Location, Location, Location: 3 Strategies for Success in College

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could wave a magic wand and get all A’s in college? Although many people have their own ideas for what it takes to be a successful college student the truth is there are no magic spells that can be cast to make this happen.  Most successful college students use very simple strategies and use them consistently.  One such strategy has to do with location.  “Location???  What are you talking about?”  Well, as the name implies location has to do with where you do certain things – whether it’s studying, socializing or just “chillin” – and some location strategies can pay big dividends.  Here are three of them:

Strategy one:  Location to sit in the classroom.  Have you given much thought to where you sit in the classroom? Some students opt to sit in familiar locations whether it’s the back of the classroom or somewhere where they can talk to their friends or look at social media content throughout the course of their classes. Although these may be ideal locations due to their familiarity or opportunities they provide to “lay-low” they don’t necessarily lend themselves to success in college. Perhaps it makes sense to think about sitting in the front of the classroom. “What?! What are you talking about sitting in the front of the classroom? That’s the last place I would want to sit!”  Although it’s understandable why you might feel this way studies show that students who sit in closer proximity to the professor pay attention better and perform better in their classes.

Question: What is one class where you definitely need to sit in front in order to learn the material better?

Strategy two:  Location to study.  As I think back to my college days, I remember sitting in my dorm room trying to read my textbook readings.  It was quite a challenge to do this while my roommates were having animated conversations with one another (and trying to include me in those conversations) or trying to delve into the material with MTV videos or the radio blaring in the background.  Of course my goal was just to get it over so I could do fun – or at least less mentally-intense – things as opposed to allowing the material to truly sink in to my brain.  In other words, I was doing “surface-level processing” instead of “deep-level processing” of information.

As the phrase suggests, surface-level means that you’re only capturing a small amount of important stuff that you see or hear – for example, when reading a textbook or listening to a professor lecture.  Deep-level processing, on the other hand, involves thinking about the material in deeper or more complex ways – including how it might apply to your life. It’s difficult to do this kind of processing, however, when there are too many distractions – whether it’s roommates, stuff that’s happening in your dorm room, or social media. In these cases, it may be wiser to choose a different location in which to study.

In the movie, “The Blind Side” – a poor African American adolescent – Michael Oher – who could have easily been swept into a life of crime and drugs decides to join the high school football team and turns out to be a superb player.  In fact, he’s recruited by several colleges and ends up playing football at the University of Mississippi.  One of the first things his tutor did was find him a private room in the library in which to study.  Many college libraries have rooms that can be reserved or include locations that are very quiet and amenable to study.  However, some students – perhaps you’re one – study more effectively with “white noise” (I.e., non-distracting background noise) and there’s no problem with this as long as you’re able to engage in deep-level processing while studying.

Question: Where is one place – other than your dorm room or apartment – that you might be able to study in order to do deep-level processing of textbook or course material?

Strategy three:  Location to chill and thrive.  Being a successful college student isn’t all about academics.  Self-care and fun are important too.  Where do you go to “chill out?”  Do you lose yourself in a good movie or series on Netflix?  Perhaps gaming or hanging out with friends is your thing – which brings up fun.  When people look back at their college experiences they remember the good times they had doing things with their roommates and friends.  Most colleges offer students opportunities to do fun activities – clubs & organizations; intramural sports; concerts and sporting events; and dorm or apartment get togethers.  It really doesn’t matter which activities you become involved in as long as you remember that a key to experiencing success in college (and life for that matter) is striking a balance between academics and self-care.

Questions:  What do you do to “chill” and/or have fun?  Are any of these things likely to detract from your studies?  What do you consider to be a healthy balance between fun activities and academics and what will it take for you to strike that balance?

OK…so now what?

Are you willing to try an experiment?  Give one of these strategies a try for a month and see what happens.  Although a little voice may urge you to resist changing (e.g., coming up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t try out the strategy) you may be pleasantly surprised to discover what happens when you try it out!

Sometimes students find it challenging to figure out this stuff.  You don’t need to do it alone.  If you need more assistance contact Dr. Quarto at (615) 403-5227.

Christopher J. Quarto, Ph.D., PLLC

Tennessee & Michigan



509 Crossway Ave.
Murfreesboro, TN 37130

chris@chrisquarto.com
(615) 403-5227

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