College is so much more than academics. College is a place to develop a social identity, practice authentic living skills, and establish a rewarding career path. College is about meeting new people, exploring a new town, discovering new passions, and wearing a school hoodie with pride. It’s about football games on the weekends, engaging in campus clubs, and traveling on spring break. But let’s face it…the academic component is, in many ways, the hub of the wheel. Students need to be successful academically in order to experience all of the other wonderful things about college. But what does it really mean to be academically successful in college?

At Virtual Hall, we’ve identified the primary areas in which students need to master skills in order to be successful academically. And no, these skills don’t include Calculus, British Literature, and 19th Century U.S. History. Content knowledge is important, sure. But it’s the skill of being a college student that really makes one successful. The skills that guide our academic support structure at Virtual Hall are:

  • Coursework organization
  • Initiation
  • Self-advocacy
  • Study skills
  • Time management

A successful college student has a system for organizing their coursework. They bring all necessary materials to class, they understand what is needed to achieve a passing grade in each of their courses, and they know how to track their progress toward these grades. Understanding where you “stand” in each class and how to navigate your way through is just as important as demonstrating the content knowledge gained in these classes. 

A successful college student can also demonstrate the necessary initiation and motivation to get the work done. They begin the necessary steps for each assignment, and they know where to start when staring down a 10-page term paper. They also know how to advocate for themselves and can ask their instructions when they have questions. They know when office hours are, they know where the tutoring center is, and they use these resources to their advantage. 

Successful college students also know how to study! They can complete difficult tasks, break these difficult tasks up into separate steps, and choose distraction-free locations in which to complete their work. They have developed strategies for maintaining focus while studying, getting their work done within the required time frame, and they know what they need to do in order to prepare for the final exam. 

Last but not least, successful college students can manage their time. College courses are not like high school classes; the assignments aren’t as well scaffolded, and the student is required to know how to break tasks up into smaller steps and plan their time efficiently and effectively. These students use calendars, manage due dates, arrive on time for all classes and study sessions, and plan an adequate amount of time to complete each assignment.

As I’m sure you can tell by now, college is just as much (if not more!) about the “how” as it is about the “what”. If students can’t stay organized, manage their time effectively, and advocate for what they need, they aren’t going to have the opportunity to learn about aeronautical engineering, medieval art and architecture, or philosophy and economics. At Virtual Hall, we give students the tools, strategies, and practice they need in order to master the “how” of college and successfully launch into adulthood.

Author:  Kyle Reardon

In addition to being a Virtual Hall Team Leader, Kyle is also a Ph.D. candidate in special education at the University of Oregon. Kyle’s scholarship emphasizes postsecondary accessibility for diverse learners and his work has been presented at numerous national and international conferences. He holds a B.A. in Music Education and an M.A. in Special Education, both from Northern Vermont University.