Counseling and Wellness Services (CWS)

Academic Success Strategies

On this page:

Improving Your Motivation

It is to engage in any of the skills listed on this page if you are struggling with motivation. 

Values Clarification

Clarifying your values will help you to better identify why academic success is important to you and further assist you in improving your motivation, as well as in developing your long-term goals.

Goal Setting

Now that you've clarified your values, it's time to set some goals.

Changing your Perspective

Another aspect to increasing our motivation is to be able to have a positive perspective.  How we deal with challenges and obstacles can have a powerful impact on our academic and life success. 

Improving your Study Skills

Many students are surprised at the differences in studying for college courses versus how they studied in high school. The key to becoming a successful college student isn’t necessarily studying harder, it's learning how to study smarter.

Study strategically—Learning how to study effectively is an art. In addition, because each student has their own personality and ways of processing and remembering information, they also have their own way of learning information that is most effective for them. "5 Tips to get better Grades"

Know your learning style—Develop strategies for overcoming learning differences when instructors employ contradictory teaching methods. Understanding how you learn can help maximize the time you spend studying by incorporating different techniques to custom fit various subjects, concepts, and learning objectives. Each preferred learning style has methods that fit the different ways an individual may learn best.

  • Visual
    • Uses visual objects such as graphs, charts, pictures, and seeing information
    • Can read body language well and has a good perception of aesthetics
    • Able to memorize and recall various information
    • Tends to remember things that are written down
    • Learns better in lectures by watching them
  • Auditory
    • Retains information through hearing and speaking
    • Often prefers to be told how to do things and then summarizes the main points out loud to help with memorization
    • Notices different aspects of speaking
    • Often has talents in music and may concentrate better with soft music playing in the background
  • Kinesthetic
    • Likes to use the hands-on approach to learn new material
    • Is generally good in math and science
    • Would rather demonstrate how to do something rather than verbally explain it
    • Usually prefers group work more than others

Take the learning style quiz and see which you prefer

Get organized—It’s easy to forget assignment due dates, test days, and other important information when it’s not written down. Be sure to use an assignment book to keep your studies in order.

Time Management

To maintain study skills, one of the most important factors in college is time management. Without it, many other important areas such as studying or leisure cannot stay in balance.  Time is one of our most important resources. Effective time management is a skill most people need to make the most out of their personal and professional lives. To a college student, it can make the difference between mediocre and superior performance.

Microsoft Office Schedule Templates

Take Responsibility

  • To manage time effectively, you must practice self-discipline. Don’t make excuses to procrastinate homework. Schedule recreation with friends in advance.

Poor time management skills can have a number of negative consequences and develop a damaging routine.

  • Cramming Before Test - Cramming is an ineffective test preparation strategy. Begin studying as soon as possible. Begin studying for a test 2 hours a day a week prior to it. A couple of days before the test, increase the time spent studying. It will be easier to remember what you’ve studied if you prepare in advance for a test.
  • All-Nighters - Do not put too much stress on your body. Be sure to schedule breaks during planned study sessions. Likewise, be sure to get enough sleep the night before a test. During scheduled breaks, do not dwell on school. It’s also helpful to exercise regularly and eat a nutritious meal just prior to the test.
College Survival Tips: Time Management for Beginners – Watch Now
How to Stop Procrastinating

Be an active reader - You’ll better retain information from the textbook if you practice active reading. This does not mean cramming in all your reading the night before the test. You will find it much easier if you take time out each day to actively read therefore making life much easier when it comes to preparing for exams. Active reading simply means reading something with a determination to understand and evaluate it for its relevance to your needs. Simply reading and re-reading the material isn't an effective way to understand and learn.

Try these techniques to make your reading active

  • Underline or highlight keywords as you read
  • Make notes in the margin to add to points, raise questions, or challenge what you've read
  • Read critically by asking questions about the text. Who wrote it? When? Who is the intended audience? What is the intention of the author?
  • Explain what you've read to someone else.

Participate in study groups - Organize study groups with other classmates or visit study tables. There are plenty of chances to collaborate with others or to get tutored when you feel overwhelmed or behind.

Tutoring Services

Take notes - Use your time in class wisely. It is much easier to retain information when you have organized notes on the subject. Taking notes is a skill that you develop with practice. There is no right or wrong way, just find a method that suits you. If it’s useful, develop outlines or highlight key information to organize lecture notes, assigned readings, and other study materials, so it can be easily retrieved while studying.

Always attend and be prepared for class – Don’t miss class or be excessively tardy. Read assigned readings before class begins, so you can participate in classroom discussions and ask questions. Students who complete assigned readings before class typically get more out of lectures.

Office of Disability Services Forms, Publications, and Tutorials

How To Take Great Notes
How to: Take the BEST Notes! + Study Tips!


Communication and Public Speaking

Active listening

  • Communication is not just talking and waiting for your turn to do so. Engaging in both listening and talking allows for healthy communication to take place.
  • Be relatable. Practice perspective-taking, by attempting to seek understanding and commonality.
  • Pay attention to context. Non-verbal cues are an essential part of communication. Being able to read others' expressions as well as understanding the context can additionally help while communicating.
  • Make some eye contact. Eye contact during conversation shows attentiveness and interest. Similar to a conversation; it goes back and forth between those individuals. But remember, be sure not to stare.


  • Think before you speak. Most foot-in-mouth moments occur because of a failure to think before speaking. To avoid offending, don’t throw out statements filled with value judgments.
  • Don’t interrupt. Interrupting the speaker in mid-sentence is easy to avoid: just wait until the other has stopped talking before you start. Also, avoid more discrete interruptions such as derailing a person’s train of thought with your own “that reminds me” story.
  • Don’t one-up or overshare. Being a “one-upper” can make you a highly annoying conversationalist and inadvertently demolish a conversation. At the same time don’t pour out your life story or dig for someone else’s. In order not to repel others, respect their privacy as well as your own. 
  • Tailor conversation to the person. Make it easier on yourself by talking to others about what they are interested in (as well as maybe yourself) to avoid awkward silences. If you don’t know, check context clues (clothing items, surroundings, etc.)

Types of Communication

Informal Communication

  • This is an abbreviated form of communication that is obviously more causal in nature. We use this every day in our short conversations with friends and family, whether it be over the phone, texting, on social media, or in passing. It is important to acknowledge when and where this type of communication is appropriate and warranted and whom to use it with.

Professional Communication

  • In contrast, professional communication is more detail-oriented form than previously discussed. This form is more thorough in nature and is often used in communication with faculty, bosses, or others in a professional setting.
How to Speak to Professors: a Comprehensive Guide
  • Email
    • Be sure this is professional and use your school email instead of your personal one. Avoid any “Hey Dude” greetings by using a formal greeting. Also, include a detailed message with proper grammar and spelling, as well as a formal ending.
    • Avoid emails like this
Bad Email Reply - What not to say to your professor...
  • Phone
    • Before you pick up the phone to call a professor or leave a voicemail, think first. Be prepared for what you are going to say. Follow up by introducing yourself and speaking in a clear manner. In terms of a voicemail, be concise and end both a phone call and voicemail in a professional manner.    
  • Text
    • If texting is necessary, it can be done in a professional manner. It is important to acknowledge the difference between a casual text to a friend. Grab some contextual clues. Feel it out to be sure the person you are texting is comfortable with texting. Keep it professional by only texting when it is important. If it can wait, don’t text. Text messaging should be saved for time-sensitive information when emailing wouldn't generate a response quickly enough.  Do not use abbreviations or emoticons in professional texts.

Healthy Communication

  • If these forms of communication are not used or are used in the wrong context, conflict may arise. It is perfectly normal to have conflicts with friends or roommates, everyone has them. In fact, there is a great deal to be learned from handling a difficult situation maturely and respectfully. Communication sometimes breaks down and you may have to confront your friend or roommate with an issue that one of you has with the other.

How to tell there is an issue:

  • Your friend or roommate may not want to talk to you, may leave the room when you enter or may be complaining to friends about you.
  • Your friend or roommate may become annoyed with you over little things.

Healthy communication to resolve conflict:

If you start to notice these things you should not ignore them. If a problem is addressed early, there is a better chance of it being worked out.

  • Approach individual(s)
    • Usually in private in better and confirm that it is a good time to communicate effectively. It is better to do it in person and not over the phone or text. Communicating conflict in person decreases the chance for misinterpretation.
  • Be direct but not aggressive
    • Be clear to what is causing the conflict in way that is not offensive or intimidating. Try to avoid “you” statements and try to use “I” statements.
  • Be patient through listening
    • Communication works in two ways: talking and listening. Neither one is effective without the other
  • Evaluate needs of both sides
    • Work to create a win-win situation, and the conflict is more likely to be resolved. Make sure the solution is acceptable to both parties and be open to compromise
  • Respect the differences and strive for a mutual resolution
    • Everyone has different values, lifestyles, expectations, and communication styles. Get to know each other and establish common ground.
Ask A Roommate: How Do I Talk To My Roommate?

Public Speaking

Unfortunately, in college, it’s not always so easy to avoid presentations in front of your peers and faculty. Sooner or later, you’ll be asked to deliver a presentation, an assignment that strikes fear in many a student. But, there’s no need to catastrophize your upcoming presentation. Your goal is to simply avoid some common presentation flaws. This will enable you to delight your teacher and peers with your presentation abilities. These developed presentation skills will pay off in the future in job interviews and the post-college world of work. Here are some tips for a successful presentation.

Plan an Interesting, Well-Organized Presentation:

  • If given a choice of topic, try to choose a subject you know well and are comfortable with. The classic organizational structure for a presentation is to tell your audience what you plan to tell them, then actually tell them, then summarize by telling them what you told them. Sprinkle stories, humor (as appropriate), and starting statistics throughout your talk but don’t bury the crowd. Including massive numbers of quotations or unfathomable amounts of data can overwhelm even the most attentive audience. Ask if your audience has questions when you conclude.

Rehearse, Rehearse and Rehearse:

  • Perhaps the most significant key to an effective presentation is to practice as much as you can. First, you’ll get the timing right if you rehearse, ensuring that your presentation is neither too long nor too short. Next, you’ll overcome any technical glitches if you are using audiovisual equipment. You’ll get more comfortable with your content, which will help you tackle your nerves. Many gifted speakers look as if they’re just talking off the cuff, saying whatever comes to mind. But, in truth, they’ve spent considerable time figuring out what they’re going to say.

Carefully consider Visual Aids:

  • Keep the attention of your audience throughout your presentation by utilizing visual stimuli in addition to their spoken words. PowerPoint slides have become such a staple in presentation from the classroom to the boardroom that “death by PowerPoint” is not uncommon. Consider whether slides will really add presentation. Could you add creativity and interest in another way, such as a handout? Could you prepare slides in a different way – say, focusing on graphics and photos with minimal text? If you decide on power point, don’t get text-heavy with your slides. Stick to a simple design that is visually pleasing and typo-free.

Have your technology nailed, and have a backup plan:

  • If you use technology in your presentation be sure you know how to use the equipment in the room in which you will be presenting (your multimedia components might work on your own computer, but be sure they would also work on the presentation computer). Practice with the actual equipment if possible. Always have a backup plan in case of a technical glitch.

Conquer your nerves:

  • Being nervous before your presentation is normal! Channel your nervous energy before your presentation by taking a walk and a few deep breaths. Be sure to have some water handy in case of any dry mouth. Transform your nerves into positive energy that makes you appear enthusiastic but be yourself. Although it may be difficult do the best you can to appear relaxed. You don’t have to actually be relaxed few speakers are – but at least try to appear as relaxed as possible.

Take it slow:

  • The single biggest mistake inexperienced speakers make is going too fast. Remember that your audience is hearing the material for the first time and isn’t nearly as familiar with the topic as you are.
  • Connect with your audience
  • Avoid distracting verbal behavior and body language
  • Try to avoid high use of pause words – “um”. ”Uh”, “Like”, and “You know” – Practice and knowing your material will help. Also, fidget, chew gum, fumble with your notes, put your hands in your pocket, or jingle coins or keys.

Dress the part:

  • Even if business attire is not required for your presentation, you will always make a good impression – on your audience and teacher - If you dress up at least to the business causal level, instead of raggedy cut-offs, Ball cap, flip flops and a T-shirt. Your appearance is a good indicator of how serious you are taking the material you are presenting and may help make you see more authoritative and persuasive.

Be in a good voice:

  • Be sure you can project your voice loud enough to be heard (again rehearsal will help) speak neither too slowly nor too quickly. Avoid sounding monotone by being animated and varying the pitch of your voice.

Take special care with group presentations:

  • It is important before the presentation that everyone knows his/her role when presenting. Use your rehearsal and practice time to develop a smooth transition from presenter to presenters. Also, try to figure out where team members will stand not speaking to avoid everyone clustering around the audio visual equipment for example
How to Do a Presentation - 5 Steps to a Killer Opener
Presentation Good/bad Examples