Underrated Skills for College Success

Student at desk studying and smiling

Although the idea of living away from home and choosing your own classes seems like most high school seniors’ dream, the challenges that can arise when you’re on campus can turn it into a nightmare. A 2015 Harris Poll study found that 60% of first-year college students felt unprepared and half of the surveyed students said they felt stressed “most or all of the time.” College can be some of the best years of your life if you have the tools to fully take advantage of it. Use the following hacks to help ease your transition and ensure that your college experience lives up to the hype.

Plan Ahead and be Proactive

It’s easier said than done, but when it’s done it makes a world of difference. Enter important events – exams, papers, projects, games, and practices – into your planner or calendar app as soon as you receive your syllabi and schedule. Immediately take note of any conflicts (exams during away-game weekends, for example) and reach out to your professor and coach to problem-solve. They are busy people and they appreciate foresight; they’ll be more willing to be flexible when students show their dedication by planning ahead and offering alternative solutions.

Keep it Professional

Email has helped connect the world, for better or worse. Make sure that you use email in an appropriate manner. This means contacting your professors and coaches at appropriate times (keep it between 7am and 8pm), using formal spelling, punctuation and grammar (no “ttyl” or “:P” here) and keeping your messages brief and to the point. Professors have countless stories, some of which have been chronicled in a must-read New York Times article, of students emailing professors that they were too drunk to attend class or even asking what type of notebook they recommend. These are the people who will be responsible for your grades and, down the line, letters of recommendation and references for jobs. Treat them with respect, kindness and the professionalism they deserve. After all, it is your job to be a student.

Swallow Your Pride

Going from a top student in your high school to a struggling college freshmen can seem like someone else’s problem, but almost all college students find themselves floundering at some point. Put your ego in check and take advantage of the free resources your school offers. Your papers may have earned you As in high school, but college ups the ante; at the first sign that you’re struggling, head over to the writing center. Gifted upperclassmen, graduate students, and TAs all offer one-on-one support for anything from a one-pager to your thesis. Attend optional study sessions led by TAs and join a study group. Professors are required to hold open office hours where students can drop in or make an appointment to talk, review an assignment, or receive extra help. It may seem dorky to go, but they actually want you to attend. These resources will be life-savers and will also help you manage when you have to miss class for a game.

Take Good Care of Yourself

It’s important to schedule time for self-care at least once a week. Coursework, athletic demands, and adapting to living on your own all take a toll and can leave you feeling bogged down, stressed or upset. A 2016 UCLA research study found that nearly 12% of all college freshmen feel depressed “frequently.” Almost all universities have free counseling services that are confidential; counselors can offer tips for managing stress, a judgement-free ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Try some meditation with apps like Headspace or attend on-campus events to add some peace into your life. Mani/pedis, massages, allowing yourself an hour or two of binge-watching, and even eating healthfully can all be part of your self-care routine as well. Choose something that works for you and block out time for it regularly to help you feel balanced and human.

Read about Coach Chris's recent visits to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

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Katie Giberson is an educator, a coach, and a former professional athlete whose own college soccer journey provides valuable perspective when advising clients in her role as CBW Soccer Elite's Head of Recruiting. You can reach her at

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