College of Community & Public Service Advising Center

7 Habits for Academic Success

Few transitions in life are totally seamless. Shifting from high school or community college to a four-year comprehensive college like Grand Valley State University can bring about some difficult adjustments, including academic ones. But there are plenty of things you can discuss (as a family) in advance of your student's arrival to GVSU that will significantly ease her/his academic transition.

When students tell us what they should have done, we know what we ought to share with you before your son or daughter starts college -- to prevent falling into common first-year traps and, instead, increasing the likelihood of becoming a Dean's list student from the start.

Following is our list of the "7 habits of the academically successful GVSU student." We encourage your family to discuss these important factors to ensure your new student is prepared to transition:

1. Understand that college is a HUGE academic leap from high school.

In high school, as parents you had access to grades and a high level of communication from teachers. Students benefited from frequent assessments, reminders about assignments, and routine feedback about where they stand. By contrast, college students are considered adults; the release of academic information, including grades, is protected by federal privacy law. Students may receive academic assistance from countless sources, but the student must initiate contact, by visiting an instructor's or advisor's "office hours" or obtaining other success services that the University provides. The student must seek out these services and make the choice to be active in his or her success.

2. Treat your studies like it's your 40 hour/week job.

First-year students consistently report that "college is nothing like high school" in the amount of reading and studying involved. Students who did little to earn their good grades before find it especially difficult to suddenly have to work hard for high grades. Others get swept away by the social aspects of college life and ignore studies altogether (and it's tough to rebound). Students should commit to a schedule of 40 hours of work (classes and studying) per week. By doing so, your student still has an incredible amount of social/recreational time with which to balance the entire college experience. The "typical" expectation is to have 2-3 hours of preparation outside of class for every one hour in the classroom. Since most GVSU students will enroll for around 15 credits you can see that it really is a full time job. 

3. Routinely check your GVSU e-mail and Blackboard for announcements/notices.

Though many forms of communication are used to keep your student duly informed of college information, e-mail is the official mode of communication at GVSU. Your student will regularly receive critical information about when to meet for one-on-one advising, how to register, deadlines for withdrawing from courses, special and daily campus events, feedback/announcements from their professors, and much more. When students don't read their official GVSU student e-mail, they may feel quite lost when it comes to handling their own academic affairs. Attending and responding to e-mail prevents the consequences of "...but I didn't know" mistakes.

4. Keep a daily planner with you during the day. Note every class, meeting, assignment & "to do" item in it.

Relying on short term memory and cell phone calendars might have worked in the past, but they are often insufficient for managing tasks in college! Since most assignments and due dates are stated in the course "syllabus," reminders are seldom given. It is, therefore, critical to have a reliable system for remembering even the smallest of assignments as well as being able to plan for work that is due in the weeks ahead. Students must be self-disciplined to attend all classes, be committed to their studies, and remain accountable for their academic and social actions.

5. If you're having difficulty with anything, act immediately.

It's not uncommon to experience difficulty with a course, a psychological/medical issue, a learning challenge, or family and financial matters. The College has countless offices, services, and personnel to assist your student with a range of issues - but we can't help if we don't know something is wrong! At the very first sign of difficulty, tell someone - e.g., a faculty member, an advisor, an RA, a counselor - so we can together prevent a fixable issue from becoming a major academic problem. Be proactive!

6. College is a time to strengthen your senses of independence and self-efficacy.

We sometimes get phone calls from parents/guardians that begin something like, "My son's in a panic because he couldn't register for a class he wants," or "My stepdaughter is thoroughly confused because her advisor said she needed to fill out some form." We know you very much want to help resolve your student's problem, yet we usually must speak directly with the student to collect more details about the situation before we can help. Information can get lost in the translation so, in most cases, the best thing you can do to help is encourage your student to call or visit the appropriate offices that can assist with the problem.

7. Bring all of your important "academic information" to college, and keep it in a safe place.

Your student should have materials from orientation (college catalog, general education guide, curriculum guides, etc.). If your student remains organized and informed, he/she will make wise and timely academic choices. Each student has a faculty/professional advisor in his/her major who will provide help and direction. However, it is ultimately your student's responsibility to know his/her particular degree requirements (available on one's myPath report), to keep track of progress toward degree completion, and successfully complete courses that satisfy her/his degree. Referring to their important academic information helps them to keep track.

Early habits tend to last

...and these 7 habits of the academically successful GVSU student should start your student off on solid footing. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of monitoring these seven habits throughout your student's first semester, and beyond. It is our hope that the items provide food for thought that add detail to the usual "How's school going?" question.

From all of us in the CCPS Undergraduate Advising Center... We hope that your student has a happy, productive, and enlightening time while studying at GVSU. We are here to assist your students and hope that they make an appointment to see us soon!


Page last modified February 24, 2014