4.5 million college studentsDear Kid,

Turns out there are 4.5 million college students in the United States (I counted), and according to this Important Graph That I Did Not Make 30% of them will never graduate. Never.

Now while I’m sure you will be part of the 70%, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips about how to be successful. Just in case you might know someone who could use a refresher.

Here are 5 tips to help ensure you are one of the ones who makes it through to college graduation.

1. Alarm Clock. Many people tell you to buy an alarm clock. That misses the point entirely. The trick is to USE your alarm clock. Which means setting it and then getting up when it goes off. EXTRA TIP: If you have an 8am class, set your alarm for enough time to get to class–that means some time prior to 8am as teleportation is not yet a reliable form of travel.

2. Eat Breakfast. For years you’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Want to hear something amazing? It’s true! Your brain has several jobs in the morning. Top of the list: Keep breathing, walk to class, open eyes, don’t fall down, learn something. If your brain doesn’t have enough fuel (read: food), it focuses on what it considers the highest priority things (like breathing and not falling down) and totally skips the “keep eyes open” and “learn something” requests. Give it food and your brain will happily multi-task. Note: Caffeine is not food. It’s not a bad thing, but there is a limit to how long it will work. It’s like using a really low grade gasoline in your car. It will give it the boost you need to get where you need to go right now, but might not be so good for the engine in the long run.

3. Get Working Early. There are some things that can be done at the last minute. Deciding what to have for dinner in the cafeteria is one of them. Writing a college level paper is not. In high school, it was often easy to wait until the night before a paper was due to write it. (Not brilliant perhaps, but possible.) Most homework was due the day after it was assigned, giving you an implied last minute deadline. As you have doubtless (without a doubt) figured out, that kind of studying won’t work in college. Get started early on your school work. Make (horrors!) a schedule and (double horrors!) stick to it.

4. Talk to Professors Outside Class Time. I hope you’re sitting down, because I have Very Important News. Are you ready? Professors are people too. There, I said it. I’m sure more than one of your professors has encouraged everyone in the class to visit during his or her office hours. They mean it. They are there to teach (the vast majority of them, anyway). They want to get to know you, they want to help, they want you to succeed. They might even be able to help you obtain Gainful Employment at some point. So go, meet, get to know, make a good impression, ask a question, get help. Just go.

5. Make Friends.Didn’t see that one coming, did you? The trick is to make the Right Sort of Friends. By “right sort” I don’t mean based on skin color or sexual orientation or what kind of soda a person prefers. I mean A) people you like, B) people who have the same sort of goals you have (to do well in college), and C) that have good study habits and are able to balance school and social life. It is a truism that we become like those we spend our time with (which means that I shall probably begin shedding shortly). Choosing friends you want to be like can be a life altering decision.

 Have a good day, Kiddo!

Love, Mom

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