This was written by H. Buford Barr, who teaches marketing and communication at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and College of Arts & Sciences. He has been teaching at the undergraduate level for 20 years and has 30 years of experience in high-tech marketing, branding, advertising, and public relations.

By H. Buford Barr

Beginning college is a milestone event in our lives. Like most events of this magnitude, how we handle and deal with the new challenges we face determines our ultimate success. The transition to college requires a a change in attitude and behavior. To help make this transition as painless and productive as possible, here are five commandments for a successful college career.

Thou shall be responsible for YOU.

College is not an extension of high school. Mommy isn’t around to wake you in the morning, fix you breakfast and dinner, remind you to do your homework and keep you on schedule…at least I hope not! Independence is a stimulating condition, but has its pitfalls as well. You must take responsibility for YOU and do it now and do it correctly.

Develop and maintain a personal routine. Include time for class, study, campus activities, extra-curricula activities, social, work, sleep and Facebook. Develop a good routine early and stick with it. Beware of the temptations of socializing and social media. Remember your JOB is to excel in college. You are measured by the grades you earn. You need discipline to manage yourself and that discipline will reward your commitment.

Thou shall take advantage of what college offers.

College offers new everything: people, places, courses, curriculum, events and continuous opportunities to grow and develop mentally, physically and emotionally. Institutions of higher learning offer a wide variety of academia, events, sports, student life and counseling. Learn and take advantage of what your college offers, but take care not to over extend yourself.

Meet new people, join organizations, but do it slowly. You want new and different people in your life. Don’t latch onto the first person who says hello. College is a chance to expand your fledgling network; meet and get to know people from other parts of the country and world. Reach out to faculty. They have office hours; go see them. Get to know them. They are a valuable asset now and will continue to be after graduation. You’ve paid for it; now take advantage. The only failure here is not to participate.

Thou shall be a student of learning.

The undergraduate college experience is a continuation of your formal education. And while it does include regurgitation of facts, it should become more about developing understanding than just information transfer and more about developing the whole person. The objectives are to learn how to learn as learning is a lifetime process and to learn how to apply what you learn to achieve your life objectives.

The major you select will focus on an academic discipline, but look for courses and studies that interest you; that make you a more interesting and well rounded individual. Colleges and universities have so much to offer outside of just your chosen major. Take advantage. And keep on learning.

During most of your life, information has grown at exponential rates and continues to do so. Communication technology is also developing much faster than many in society can understand, accept, adapt and utilize, so the individual who understands how to effectively use the vast sources of information available to us today will have a definite competitive advantage in college and in life.

Thou shall develop a personal brand.

College is all about new places, new people, and new things. Now is the time to determine your personal brand identity. Who are you? What do you want people to think when they hear your name? Maybe college is a good time to reinvent yourself. You must manage your brand through your behavior. Performing on demand. Exceeding expectations. Being involved in your college community, being visible on campus. Consider campus and student organizations, student government, special interest clubs, academic clubs, athletics and fraternities.

Be known for doing the right things; for being ethical and maintain personal integrity. Doing good things and helping others is what it is all about. Ultimately your brand is your reputation. Who or what do you want to be known as? Make it happen by your actions or live with the consequences.

Thou shall not forget those who are making college possible and gave you this great start in life.

Yes, you are on your own, and yes, you have to take responsibility for your life and your actions, but that doesn’t mean to abandon the support group that got you here: your parents; your family; your friends. They are still here for you; just use them differently than you did in high school. Keep them close, connect and involved. Life is a team effort, but now you have to lead the team to where you want to go.

These are five proven strategies to taking full advantage of your college career. The key is to start NOW as a freshman. Start changing your attitude and behavior right from the beginning. Don’t perpetuate old practices or develop bad ones. The temptation will be there. Become a new you, one that everyone can be proud of and one that will help assure your success in college and in life.


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