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Keys to Cougar Success

Success is achieved through hard work, making the right decisions, and finding support from the people around you. Check out these tips from students on being successful at WSU.

Part 1: Be Committed

Get organized, stay organized

Keep track of deadlines and due dates

Madison Armstrong


Make sure you keep track of class deadlines, assignment due dates, and anything else coming up on your schedule. Take action: Many successful students use day planners to keep track of class deadlines. Others use calendars on phones, tablets, or computers.

Know your syllabus and course materials

Your syllabus is the map and rulebook for your course

Alberto Sandoval


Your syllabus is the map and rulebook for your course, so get to know it well. Also make sure to read your textbooks and other reading materials. Many of these will contain important information that professors expect you to know, even if it isn’t discussed in class. Ask your professor if you have questions, or find a tutor to help you out. Take action: If reading a textbook seems difficult, try converting text to MP3 files. Listening to it can help you absorb the material.

Treat class like a job

Attend every day and grab a seat in the front

Jordan Chatman

criminal justice

The idea that class attendance is optional in college is wrong! Barring an emergency, you should attend all of your classes, including during the first week of each semester. Class attendance is a big predictor of test scores and course grades. Take action: Get to class and then grab a seat at the front. This makes it easier to focus on the lecture/discussion and avoid distractions. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, chances are several of your classmates don’t either.

PART 2: Take Control

Healthy body, healthy mind

Staying active and eating right will help you stay sharp

Ryan Smedley

elementary education

While studying is vital to academic success, it’s important to keep your body active and healthy as well. Mix in some movement to make your study time more effective and make sure to eat right. Also, get a good night’s sleep before morning classes. Sleep is critical for physical and emotional health. Take action: The WSU Rec Center, the Chinook, and the Stephenson Fitness Center are brimming with activities, from yoga to weight training, rock climbing to swimming. There are numerous WSU clubs to get involved in, or start your own! Take a walk, go for a hike, toss a Frisbee, take a bike ride. And if you’re having trouble with stress, there are resources available to help.

Take note(s)!

Write down the key points during lecture and review them after class

Kai Amos

strategic communication

Once you’ve made it to class and have a prime seat near the front, you’ll want to take effective notes that you can study later. Many professors make their lecture notes available online, so be sure to ask. Also keep your own notes to review, and study for tests. For the record, studies have proven that taking notes by hand is more effective for knowledge retention than taking them on a laptop, tablet, or other device. Take action: Not sure where to start with note-taking? Try our note taking tips, or visit the Academic Success and Career Center, which offers coaching and skill development sessions in note taking.

Go beyond the classroom

Get involved outside of class through research, volunteering, and internships

Jacqui Contreras


Maximize your college education with hands-on experience. Participating in research, volunteering, and finding internships can help crystallize academic concepts, is great for your résumé, and can lead to further opportunities. Even first-year students can find opportunities like this! Take action: Study abroad is a great way to enhance your education. Even first-year students can and should get involved. The Center for Civic Engagement is a great place to find opportunities. Your professors and academic advisors often have ideas about how you can get involved. Most students find this makes classroom material even more interesting and engaging, and it often leads to better grades.

Additional Keys to Success

Keep your eyes on the prize

Remember, your number one goal is to graduate from WSU. College classes require a lot of time outside the classroom to master everything. To be successful, you’ll probably be spending 3 to 6 hours reading, writing, or working on projects each day. While this sounds like a lot, keep in mind that college students usually spend just 2 to 5 hours per day in the classroom or lab, leaving plenty of time for studying, socializing, exercising, and relaxing.

Take action: Doing a little more often is a much better strategy than cramming. Studying early on in the semester builds your knowledge base and makes test prep easier. Set specific goals and strive for them.

Get to know WSU resources early and often

Every student goes through a tough stretch at some point in their college career. It’s critical to recognize when you might need help, and know where to go for assistance. WSU offers tutoring, counseling, health services, career development, advising, and many other services for students in need. It’s much better to get out in front of a potential problem than to try and play catch-up after the problem has turned into a huge issue.

Take action: Assess your academic progress regularly, and never be afraid to utilize the resources available.

Develop bounce-back-ability

So, you got your midterm grades and they’re lower than you had hoped? Don’t panic! Use the on-campus resources and make a plan to pull those grades up. It’s common for students to struggle early on in college, but developing grit and the ability to bounce back are invaluable as you go forward in life. There is time to learn from your setbacks and strive on toward your goal.

Take action: Tutors are available for just about every class WSU offers and you can even access online tutoring 24/7. Maybe you’re struggling with time management, test-taking, or focused reading. The Academic Success and Career Center offers workshops in these areas, and others, to help you develop your skills.

Faculty are here for you

Faculty are one of the University’s best student success resources. Their office hours are for students. Professors are eager to help you succeed and welcome the opportunity to answer questions and provide guidance. They are glad for you to be more than another face in the crowd.

Take action: At the first opportunity, visit your professors during office hours (they should be on your syllabus). Get to know your professors and make sure they know you.

Wipe out your weaknesses

A great way to prepare for a test is to quiz yourself beforehand. Use this technique to discover your strong points and find areas you need to work on.

Take action: After discovering the areas you are weakest in, focus your studying on those until you have all the material mastered. You can ask a friend to quiz you on material you’re studying, or write your own test and then fill in the answers to assess your level of mastery. Utilize study groups to get a more complete perspective of the material.

Get testy

In four years of college, students can expect to take dozens, if not hundreds of tests! It’s important to develop test-taking skills. Preparation is the most effective method for acing tests, but there are several subtle tips that can help you improve your test grades.

Take action: Read questions carefully. Fill out the Scantron form correctly. Check the back page of each test page, and make sure you do not miss any questions. Write down all of your studied facts on a piece of paper immediately when you get your test. There are many other test-taking tips and resources to help.