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What Are Some of the Qualities That Make You an Effective College Student?

by Neil Kokemuller, studioD

Being an effective college student includes understanding the need to balance all aspects of learning. Along with acquiring knowledge in the classroom, college is a critical transition from adolescence to adulthood. Learning how to balance school, work and personal time, make adult decisions and manage finances is part of the educational experience. Successful college students normally share several common traits.


Self-discipline is critical to keeping up with the rigors of classroom performance and other life demands. Self-disciplined students show up to class regularly and punctually, pay attention and take notes during class, study, prepare well for exams and seek out instructors for assistance as needed. All of these contribute to stronger class performance and effective learning. Additionally, self-discipline helps in scheduling and time management to optimize performance at work and in other activities and relationships coinciding with the educational experience.


Effective college students get engaged in their education as opposed to simply going through the motions. In class, they participate regularly in class discussions, interact with other students in team activities and projects, take notes and ask questions on confusing topics. Students may be asked to work on an ethical case in a management class, for instance. Engaged students share their experiences and insights and listen to those of others before moving forward on a decision. They also keep schedules of tests, projects and other high-priority activities, and they maintain to-do lists that help them optimize time management.


College is a two- to four-year commitment that will have ups and downs in both academics and social experiences. Making a habit of dropping classes when you get one bad grade or feeling dejected when projects don't go well isn't effective. Successful students take the opportunity to learn what mistakes they made on tests and projects to avoid them in the future. They also take advantage of tutoring services and other academic support services, which are often available for free, to improve study habits and test skills.


College classes typically emphasize production, performance and results more than effort. Consistency in attendance and work completion are important. Delivering high-quality homework and projects and earning high test grades are what makes you a top student. Editing and reviewing papers to avoid simple grammatical and spelling errors are habits of effective students. Completing all required elements on homework and projects and then finding opportunities to go above and beyond helps you earn good grades and stand out from your peers. On a three-page paper, for instance, an engaged student doesn't look to meet the bare minimum with little content development. Instead, she spends time researching, organizing and developing a thorough paper that may be four or five pages in length.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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