1. Above All, Be Mindful
While 'mindfulness' seems to be just another hip cliche like 'positive vibes' or 'inner peace,' better suited for yoga classes and blogs on personal growth, I would argue that this very ingredient is the most important one in the recipe for success at college. College life is filled with stress and distractions which make it so easy to forget why you are doing what you are doing in the first place. Yet, keeping your goals in tact and knowing where you stand will surely help you increase your focus and boost your motivation. So, pause, breathe in, breathe out, and ask yourself: "Why do I want to be at college?"
Nowadays only too many people see the system of higher education as something obsolete and inefficient, a dinosaur caught in the digital web. Problems pile up the most significant among them being the constant rise of the college cost and, consequently, zooming of the student loan. Many celebrities proudly renounce the value of college education, and as a result, many students start questioning their plans to become college graduates one day. I see their hesitation not as a problem, but rather as a necessary and useful stage in the process of growing up and learning to make adult decisions. "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest," said Benjamin Franklin (Benjamin Franklin Quotes, n.d.), and it is an investment, indeed. To graduate every college student needs to invest huge amounts of time, energy, hard work, and financial resources. This is why it is so crucial to ask yourself why precisely you want to get a college diploma. Once you are sure, focusing on study will become so much easier.
I fully agree with Benjamin Franklin. The college experience is precious. In her inspiring TED-talk, Liz Coleman says that the task of the college education is to equip students with the "flexibilities of mind, the multiplicity of perspectives, the capacities for collaboration and innovation" necessary to drive a real change in the society (Coleman, 2009). College teaches us not what to think, but how to think. This ability to think critically is probably the most valuable asset one can possess. Natalie Portman said in an interview: "I'm going to college. ... I'd rather be smart than a movie star" (as cited in Patterson, 2004). Honestly, I would be quite comfortable with becoming a movie star, but much more than that I want to become an independent thinker, a creative personality and a pro-active citizen. And why do you want to be a college student? Share your ideas in the comments below!
2. Master Your Time Like a Pro: A Simple Time Management Strategy for College Success
Let me offer you a riddle: "What is it that we want most, but use worst?". And no, it is neither a new model of iPhone nor the new Game of Thrones season. William Penn tells us that the right answer is time and upon doing some very careful thinking you will have no choice but agree (William Penn Quotes, n.d.). Do you remember the last time you had an important assignment? Let us be honest. Can you say that you did not procrastinate checking your Facebook, watching Youtube videos, doing BuzzFeed Quizzes, etc. Seriously, do you think that knowing what Harry Potter character you are will change your life? It is time to stop spending your time and start using it.
I discovered a time management strategy that is both simple and time-efficient. To try out the Pomodoro technique, you have to buy a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (of course, even a mobile phone will do, but a tomato is so much more fun) and set it so that you have 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest (Conlon, 2016, p. 157). These short sessions will help you to stay focused without getting distracted by social networks. It will also give you "a carrot" to look forward, or, to be precise, a tomato! This technique will permit you to get things done without working overtime. Share your success stories in the comments below!
3. All You Need Is Love: Pro-social Behavior Helps Conquer Stress and Anxiety at College
Unfortunately, a tomato-shaped kitchen timer cannot save you from stress that is inevitable during college years. In her inspiring TED-talk Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal says that as long as you considered stress to be a challenge, you would only benefit from stressful situations by adjusting your mind and body to the circumstances (McGonigal, 2013). According to McGonigal's data, stress makes you more social because oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone", is actively produced (McGonigal, 2013). So, even stress has its bonuses.
We are used to the idea that good deeds are unselfish acts of kindness, but they can also bring you very tangible benefits. Research shows that the "love hormone" oxytocin participates in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart health ("Learn about Kindness", n.d.). Acts of kindness, as shown by Chen et al. (2011), closely linked to the common oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism, effectively reduce stress. Thus, pro-social communication decreases stress hormone levels, as demonstrated by Robles et al. (2006). So, when you feel sick and tired after classes or exams, try helping a friend in need.
Obviously, from the scientific point of view, altruistic pursuits are the best stress-relief strategy. So, why not try adopting a positive pro-social attitude? You can develop your own beginner plan based on the RAKtivism agenda ("Be the Spark", n.d.). And if you like the feel of it, make up a college calendar of kindness and share it with us in the comments section below. Be the one to start the avalanche of kindness!
4. Speak the Language of Success
The way that you speak is probably the most powerful and exact predictor of success in life. Why? Your personality, intellectual potential, social background, hobbies and interests are all reflected in your vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. You will always be judged by the way you speak. College years will help you shape your manner of speaking by widening your frame of reference and giving you the rhetoric tools used by the most successful speakers. Your task is to be ready to learn and use every opportunity to improve your speaking skills.
Language is a mirror you look into not once or twice or even 20 times a day, you keep looking into it every single minute of your life. It is a mirror that can profoundly change you, make your life path easy and cheerful or thorny and rocky. It all depends on the metaphors you are using. If your metaphors say that you see life as a battle, it will be a battle for you. If you see it as a trip or an adventure, your metaphors will reflect it and make sure you live your life like a traveler and an adventurer. So, choose your metaphors wisely!
- If you want to be successful at college, start with these three tips:
- Work on your speaking skills (by listening to TED-talks, attending Eloquence Training classes and even talking to yourself in the privacy of your room);
- Brush up your metaphors to see if they are boosting your motivation or holding you back.
- Keep calm and read on! Reading will widen your frame of reference. Even the best of speakers need a topic, as well as supporting evidence, quotes, and an outside perspective.
Let the language you speak be your friend, rather than enemy!
5. Adopt a "Growth Mindset": Mistakes Help You Become a Better Version of Yourself
Noone is perfect. Mistakes are an indispensable part of life. In a situation when you feel like you have lost one more battle it is quite hard to stay motivated and focused. Your friends, family and teachers will always support you, just do not be afraid to ask for help. And remember that you have the power to change the situation just by changing your perspective, for example, by developing your "growth mindset" (a term by Dweck (2014)). When you have not actually succeeded, do not be too hard upon yourself calling yourself "a loser" or "a failure." Use more phrases like "Nice try," "Let's think of another option" and other alternatives in your internal conversations. Success is just a matter of time. A mistake only tells you that you are expected to work harder and improve their results. Sometimes a mistake is needed for you to start doing your best, learn to think out-of-the-box and finally become pro-active taking ownership of your learning process. So, you have made a mistake today. Lucky you!
Benjamin Franklin Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/benjamin_franklin_141119
Be the spark: kindness ideas. (n.d.) In Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Retrieved March 22, 2019, from https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/ideas/kindness
Chen, F., Kumsta, R., Von Dawans, B., Monakhov, M., Ebstein, R., & Heinrichs, M. (2011). Common oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism and social support interact to reduce stress in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(50), 19937-19942. Retrieved March 22, 2019 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23060054
Coleman, L. (2009). Transcript of "A call to reinvent liberal arts education". Retrieved March 23, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/liz_coleman_s_call_to_reinvent_liberal_arts_education/transcript?language=en
Conlon, C. (2016). Productivity for dummies (Business & Economics). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
Dweck, C. (2014, November). The power of believing that you can improve. Retrieved March 23, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve
Learn about kindness: Facts. (n.d.) In Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Retrieved March 22, 2019, from https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/learn-about-kindness#kindness-articles-index
McGonigal, K. (2013, September 4). How to make stress your friend [Video file]. Retrieved March 23, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_ stress_your_friend.
Robles, T. F., Shaffer, V. A., Malarkey, W. B., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2006). Positive behaviors during marital conflict: Influences on stress hormones. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(2), 305-325. doi:10.1177/0265407506062482
William Penn Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/william_penn_108121
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