Real Good Tips from a Real (Old) College Student


The University of New Orleans accounting 2100 study group – fall 2015

Another 18-hour semester is on my horizon – as in 9 a.m. tomorrow. It’s actually 19 if I count my statistics labs, but hey, with 18 who’s counting another hour? When I tell people my semester load, they automatically tell me I’m crazy to take that (and a 20-hour work week) kind of a load. But after 15-years working 60-hour weeks in journalism combined with my “life experience,” it’s really not that difficult. And I will have finished in less than three years.

It took a semester (or two), but now I’ve moved slightly beyond living life by the deadline and stay mostly ahead in my school work to ensure I still have adequate playtime. I have a goal to achieve a 4.0 at least one semester before I graduate, and now that I am truly in my rhythm, this semester should be it. I got close in the fall finishing with five A’s and a B, but the overachiever in me is still strong telling me anything less than best isn’t good enough.

I’ve read a million articles, blog posts, etc. on how to be successful in college, but none have really been tailored to fit my unique situation – over 30, no kids, no previous degree, a high school graduate of the 90s, career changing, etc. So learn from my mistakes and no matter how old you are, follow my top five college success tips.

Meet and Greet Your Professors

Within the first week of classes, I go by each of my professors’ offices and introduce myself and ask for their advice in succeeding in their respective classes. Case in point: when I was bombing chemistry, because I had built that relationship with my professor, he was happy to help me during office hours with questions regarding the material. Another reason – scholarship and internship letters of recommendation. If the professor doesn’t know you, how can they recommend you?

I am amazed at how many traditional college students see their professors as the Big Bad Wolves of the university. Professors are people too and want you to succeed – not lure you into their office and eat you as if you were Red Riding Hood

Get Study Buddies

During my first semester, I didn’t make any friends. Why should I try to hang out with kids young enough to be my own? Because they had the same classes as I did. They had the same assignments as I did. They had Study Memethe same tests as I did. I didn’t learn the value of study buddies until this past semester. Though I wound up being the mom/organizer of study groups (and tutor many times), explaining the concepts helped me to understand them better.

I was selective in choosing study buddies though. I didn’t want anyone who wasn’t making an effort that would waste valuable study time with questions the professor had already addressed numerous times in class.

Follow Instructions – Even If They Are Wrong

I’ve been a writer for a long time, but writing as a journalist is an entirely different “font” than writing a research paper. I still refuse to use the Oxford comma (and apologize for such during my initial meeting), but I learned a very tough lesson in my HRT event coordinating class last semester. The instructions clearly stated “Use ‘The purpose of this paper is to…’ in your introduction.”

I thought it was ridiculous to include the sentence being that my intro explained the purpose. That sentence was the equivalent of saying “I’m at the grocery store because I need groceries.” Just a little redundant and pointless.

And the omission of that sentence resulted in a B paper.

Follow Your Calendar and To-Do Lists

It may be a little old school, but pen and paper doesn’t have hardware issues. I write down all important dates on the monthly calendar, including exams, holidays, big assignment due dates, extra-curricular meetings, etc. On the daily calendar, I write down all assignments on their due dates and cross them off as I complete them. This allows me to prioritize by what’s due instead of by when it’s assigned.

I have a separate “handy-dandy notebook” filled with scribbled notes of to-do lists and other random ideas as they come to me. They may or may not be deadline sensitive, but I actually feel a little euphoric when I cross something off the list.

Work Ahead

Classes haven’t even began, and I’ve already printed out syllabi which are available and filled out my calendar with those exam dates. I know it’s super nerdy, but I already know which days I have to sacrifice my social life to prepare for exams. As soon as I get a homework assignment, I do it. As soon as I get details on a paper, I start on it. For classes that don’t have homework, I review my notes after class and make flashcards for exam prep. Super nerdy, but I have yet to have to pull an all-nighter.

It really sucks having to forego fun stuff. I know. My life motto is to have fun in whatever you do. But, I’m happy that I stayed sober at that wedding in October so that I had a clear head when studying for mid-terms the next day.

Now it’s time for me to get down and dirty nerdy – I already have a homework assignment in my managerial accounting class which means taking my own advice and getting ahead.


2 thoughts on “Real Good Tips from a Real (Old) College Student

  1. hellothirtyblog

    Although I’m working on my second bachelor’s degree, I’m in a similar place — just turned 30 (no kids!)and currently working as a journalist, which makes it nearly impossibly to follow all the old rules of writing. I am just getting back in and have wondered how it’ll feel going back as a non-traditional student, but I love that you’ve embraced the culture and even found some friends to study with. Here’s to hoping!

    P.S. I know this post is months old, but I figured I’d comment anyway to let you know you’re not the only one 🙂


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