5 Routines, Practices, and Habits You Should Do Now To Be Successful In College

Ann Wu, Alumni Guest Writer

Editor’s Note: Ann Wu graduated from McKinley in 2019. In early 2023, she returned to her alma mater to share some lessons she has learned from her years in college. She spoke to classes and submitted this editorial to The Pinion. First, she discussed with Colleen Inaba, post-high school counselor, questions and concerns students had come to address. Wu wanted to share something that students may not necessarily have learned from the College and Career Center or their classes. She wanted to share some personal tips and tricks not necessarily learned from the classroom that she thinks are helpful for students to learn early in their high school career. 


Grades and test scores are not the only things that determine your success in college. Of course, I believe that a high GPA and test scores can get you along just fine for college, but good habits on top of that can make your transition to college life even easier. While high school may have helped in attaining the education needed to proceed to college, there are still a few hidden tips and tricks that you may have yet to learn. So, I put together some routines, practices, and habits that you should start picking up now to become successful in college. 

  1. Check your email daily. 

First and foremost, check your email daily! You don’t want to miss any important announcements and reminders, especially if the emails require further action. Imagine your roles reversed and you were the one urgently waiting for a response – doesn’t feel so great right? So don’t let those emails get buried in your unread inbox and keep it clean! Most importantly, you wouldn’t want to miss out on any college acceptances, scholarships, or events. 

In college, and eventually the workforce, email is going to be the primary form of communication. You can start by adding this to your daily routine. I like to take a few minutes first thing in the morning to look through my inbox in case there’s something that needs my immediate attention. In some instances, professors send emails with articles to read before class, or to notify us of schedule changes. Good thing I checked those emails, because it would’ve been so embarrassing to miss an assignment or show up to a canceled class. So, to sum it up, make it a habit to check your email daily so that you don’t miss anything. 

  1. Use planning tools. 

Unlike high school, where you have a set schedule that is essentially the same every day, college gives you the freedom to schedule your own classes, meetings, rehearsals, and other out-of-class activities. So, it can be overwhelming if you don’t keep track of them in an organized way. You don’t want to miss an important board meeting, turn in an assignment late, or double book yourself, especially when college systems are a lot more strict with time and responsibility. I can guarantee that this won’t happen if you start using some kind of planner where your schedule, tasks, and important dates are clearly laid out in front of you. 

From personal experience, I highly recommend Google Calendar because it’s so efficient and simple to use. I block off times for every class, meeting, and work shift, so that I can clearly see when I’m busy or free. I also like to list out daily tasks and mark important dates and deadlines. I find that a planning tool is very helpful for scheduling events, and to know exactly what I need to do and when it needs to be done. Since I started tracking my schedule, I have not missed a single assignment or meeting, and I wish I picked this habit up sooner, so don’t regret it later and start to make this a habit now! 

  1. Take effective notes in class. 

Taking notes in class can help you stay focused, especially if you have trouble keeping awake or if your mind likes to wander elsewhere (like me). It’ll be overwhelming if you try to copy everything written on the board, so just jot down the important ideas. Take advantage of your notes and use them as a study tool to review for exams. 

During lectures, I always pay attention and write down what the professors are saying instead of copying the lecture slides word-for-word. Since professors usually grant access to the slides after class, it is not efficient to just have a handwritten copy of the slides. Also, if the professor flies through the slides, copying will just be extra stressful with little to no payoff during exam time. I find it very helpful to take handwritten notes because it’s one of my best-studying resources in addition to the lecture slides and textbook. So, put away the laptop, take out a pen and a piece of paper, and start taking notes! 

  1. Read on a regular basis. 

My younger self was not a reader because I thought it was so boring, and I know many of you can relate. But I started picking up reading again in the past couple of years, and it has been life-changing! English was not my first language, so reading and writing were never my strong suits, and I found myself avoiding and hating reading and writing heavy classes and assignments for the longest time. After constant struggle, I wanted to improve my reading comprehension and writing skills. So, I made it my goal to read two books a month, and this was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. I was able to follow through with my goal, and the more books I read, the more I found myself enjoying reading. I also saw huge improvements in my reading and writing skills, which made my writing class much easier and actually enjoyable.

If you’re looking for something to do in your free time or during 20/20, pick up a book to read! Some of my favorite novels that I recommend are Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Fairy Tale by Stephen King. 

  1. Challenge yourself. 

I know how frustrating it can be to be stuck on something, but I also know how good it feels to successfully get through it. While you can do the bare minimum and have a perceivably easier life at the moment, inevitably you will find yourself stuck at one point or another. Challenges give you the chance to discover new things and grow through various experiences. 

I once had a pretty negative mindset about trying too hard, which made me want to avoid AP classes. I would always tell myself that it was too hard and I didn’t need AP credits to graduate from high school. But I came to the realization that if I scored well on AP tests, I could earn college credits. I also realized that college would just be as hard, if not harder, if I gave up now without even trying. I thought that if I continued on with this mindset, I would never forgive myself, so I decided to give a couple AP classes a try. I struggled so much in those classes that I asked for help almost every other day. To my surprise, I ended up doing well and learning more than just content from these classes. I gained invaluable experiences – I learned how to give things a try and break through my fear of failure because I’ll never know unless I try.  

So, the moral of the story is: don’t be afraid to take risks, and go above and beyond if you can! Every experience in a learning opportunity and those experiences pile up to form your identity, so keep trying. 

Transitioning into college is both an exciting and nerve-wracking process, and I found that it is never too early or late to start good habits. Just give the five tips I mentioned a try, and I promise it will take you a step closer to success at college, and even further in life, so add them to your to-do list!