classes because it’s important to put a face/voice with a name.  I never did this when I was working on my undergrad and I regret it.  Building relationship is so important to be successful and easy especially with current technology.  I always make a point when I start a course to shoot an email out to my professor with a comment, question or wanting clarification.  Even if I already know the answer… just to make a connection. 
  • Depending on which program you’re taking you usually don’t need to do ALL the reading (Don’t some teacher assign insane amount of readings per week?).  You can cut your reading time down by attending all the lectures and participating in class discussion.  The readings are usually there for more in depth ideas. 
  • Don’t purchase the textbooks right away.  I figured this out towards the end of my undergrad.  I noticed some teachers teach right out of the textbook so if I attend class and take notes the textbook is repetitive.  On the flip side I’ve been in classes that I would have died without the textbook because the teacher did a horrible job explaining the material.  You can usually figure out your teacher’s style after a few classes. 
  • And my favourite… get a part-time job!  You’ll actually be a better student.  Most people waste a lot of time procrastinating when they have too much time.  You’ll actually become a more efficient student when balancing a part-time job.  Have you ever heard the express “Want something done?  Give it to a busy person.”


Keys to Success in College & University when You want to Quit 

  • Stick to your program especially if you’re close to finish it.  In the long run experience trumps education.
  • If you’re seriously thinking about quitting (I was at one point) you’ll most likely regret it later…. Unless of course you’re Bill Gates.  These people are the exceptions, not the rule.  I know a few people have quit in their early 20s and gone back later in life and were kicking themselves.  Think life is busy now?  Wait until you’re older.  The most time you have is now.
  • Education is ongoing.  Change your mindset.  Just because you finished your degree/diploma doesn’t mean your education is over.  Successful people know that and are constantly updating their skills.
  • Find school-life balance.  Don’t make your student career about getting high grades.  Unless you’re trying to get into law or med school high grades don’t make you more employable.  In fact in my group of friends those who had more balance (i.e. juggled school, work, and social life) were employed first.  You cannot teach life skills.


I hope you find my keys to success in college & university helpful.  Focus on building a strong foundation now will serve you through out your career.  I wish you lots of success in your journey!

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