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Originally published October 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 27, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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How to succeed in your first year

How to succeed in your first year? Ask seasoned students and school administrators and you'll hear: Focus...

5 savvy strategies

Pace yourself: Don't assume you can catch up weeks of neglected work by acing a big final or project. As WSU's Al Jamison warns: "Very few students can dig themselves out of the hole they get in when they fall behind in their work."

Set the alarm: Consider getting up early a day or two a week, even if you're not a morning person. Dorms are quieter then.

Do recon: Check out resources before you need them. Know in advance where classes, lectures and other events are held and where course syllabuses and reserve materials are located; it will save you a lot of time when the pressure's on.

Combine work and play: Study groups can be a way to meet people and get work done. Work for an hour or so, then break for pizza.

Be deliberate about socializing: "Find two or three pursuits or organizations with which you connect and you will meet more people, experience more things, have more opportunities for leadership and have more fun," suggests UW's Grant Kollet.

How to succeed in your first year

How to succeed in your first year? Ask seasoned students and school administrators and you'll hear:

Focus on academics — AND get ready to have the time of your life.

A contradiction? Not really.

"Balance — that's the biggest, most important thing," says Al Jamison, veteran administrator at Washington State University.

"This is the first time in most of your lives that you will be making every decision, every day, 24/7," he tells freshmen. "You'll decide when to get up, when to do laundry, when to eat, when and if to go to class.

"You have to learn to balance the pleasures of freedom with the responsibilities."

More strategies:

Ask for help: College expectations are way tougher than those of high school. Lots of support is available: In smaller private schools, professors typically can devote more one-on-one time per student, but in nearly all schools, resources such as campus-writing centers and peer tutors are available, especially for freshmen.

Get to know your academic adviser: Advisers can guide your course choices and help you navigate the unfamiliar bureaucracies, suggests Grant Kollet, head of first-year-student programs for the University of Washington in Seattle.

Take a "learning skills" workshop: Such sessions typically cover library/research skills, study tips, intensive writing and other topics. (Many colleges list them under orientation programs on their Web sites.) A good first-year transition class will pay dividends your whole college career, says Bea Kiyohara, vice president for student development at Seattle Central Community College.

Embrace extracurricular campus life: Studies show those who do so early on tend to adjust to the new life faster and are more satisfied with college. Just don't make friends with the wrong (read: party) types.

Go to class! All the extracurricular activities, transition classes and good intentions out there don't trump one reality, Jamison notes: "The most common characteristic of successful students is this: They go to class."

— Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

Sources include: "How to Survive Your Freshman Year," by Mark Bernstein and Yadin Kaufmann (Hundreds of Heads Books, $13.95)

Learn more

First-year resources

"College Rules! How to Study, Survive, and Succeed in College," second edition, by Sherrie Nist and Jodi Patrick Holschuh (Ten Speed Press, $14.95). This 2007 paperback guide includes real-life tips, like where to sit in small and large classrooms to get the most out of the course.

"How to Get A's in College," edited by Frances Northcutt (Hundreds of Heads Books, $13.95). Hundreds of students' and grads' practical, nitty-gritty tips, often learned the hard way, including how to balance fun and work, get past procrastination, find the right major, stay motivated, avoid stress and seek out the best teachers and courses.

"How to Survive Your Freshman Year, by Hundreds of College Sophomore, Juniors, and Seniors Who Did," edited by Mark Bernstein and Yadin Kaufmann (Hundreds of Heads Books, $13.95). Lightweight but practical advice in an updated edition. Entertaining reading, as well as a wake-up call to parents who think their kid's experience will mirror their own.

"Professors' Guide to Getting Good Grades in College," by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman (Collins, $15.95). A good resource for students (and parents) nervous about the transition to college academics. Admissions experts routinely point out that even top high-school seniors can be surprised by the different demands of campus life.

"Survival Secrets of College Students," by Julia Johnston and Mary Kay Shanley (Barron's Educational Series, $12.99). How do you deal with the less-than-perfect roommate, avoid the "freshman 15" weight gain, or deal with homesickness? This 2007 guide has answers.

— Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett and Suzanne Monson

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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