Yesterday, we shared instructors’ opinions about the top factors in student success. In another recent survey, we also asked students to list their number-one factor in college success. Over three thousand responded… their insights were enlightening!

Though each student was encouraged to provide their own unique response, several common themes emerged among their answers. We’ve highlighted several of them below. Take a look at their responses, and consider sharing or discussing them with your own students!

Working hard. Students made it clear: they believe that if you want to succeed, you need to apply yourself to your education. The words “commitment,” “discipline,” “diligence,” and “hard work” appeared in hundreds of students’ answers; the themes of “studying,” going to class regularly, and “doing homework” made it clear where they are putting the effort. Many take it an extra step, echoing the words of the student who said that a key to success is “learning to take college seriously, as you would a real job.”

Staying motivated. Having a sense of determination (“dogged, unrelenting determination,” as one student wrote) is a powerful force in achieving one’s academic goals. Another student put it bluntly: “If I’m not motivated, I won’t succeed.”

Confidence. Commitment, backed by a positive attitude, can be a very powerful combination; one student summarized this as “being committed to your own personal success and pushing yourself to present the best you that you possibly can!”

Managing your time well. Hundreds of students wrote that “time management” was the top factor in their success; they recognize that using their time “wisely” and “efficiently” goes a long way in helping them devote themselves to their studies as they should. But life in college goes has requirements beyond the study schedule; other priorities will arise. As one student put it: a successful college student is one who is “…able to balance class time, studying, socializing, and staying healthy through food and exercise.” Another wrote that it’s about “learning how to balance school, work, and family time.” Such a balance can provide a student with a well-rounded, satisfying life.

Having informative, inspiring instructors who believe in them. Students see you, the instructor, as an essential element in their success. They are thankful for instructors who “take time to explain the material,” are “flexible,” “…care about the students and their success,” and have the “…ability to inspire students with their passion for the course.”

Relying on a good support system. Students appreciate the encouragement that family, friends, and fellow students provide along their road to college success. They also appreciate instructors who are “willing to help any way they can,” and they value as campus services such as libraries, advisors, tutors, EOP, and the career services center, which help form a supportive network that bolsters their success.

Asking for help. Last but not least, having the willingness to ask for help when needed can be the extra “push” to bring about student success. Though it can be a bit intimidating to reach out to others, students recognize that others can, and will, provide the help they need to gain clarity and understanding… and ultimately succeed in the course. One student recommended that “the number one factor is that the student take steps needed in order to understand the material, whether it be asking the instructor or getting help from a tutor.”

The biggest secret of college success?

The secret of college success is not really a secret. Truly, it’s a combination of all the factors listed above… and more. You might summarize it as one student did: “Success is not given to someone on a silver platter. You will only get out of it what you put in it.”

Ultimately, these factors of success in college apply to success in just about any aspect of our lives. Therefore, if students build these attitudes and habits while they’re in college, they’ll set themselves on a course towards successfully reaching the goals they set for themselves throughout their lives.

What would your students list as the top factor in college success? Would they agree with the above statements? Share your feedback in the comments.