How To Succeed In College: 7 College Life Hacks For Freshmen And Sophomores

7 College Life Hacks Freshmen And Sophomores Can Use To Set Themselves Up For Success!

College students learning how to succeed in college and using college life hacks to study at a library


College can be a lot of fun, but it can also stress you out to the point where it leaves you strung out! 

My goal in this post is to provide you with 7 practical college life hacks to help you learn how to succeed in college so you can make the most of your first two years! Enjoy!

1. Put your grades first

One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success is to make academics your number one priority! Sure, your grades aren’t everything, but they’re still really important! Please realize that not everybody in college makes their grades their top priority. In fact, MANY people don’t do this, even at top schools!

You have the ability to choose if you want to follow them, or if you want to do what’s going to be best for you in the long run. It’s ultimately up to you! 

2. Get to know your professors

Your professors are there to help you, and not just with your academic goals, but also with career and graduate school advice! If you’re shy, a great way to start is to simply email your professor a question, and then follow up in person during office hours and say something like:

“Hi my name is _____, I’m the one who emailed you about ______.”

Shake your professor’s hand and introduce yourself so your professor will be able to put a face to your name! Always be respectful and courteous to your professors, and always be sure to thank them. 

Try to show up right at the beginning of office hours, and always have a few specific questions prepared. 


Never show up a minute before the end of office hours with a list of vague questions, as this is not respectful to their time! If you have a particularly good experience with a class, don’t be afraid to email your professor after the class has ended to let them know you really enjoyed it. 

The key thing is to be very sincere and honest; if you don’t really mean it, don’t say it!

As long as you’ve been polite and respectful, and have done well in their class, most professors will happily write you a letter of recommendation or give you a reference, so don’t be afraid to ask!

3. Get involved in volunteering/community service

There are many reasons why this will pay you back in the long run, and the most obvious is that it will be rewarding to know you’re making a difference for others!

In addition to this, community service is probably the fastest and easiest there is to start networking and meeting people who can really help you out down the line!

Assuming you do a good job, most community service supervisors/coordinators will be more than willing to give you an excellent reference or letters of recommendation later on when you need it!

Additionally, your volunteering experiences will look great on your resume, and will give you a lot of interesting things to talk about in future interviews! 

4. Join clubs and run for leadership positions

I strongly encourage you to find some clubs that you think you would like and get involved! You’ll meet new people and learn new things! 

Being involved in clubs looks good on resumes, but serving as an officer for clubs looks much better! When it comes to clubs in college, there are really only two types:

1. Clubs that are already well established and have large numbers of active members.

2. Clubs that are fairly new or are not well established yet and have few active members.

While the biggest and most popular clubs almost always fall into the first category, clubs in the second category are typically more worthwhile for underclassmen, and here’s why:

The smaller clubs have less competition for board positions! 

If you want to get a leadership position in a bigger club, the best way in is to get leadership experience with a smaller club first!

Think about it: wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to say in your running speech for a bigger club that you took a small club with few active members and really got it off the ground and running? 

I can almost guarantee you’ll blow everyone else who’s running out of the water!

5. Get help when you need it!

As I’ve already talked about getting help from your professors, here I’m talking specifically about getting help for mental health issues like anxiety disorders, depression, and ADD/ADHD.

If you suspect you’re suffering from one, WebMD is a great place to start learning the symptoms, but it’s best to reach out to a professional if needed!

Getting help for yourself is a sign of strength, and a sign of maturity. If you think you may be suffering from any of these conditions, or another one, please take advantage of the resources your university offers ASAP (counseling centers, students health services, etc…)!

If you don’t stop and address these issues now, they’re probably just going to keep resurfacing down the line until you do!

6. Start forming positive habits now

What are habits? Habits are things that we do everyday seemingly automatically without giving them any conscious thought. 

Whether these habits are good or bad doesn’t matter; they still play a big role in driving our behavior. It’s very important to develop good habits as early on as possible.

Some good habits to consider adopting are eating healthy, staying in shape, keeping yourself organized, and making sure you consistently make it to class on time.

Have you ever thought to yourself anything like this: 

I don’t have time to work out right now because of my busy schedule. After I graduate and get a job with a more predictable schedule, I’ll go to the gym more regularly.

Now, your schedule may in fact allow little time for working out, but if you’re the type of person who is open to new things, here’s an idea to consider:

Maybe, just maybe, a big part of the problem lies with your habits, and NOT fully with your schedule. 

Sure, maybe you’ll end up with a job someday that allows a more stable schedule, but I can assure you that if you haven’t already developed the habit of exercising regularly, it probably won’t be much easier to find the time to work out then than it is now!


Experts say it takes about 21 days/3 weeks of doing something consistently everyday to form a new habit. The best way to change a bad habit is to not try to change it at all; instead, make it your goal to replace it with a better habit. If you start slow and go about it 1 habit at a time, over time you’ll make a lot of progress!


7. Try new things, change your mind a lot, but start zeroing in on a goal

During freshman and sophomore year you’ll probably change your mind A LOT! Between switching majors, life plans, activities, and peer groups, it can really feel mind boggling at times!   Please know that this is perfectly normal, and that this is actually a good thing! The people who don’t go through this are either

A. Repressing it and lying to themselves as a coping mechanism (common)

B. Doing what somebody else (like their parents) wants them to do instead of doing what they really want to do (common)

C. Actually doing what they want to do because they already have their lives all figured out (rare)

As an underclassman, now is really the time to experiment to find what you’re interested in! 

The more things you try, the more things you’ll be able to rule out! 

If you want to have a rewarding career someday, you’re going to have to pick a goal and follow through with it at some point.

Let me tell you, while it may seem stressful now to make a decision about the path you want to take in life, I can assure you that it gets way better as soon as you finally make the choice!

You don’t have to know what you want to do yet, and you don’t even have to have a plan right now, but it really is time to get serious and start wrestling with these issues!

Trust me, the sooner you pick your niche in life, the better off you’ll be. 

You’re going to make some mistakes along the way, but know that the only people who never make mistakes are those who never try anything new!

This is your real life, it’s not a practice run! Don’t be afraid go out and figure out what you really want, and then go after it! 

The longer you sit on the fence in life, the harder it’s going to be to jump. However, most people never jump; be somebody who does!

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