Skip to Content

4 Tips for Success in College – from a College Professor

I don’t share this info often, but in my other life I am an instructor for a university. It’s been my somewhat-secret, other identity for going on 8 years. I’m only bringing it to light now because I have accumulated a few great pointers for all those who are getting their acceptance letters or sending a kid off to college this year. These are my insider secrets to help you get an A (most of the time).

college admissions, succeeding in college, success as a college student, how to do well in college, midlife, midlife women

Insider Tip #1: Most important, can’t stress this enough, can’t believe how rarely this actually happens – FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. When you are given an assignment read the instructions. Universities and professors tend to be very precise with these things. If they say they want a 10-page paper, APA style, on the current price of crude oil, that’s exactly what they want. The first thing your professor will notice, before he or she ever reads a single word of your paper, will be if you followed the instructions. If your paper is 8 pages long and not in APA style, their opinion has already been swayed on the content.

Insider Tip #2: Your professor is not your bestie or bro. Do not write a paper or an assignment communicating with them in the same way you communicate with your friends. My boss recently received a paper with no capital letters. It read like text message. I abbreviate and use slang all over my social media, and I sound completely different in my work communications. Learning to communicate in a formal style is great practice that you will definitely use in the work world after graduation. If you find yourself stuck in slang speak, read some decent literature. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare (too many thou’s and shant’s). A little Diana Gabaldon or Dan Brown should do the trick.

Insider tip #3: Looks matter – at least when it comes to your work. Hopefully your high school teachers already drilled this into you, but if not, always present the most-organized, neat work possible. The current trend is turning your work in online, and for some this is a fantastic break. If your penmanship would qualify you for med school, you can always type neatly. I love getting assignments where I can easily tell which question the student is answering followed by their answer (in a complete sentence). Copy or type out the question, change font then type your answer. This makes us professorly types so much happier; and happy profs tend to give better grades.

Insider Tip #4: Your first semester (or maybe even this summer) learn to write a paper in the current APA style, to deliver an organized speech and to create fantastic PowerPoint slides. If you can do these three things, you will be so incredibly far ahead of the game.

One final tip –  communicate with your professors. TV and movies like to portray us as hardhearted and sadistic. These are only half truths. We are actually human. We have laptops stolen, hospital visits and other unplanned disasters. If you are clearly working hard in a class and you get behind for a legitimate reason, contact your professor and ask to make up the work. You will probably get more yes than no answers. However, ‘I was in the Bahamas and just really didn’t have time to write a paper’ will never fly for an excuse. Hangovers are also best left unmentioned.

Karen Gordon blogs at Joie de Mid Vivre

Karen Gordon

My novels are about the extraordinary passions in everyday lives. My blog is about my passions: strong women, writing, being an entrepreneur, steamy stories, sexy men, fashion and generally having one hell of a lot of joie in my mid-vivre.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:


Wednesday 16th of April 2014

Thank you, Claudia. I'm glad you (and hopefully your daughter) found it useful.


Claudia Schmidt

Tuesday 15th of April 2014

Thanks - I'll definitely be sharing this with my 18 year old daughter who will be starting college in August. Great points!

Comments are closed.
Read previous post:
do your laundry or you'll die alone, life lessons, advice for new graduates, becky blades, graduation gift
Laundry Lessons and Midlife Losses: A Creative Journey

Editor's note: A few months ago Becky Blades asked me to take a look at her book, Do Your Laundry...