What Does It Mean To Be Successful In College?

“Your college years are the best years of your life.”

You hear this all the time.  College is portrayed as a sort of heavenly place where young people gather to work hard, party hard and have all kinds of decadent fun.  Is this reality?

Many people do not have this experience when they are in college.  A lot of college students find themselves losing their minds trying to pull the grades or wander through a limbo of booze and drama, only to emerge as unprepared for the world as they were four years earlier.

It’s unfortunate, really.  The jury is still out on whether or not college is the “best” years of your life, however there is no reason why they should not be awesome years during which you had all the success you desired and then some.  Instead of feeling like you are struggling, you should be plowing through like the Incredible Hulk… on steroids…

A lot of college students struggle with the basics.  Ask a crowd of college students what “success in college” actually means, and you will get a flurry of answers.

“Getting a 4.0”

“Getting laid a lot”

“Learning stuff”

“Becoming a better thinker”

“Becoming wiser”

“Partying it up”

“Become a social butterfly”

“Network”

“Getting a good job”

“It’s subjective”

That last answer is part true.  Indeed, the specifics are subjective.  That said, there are three broad things that you must do to be able to look back on your college years and say, “wow, I was really successful.”

1. You must get the grades.  Plain and simple.  Fundamentally, you are forking over a lot of money in order to get a nice piece of paper that, you hope, will open up some doors for you later on.

2. You must grow as a person. By the time you exit college, you should be different in many respects than you were when you first entered.

3. You must have fun. If you don’t have fun, you are serving a jail sentence, not attending college (Or living, for that matter).

Notice how broad those three are.  What each of those things means to you will be different than what they mean to you friends, special someone, mother, father, cousins, aunts, me, and pop culture idols.

The other thing to notice is that they reinforce one another.  Letting one or two of them go by the wayside will hurt you in the one or two you are focusing on.

Getting the Grades


Are you getting the grades you need to get in the areas that you need to get them?

When you ask the typical college student, “how are your grades?” they usually respond with “uhh…they’re OK.”  What the hell does that even mean?  They are either what you need, or they are not.

The ambitious premed student will obviously have a different standard for “getting the grades” than someone who just wants a specific degree to get a specific type of job within 4 years.  To one, a 3.8 is unacceptably low while the other would be ecstatic with a 3.3.

It is absolutely true that you can get a 4.0 in college.  Some of the people I interviewed for my upcoming book pulled it off in spite of some pretty insane challenges.  If that is your goal, then by all means go for it.  You will find some very useful stuff on this blog to help you get there.

If you do not want a 4.0, that’s perfectly legit as well.

That said, everyone should have a target GPA that aligns with their goals.

“But Andy,” you might protest, “I don’t know exactly what I want to do after college!  I just want to give myself a lot of flexibility.”

Fine.  Figure out what you need to do to give yourself that flexibility.  A numerical GPA should come out of that.

Your target GPA can change over time.  However, this should only happen if your goals/priorities have really changed, or if you were a little too zealous with your projection.  While proper use of the techniques and strategies in this book will allow you to get whatever realistic goal you want, they cannot defeat the forces of arithmetic.

In other words, if you a sophomore with a 3.8, you cannot get a 4.0.  Sorry, I’m not God.

In the basics article, I give you some techniques that everyone, from the least ambitious to the very ambitious can apply IMMEDIATELY to drastically generate better work.

In “Dealing With Boring Classes,” you get some techniques for getting the most out of lecture so you learn stuff the first time it is presented.

Applying the techniques in those two articles alone should be enough for most college students to get the grades they want

For college students who have heavy courseloads, there are some advanced posts describing different things you can do to keep your sanity.

Growing as a Person

Doesn’t that sound cheesy.

Yes, it is a little airy fairy.  However, there is no better way to put it.

When you come into college, you are a person.  Your essence stays the same throughout, however the way you act can most definitely change.  What I am talking about are things like…

– Maturity
– Emotional Health
– Physical Health
– Mental Health
– Self-discipline
– Focus
– Social Skills
– Relationship Skills
– Self-confidence
– Opinions and values
– Authenticity
-Ability to empathize

This is by no means a complete list, however it should give you an idea of what I am talking about.

When you grow as a person, you improve in these areas.

In fact, I will take it one step further.

You should improve in ALL of these areas during your college years.

Whoa there!

Note how I did not say “you must develop the self-discipline of a monk,” “you must become a social butterfly” or “you must be able to go do a triathalon.”  However, there is no reason NOT to make at least SLIGHT improvements in all of those areas by the time you are done with college.

For goodness sakes, we are talking YEARS here.

If you observe your elders who are middle aged or older, most of them are decaying in these areas.  When you ask them why they are letting themselves get overweight, you will usually hear “because I’m getting older” as a response.

While I do not think this is a good enough excuse, it does have some meat on it.  After the age of thirty, on average, we naturally begin to decline.  For example, we lose about a half-pound of muscle every year without intervening (By, you know, actually using your muscles).

During our college years, we are at the height of our natural development.  Our bodies have higher metabolisms than they ever will, our muscles are growing faster than they ever will, and our overall energy output is higher than it ever will be.

In other words, not growing is unnatural!  Older folks don’t have this privilege.

This personal growth does not require reading a bunch of self-help material or spending hours a day at the gym.  It will naturally happen so long as you are being proactive with your college experience, something you are doing by studying and applying the stuff on this website.

Having Fun

No, the definition is no necessarily “getting hammered,” “going to house parties” or “playing World of Warcraft” (not to say that you are wrong for having fun when you do those things)

It is important to do things that you enjoy during your college years, and for the rest of life as well.  Unfortunately, too many college students dismiss this as “wasting time” or “not my thing.”

Nonsense.

As I talk about in other sections, it is impossible to be working at a level of peak performance unless you do things that rejuvenate yourself.  If the name doesn’t tip you off, peak performance is when you are producing your best stuff.  Obviously, to get the grades, this is the level where you want to be.

So yes, even the most hardcore of you need to have fun.

What that means to you is different than what it means to me.

If you do not know how to have fun (Something that more people than you might think struggle with), make a commitment right now to find something.  That means getting out of your room and trying new things.  I will be writing an article with some suggestions.

If you want to be more social, but lack the social skills, there are articles on how to improve your social skills, how to have fun at parties and how to develop a “cooler” personality.

If you want a boyfriend or girlfriend, but have no experience, there will be plenty of posts for you.

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