15 Habits of Highly Effective College Students

Going into college I knew I wanted to make it big in the business world. As a freshman I was bombarded with what you need to be doing to be successful in school, but not so much about how to be successful in life. This post is meant to help everyone, especially college students, get an idea of the habits they should be forming now to get on the fast-track to success.

1. Feed your mind positive messages
Brains are like bodies – both need food to survive, and you become what you eat. If someone eats junk food and doesn’t exercise they’re bound to get out of shape; on the flip side, if someone eats healthy and exercises regularly they will feel good and look good. The same thing goes for your brain. If you read articles that put you down and feed your brain negative information (like the news), you’re more likely to think negatively and not accomplish what you want. However, if you read uplifting books listen to audio tracks that build you up, you’re going to feel confident and motivated to accomplish your life dreams. For a list of uplifting books, check out the IdeaMensch website.

2. Be involved
One idea that I’ve read is to always delegate important tasks to the busiest person you know. Because there is no time to procrastinate, the person with the busiest schedule is most likely to accomplish what you need. If you want to make sure you’ll get everything done that you need to, stay busy. This will cause you to learn how to prioritize and schedule free time in order to accomplish everything you need.

3. Get comfortable talking to all types of people According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the #1 skill employers look for in college graduates is communication skills. Beware: don’t confuse socializing skills with communication skills. As college students, we’re really good at talking with our peers – but the majority of people you’ll talk to in any job are mid-thirties and older. Knowing how to comfortably and confidently talk to people of all ages will set you apart from the vast majority of other college grads because NACE also reports that employers feel communication is the #1 skill college grads lack. *Side note: make sure you can quantify your resume skills

4. Be on campus from 9-5 (or 8-4) doing school work
Having a set schedule of time you’re either in class, on your way to class, or doing class work will improve not only your grades, but also your social life. Have you noticed that the majority of college students are hanging out with friends or passing time for most of the day? So then when they want to hang out with friends or go to a last-minute concert, they have to miss it to catch up on work. Being disciplined enough to get your work done during normal business hours will free up your evenings and weekends to do anything you want – without worrying about grades.

5. Hang out with people who are more successful than you
You are the average of the five people you hang out with most. Therefore, if you surround yourself with hard working, successful people you will more quickly become successful. This ties into feeding your brain – the more success you observe, the more success you will exhibit. Find the students who always participate in class, have all their homework done, and break the curve on tests. As nerdy as that might seem, you’d be surprised with how much better you feel when you’re on top of school work. Plus, you might get more scholarships out of it!

6. Review your goals
If you don’t already know, it’s important to set, write down, and review goals – whether they’re for school, fitness, social, or family life. While most people probably focus on those types of goals, personal character goals often get overlooked. Have you ever thought about who you want to be in ten years? What about in five years? Have you considered the type of mother or father you want to be? What about the kind of business person you want to be? Take some time to think of these skills and write them down with a description of why they’re important to you. Then set a timeframe for when you want those skills to be developed. Another thing to remember is that these goals need to be quantifiable, meaning you have to be able to measure your progress. Share your character goals with friends and check in with them to see if they notice a difference. Another idea is to keep a tally of how many times you accomplish something that’s part of your character goals, like the number of times you follow through on a task (if better follow-through is something you’re working on).

7. Use positive affirmations (self talk)
Have you ever talked to yourself? Ever had a conversation with yourself? If you answered “yes” to either or both of those, I have good news: you’re totally weird. Just kidding! Going back again to feeding your brain, what you tell yourself is who you become. Your thoughts become your words, your words become actions, your actions then turn into habits, and those habits become your life.  If you can get into the habit of talking to yourself out loud about the person you want to be, you will force your brain into believing you already are that person. This works really well for helping to achieve your goals as well; by repeating what you want your final outcome to be, the end goal will be fresh in your mind and you will naturally act to achieve it.  Don’t believe it? Watch this short video explaining the cycle of self talk. Still don’t believe it? Just try it. What do you have to lose?

8. Get up early (and exercise)
According to Forbes, people who identify themselves as morning people typically earn a full point higher on their GPA than their night owl counterparts. Other benefits of early risers include better problem-solving, optimism, more family/friend time, and an overall better attitude. The early risers who even exercise first thing report a clearer head, better sleep cycles, and higher energy levels throughout the day. It might not be fun getting into the habit of waking up at 6:00 AM every day, but after the habit is formed you won’t even have to think about it.

9. Have amazing integrity – no matter how small the promise
College students often over-promise and under-deliver on a lot of things. They can be as insignificant as showing up to a house party your friend invited you to or as major as blowing off a job interview. Your integrity (what you do when nobody is watching) and follow-through plays a large role in your reputation. Everyone has heard that actions speak louder than words, and it is so true. Think about the last time you got excited about grabbing a drink with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, only to be blown off at the last minute. Hurts, doesn’t it? Getting in the habit of following through with everything you say you’ll do will prove to be a huge asset for your reputation. Employers aren’t looking for people who sound promising, they’re looking for a proven track record. By hiring someone they know has integrity, they can expect results and you can expect job advancement.

10. Be your own coach
The most successful people are those who can effectively motivate themselves and keep themselves accountable. If you’re aware of your own weaknesses, you can highlight what areas you need to improve in and start taking action. Being self-aware allows you to recognize when you’re making excuses and not reaching goals, as well as coach yourself into doing what you need to in order to achieve those goals. A good self coach is also a good problem-solver. Instead of relying on others to help them through sticky situations, successful people are more able to help themselves and keep a clear head.

11. Get comfortable (and excited about) failing
No great task was ever accomplished on the first try. Tons of athletes, business people, and many other public figures have preached the importance of failing. Michael Jordan had to work his ass off to become the athlete he’s known to be. Thomas Edison went through thousands of prototypes before the lightbulb was viable. Growth comes from failure. Recognize that each failed attempt at whatever you’re working on is making you a stronger person and ultimately getting you one step closer to success.

12. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and focus on improving them
Like I said above, successful people are very self-aware. Take the time to figure yourself out. What do you enjoy doing? What don’t you enjoy doing? Is there anything you’re particularly good at ? Anything you want to improve? If you’re stuck for ideas and want outsider input, ask your friends what their perceptions of you are. After these things are brought to light, work to change your weaknesses into strengths while further improving what you’re already good at. You’ll be amazed with the amount of self-confidence that can come from exercising this regularly.

13. Turn challenges (some say problems) into accomplishments
This ties into getting excited about failing because the only true failure is giving up. Giving up provides no opportunity for success. Getting in the habit of turning challenges, no matter how big or small, into accomplishments will teach you to expect success and build your confidence along the way. By overcoming small obstacles you’re preparing yourself to overcome the big obstacles that are inevitable as one goes through life.

14. Be comfortable being uncomfortable
Expand your comfort zone. Imagine someone you really look up to. Are they comfortable in most any situation, even the ones that would make most people really uncomfortable? Chances are, they seem confident and collected in almost every type of situation. The only way for someone to grow as a person is by continuously expanding their comfort zone. By appreciating the opportunities you have to become a stronger and more well-rounded person, you’re allowing yourself to chance to gain confidence when a tough situation presents itself.

15. Vocalize what you’re thankful for every day
Have an attitude of gratitude. This habit ties into self talk and controlling your attitude. People attract into their lives what they focus on. If you focus on being thankful for what you do have you will attract more good things into your life. On the flip side, if you complain about the bad things that happen, you’ll attract more bad things. It’s been shown that people who show gratitude for what they do have are generally happier with their life.

If you can form these habits as a college student, you’ll already be on track to be more successful than the majority of the world. Employers will see a mature, independent young adult and you’ll find yourself happier with the life you lead. They might not be very fun to start forming and you will struggle with your commitment to these habits, but it only takes 21 days to form a habit. These small ideas can have a monumental impact on your future success, so why wait? Start implementing one or two of these right now, and remember: “Success is never owned; it is only rented – and the rent is due every day.” – Rory Vaden