Beginning well is very important for student success in the first year. Of course students can learn from their experience and change things that don’t work, but patterns begun during the first few weeks of the semester are likely to continue. It's easier to begin with and continue healthy patterns and habits than to change course and make up ground after a poor beginning.
With this in mind, we would like to share ten patterns that contribute to student success. Encouraging your student to adopt these practices will almost certainly help them make a good start this year.
- Take study time seriously. Read, study, practice or do other course-related work at least two hours outside of class for every hour in class.
- Engage verbally with new ideas. Ask questions in class, discuss ideas learned from reading and lecture with other people outside of class, and attend study groups.
- Get to know a faculty member. This can be one of the most rewarding parts of a college experience, but many students don't take advantage of the opportunity. Getting acquainted with faculty members early can open up important opportunities later to help them with research, become a teaching assistant or get references for employment and graduate school. (And, while some faculty members seem intimidating most really do like students and enjoy getting acquainted personally.)
- Get involved with organized campus social groups. Participating in clubs, intramural sports, arts productions, social activities or service opportunities can make a huge contribution to having an enjoyable and productive first year. Every student can find something that fits their interests from the many options available at BYU.
- Participate in campus events with other students. Going with friends and roommates to campus devotionals, athletic and cultural events, and participating in student LDS wards are all important ways to get involved in the campus community. First-year students often report that getting to know others and getting involved early in the semester is especially helpful.
- Find balance. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the demands of coursework and the many social opportunities available. Balancing these demands can be tricky and takes some experimentation but is essential for a good first year.
- Manage time. Most students discover that achieving this balance is easier if they use some kind of planning tool—the BYU provided planner, a smart phone app, wall calendar, etc. Encourage your student to record due dates for assignments, papers or projects and exam dates in one place so that they see the big picture and can plan accordingly.
- Exercise, eat well and get enough sleep. Taking care of the body is a very important part of reducing stress and keeping the mind sharp. It also helps ward off emotional problems like anxiety, loneliness and depression.
- Attend devotionals and forums regularly. BYU has wonderful devotional and forum assemblies that provide opportunities to glean spiritual and intellectual insights from church leaders, faculty members and world-class scholars. Attending regularly also develops habits and motives critical for lifelong learning.
- Be active in LDS wards. Attending church meetings, participating in social activities, and serving in their ward gets your student involved in a vital social and spiritual community.
You might notice that the patterns and habits suggested here revolve around encouraging overall, well-rounded development in students. That’s no accident. An important part of BYU’s mission is the development of the whole person. This development is important not just for success in school, but in missionary and broader church service, employment and professional responsibilities and family life. Getting off to a good start here will help your son or daughter prepare for whatever awaits them beyond this first year of college.
Steve Wygant earned his PhD in Psychology from BYU in 1993. He taught Psychology at Fort Hays State University, Eastern Oregon University and BYU before joining the BYU Office of Institutional Assessment and Analysis in 1998. He enjoys time with his family, photography, and a good jazz band.