Student Success Guide

As a new school year approaches, I’ve been asked various questions for advice on the upcoming school year. I thought I’d consolidate some of the thoughts into a guide for student success.


You’re a few things that I feel would be helpful for folks to become successful in the upcoming academic term.


  1. Know what you want
  2. Get your time and habits in order
  3. Learn to learn
  4. Build meaningful connections
  5. Reflect and grow 


Know what you want


School can be many things for different people and students will go to school for different reasons. So oftentimes it’s useful to step back and think about what you want to get from your university or college experience?


The common ones I’ve heard are:

  • Get a degree to make mom and dad happy OR For visa/work permit requirements: it’s surprising at how many people are doing a college/university degree just to satisfy their parents. But it is a reality of some people’s lives. They need to get a degree to make their parents happy. Part of that might be to get a high GPA and be part of the Dean’s list or whatever. Once they get it, they can figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. ALSO, There are a significant number of international students that are doing a degree just to fill some requirements for work visas. If you’re a local student, don’t worry about this one. If you’re an international student, think of how you can leverage the resources of your college and university to set yourself up for a better job in the future
  • To learn: you would think that this is the default reason for going to school. The reality is that most people end up learning for the tests and often forget what they learned a few days or weeks later. A better idea would be to learn and see how you can apply it in your future job and roles so that you can be more effective in your career
  • To get you a job and become work-ready: often an extension of learning and including gaining some skills to demonstrate professionalism. Unfortunately, just getting a degree and even a high GPA isn’t necessarily enough to get you a good job. Taking advantage of co-op, internships, work-integrated learning experiences will help you get a job and become more work-ready better than the time that you spend in class. Do some volunteering with a student club or community organization. Do some part-time work or freelancing. Experience some of the jobs that you might want after you graduate. 
  • Network: for some people, it’s the opportunity to connect with others that might be in high positions in the future or already. Some join a school for a robust alumni network that if you could help them in the future. Also building meaningful connections with folks in your class could position yourself in opportunities if you decide to stay connected with them later on
  • Life experiences: while this could be a combination of a bunch of the above, it’s often connecting with people and having experiences that they can take with them for the rest of their life. Potentially develop skills through working and learning. Potentially developing amazing relationships through networking. Or just partying to have a good time.


Now you could choose a combination of the above. One of the ways which you can confirm whether they truly are priorities for you is to look at how much time you’re spending on each of those activities?


Which brings us to the next step: time management 


Time management, habits and life skills

Once you’ve selected and understood why you are completing your university or college program, it’s often good to have those priorities reflected on your calendar. Take look at the following resources for help with time management. 


Time management resources 


If you’re able to turn many of the things that you do into habits, you’ll start doing them effortlessly and easily. Habits take time to develop and are worthwhile to set up so that you can focus your energy and attention on learning, growing and developing relationships. Foundational habits such as exercising, sleeping well, and making good food choices Will do wonders for your physical health. When you take care of your physical health then all the other things you have planned become much easier. Meditation and mindfulness practise can help you with your mental wellness. Which will again, make all of the things you have planned much easier.


Habit resources

  • Better than before: Gretchen Ruben – Link on Amazon
    • Helpful to understand your tendencies to implement habits
  • The Power of Habit: Charles DuHigg – Link on Amazon
    • Lots of science of habits which many books have their basis
  • High-performance habits: Brendon Burchard – Link on Amazon
    • A great core set of habits to develop
  • Miracle mornings: Hal Elrod – Link on Amazon
    • Focused on important moring habits to develop


Also, For those that have lived a fairly privileged life where their parents or family have taken care of most of the things I need to do, developing some life skills and putting good habits into your own routine would be helpful as well. Simple things like learning to ask for help. How to cook. How to get around the city without having to ask anyone to drive you. Critical thinking. Had to do and fix stuff around the house.


While these might seem simple and obvious for many, there are those of you out there who have never done any of them up until now. So it’s better you learn to do that while you’re a student, versus being out in the adult world and still having your mom fold your underwear. 


Given that the primary point of school is to learn whatever you’ve enrolled in, do you want to include some time to learn-to-learn to help you become more effective and efficient with your time

Learn to learn

Do you actually know how to learn? that may seem like a funny question, but it’s a good one to ask. How do you study best? Are you good at memorizing things? How do you remember and apply what you learn?

Take a look at some of these resources to help you learn to learn.


  • Memory techniques: from Memory Palaces to link lists, to pneumonic alphabets, there are lots of different techniques that can be game-changing in your learning experience.
  • Note-taking techniques: from the Cornell method to mind maps, to many others, the way you capture notes can be beneficial to helping you recall and understanding the principles later on.
  • Studying techniques: spaced repetition is the go-to for most ways of studying for maximum memory retention. You also want to consider teaching others, leveraging study buddies and study groups to get the benefit of some external motivation.


There are lots of resources online on any of these. I’ll look to curate some of my favourites and what I’ve come across in the coming weeks.


Learn to learn resources 

  • Limitless: Jim Kiwk – Link on Amazon
    • Great book to get your motivation, mindset and methods in check
  • Memory Palace: Lewis Smile – Link on Amazon
    • Short read with examples on Memory Palaces. I’m sure there are others out there, but this was a good starter for me
  • Ultralearning: Scott Young – Link on Amazon
    • Learn to be good, and do it quickly
  • The Straight-A Conspiracy: Hunter Maats, Katie Obrien – Link on Amazon
    • Helping you succeed in school
  • The only skill that matters: Jonathan Levi – Link on Amazon
    • Another good learning book
  • Danny Forest:
    • A life long learning colleague that has lots of learning wisdom to share


Build Meaningful Connections 

The network that you join in an MBA degree Is often the most valuable part of the program. At the same time, building meaningful connections can be helpful for any program. Consider spending time to get to know your classmates. Find the classmates that aspire to do the things that you wanna do and spend more time with them. The quote “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” comes to mind. 


Another reason to build meaningful connections is that it’s an investment in your future. If you consider that after you graduate your classmates will go on to different areas within and outside of your industry, those connections can be invaluable to you as you move up or move around in your career. that person sitting next to you in class could be your future boss, or a future client, or a future vendor, or someone influential in the industry that could help you grow. perhaps not the person beside you, but in the lab that you’ve met just once, in the hallway that you’ve passed by fairly frequently, or as part of the student club that you go to once in a while. relationships are in an investment in your future. Consider the book titled “your network is your net worth”. 


BMC resources


Reflect and grow

“An unexamined life is not worth living” -Socrates 


Socrates has a point. Ensuring that there’s some reflection time in your motto week can be a game-changer. If you think of the concept of compound interest, investing early and letting the interest compound on itself will need to riches later on in life. Now the great things that compounding doesn’t only work on money. Consider making a 1% improvement in your week, every week for your lifetime: how much better will you be after you graduate, by the time you retire, by the time you’re ready to leave this earth?


You can reflect, not just on yourself and your skills and what you wanna improve, but also on what you want. For a time, you might want a high-paying salary, a fancy title, or other achievements. And you may progress in your life and realize that money has only one part of the equation and titles may not be as meaningful as you think.


Reflection resources 


Student success is your choice

If you’re able to do all of these things then you’re set for success. A lot of these are simple, but not necessarily easy.


Don’t worry if you’re in your final year or final term and haven’t done much of what’s here so far, keep in mind that your career will probably last another two lifetimes if you retire at the typical age so you have plenty of time to catch up and even get ahead. 

Best of luck and feel free to reach out if I can be of help

Also published on Medium.