Tips for Academic Success

Want to improve your study skills, get better grades, or get more out of your education? The following tips are a good start.

  1. Think about what matters to you. What moves you.
    Discover a secret of motivation: Find a passion in learning. Make your life in the classroom, as well as outside of it (e.g., hobbies, clubs, sports, leadership roles), meaningful to you. What do you want to experience and accomplish in your life, and how will your time at UCSC help you reach your dreams?
  2. Set realistic day-to-day goals. Reward yourself for accomplishing them.
    Work on one thing at a time and follow it through to completion. Break larger tasks (such as writing a research paper) into smaller ones (such as writing an outline, reading a couple articles), and tackle one part at a time, with breaks in between. During breaks, get up and stretch, take a short walk, eat a snack, drink some water. When you accomplish a task, give yourself a small but meaningful reward (e.g., 20 minutes online, a cookie, a 15-minute chat with a friend).
  3. Know and use your campus resources.
    Your college academic advisor, major advisor, Learning Support Services, and the Disability Resource Center (DRC) are great places to start with any academic questions or concerns. There are a ton of other Academic Support Resources on campus to help you!
  4. Get to know your professors and TAs.
    Putting in that extra effort to go to office hours and talk to your faculty can make the difference between an average education and a great one. Feeing intimidated or embarassed is a common reason students avoid approaching faculty, but don't let that stand in your way. Maybe you'll find a mentor in one of your teachers, and you'll also be laying the groundwork for having relationships with faculty you could ask for letters of reference (e.g., if you apply to graduate school) that you might need in the future.
  5. Be an active learner who understands your individual learning style.
    Be active in your studies—using several different approaches to learning and studying (e.g., reading, taking notes, making outlines, using flash cards, forming a study group) improves retention and performance. Do you have a strong preference for visual information? Try making charts and diagrams when you study, or watch a supplementary video. Do you learn better by actively doing? Challenge yourself to tackle those extra math problems.
  6. Learn to organize and manage your time.
    This is a tough one for many, but the rewards of good time management are worth it! In organizing the tasks you have to do for the day or maybe for the week, try making a grid that groups tasks into most and least important and those with the soonest and latest deadline; start with the most important tasks with the shortest deadline, then complete important tasks with a longer deadline and less-important tasks with short deadlines. Don't forget to plan for meals, exercise, and sleep—vital components of well-being. Invest in a calendar app or planner so you don't forget important tasks and events. Set alarms if you tend to forget to look at your planner. Be honest with yourself about how you spend your time, and look at ways of cutting back on time-wasters. Try this 16-minute online Student Success Time Management Workshop.
  7. Find ways to manage stress.
    Everyone gets stressed sometimes. Finding ways to manage stress is an important part of success in college—and life in general. Cover the basics first: If you are not eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising or if you are abusing alcohol or other drugs, it will be harder to manage stress. Learn to prioritize and say no sometimes so you don't get overextended. Find exercise routines or classes (perhaps through OPERS) that you enjoy, and get friends to go with you to help you stay motivated. If you have sleep problems, try using an app such as CBT-i Coach (iTunes, Android). Play music, create a blog, read a novel, go on a hike, make a collage. Do something relaxing like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Check out our self-help page for more stress management tips and tools.
  8. Get involved with opportunities to learn outside the classroom.
    Education doesn't just happen in the classroom. Find out about options for service learning, field studies, and internships that offer real-life experience. This is especially rewarding if you prefer a more "hands on" learning style. Discover the diverse array of student organizations on campus. There’s something for everyone, or if you don't see one you like, become a co-signer and start your own org!