Much as you seek to hone your skills as a professional educator, students can benefit from adopting a “professional” mindset that carries them through a successful academic career.


In FOCUS on College Success, Fourth Edition, Dr. Constance Staley offers ten keys to “academic professionalism,” which we’ve summarized below. Share these suggestions, which can help students increase their confidence and ensure that they “make the grade” in their classes.


1. Make college your priority. You’ve invested a great deal of time, money, and other resources into your college experience. In order to make that investment pay off, you’ll need to consider your schooling as more than just one more “to do” for the day and give your studies the attention they’re due. In some cases, or at certain times, you may need to make sacrifices in other areas of your life (e.g., giving up some of your social-media time in order to keep up with your class reading, or passing up a social event in order to study for an upcoming examination).

2. Go to class. When you miss a class, you’re missing out on experiences and information that can’t be duplicated or replaced. Though you may occasionally face an emergency that necessitates an absence (such as an illness), resist the temptation to skip a class session to see a movie, catch up with a friend,  or enjoy a warm day at the beach or pool. Attend class as often as possible and learn how to make contingency plans for those other demands that pop up from time to time.

3. Keep up with your coursework. Don’t deceive yourself: those due dates are critical! Complete reading and other assignments on schedule, turn things in on time, and don’t let a backlog of work accumulate.

4. Show respect for your instructors, other students, and yourself. Treat school as you would your job: act in a way that’s courteous, thoughtful, and appropriate to the setting. Communicate with clarity and consideration for others. Demonstrate respect by coming to class on time, paying attention, and leaving only once the class is complete.

5. Know your campus and course policies. If you know “the rules,” you’ll know how to contact your instructors if you have a concern or question, how to handle emergencies, how to avoid getting yourself in trouble for plagiarism and cheating, and how to manage or deal with other important aspects of your college experience.

6. Take responsibility. If you’re struggling, don’t be passive. Do what you need to do in order to ensure that you understand what’s being discussed in class, as well as what both your instructors and school require of you. Talk to your instructor, a tutor, an academic counselor…  use your resources and get the help that will enable you to achieve success.

7. Allocate adequate time to your studies. Don’t count on “winging it” as a strategy for success. Get ready for class by reading and completing all assigned work beforehand. Bring appropriate learning materials (laptop or tablet, pen, lab manual…) to class. Participate while you’re there: listen, take notes, and engage in class discussions. Start on papers, research projects, and lab assignments as soon as you can. Think all this takes some time? You’re right! Plan ahead and block out time in your schedule to accomplish all that needs to be done.

8. Take group and team work seriously. Many instructors will assign group projects; consider these as opportunities to learn how to collaborate with peers and learn from one another. (You may also get a chance to flex your leadership skills!)

9. Check your e-mail (and other message boxes) on a regular basis. Many instructors may send critical notes, assignments, or other class-related messages to your school e-mail account or your inbox within your class learning management system. You may also receive other school-related announcements and bills in these accounts. To avoid missing this critical information, make checking those boxes part of your regular routine.

10. Get and stay engaged. Be a full participant in your educational experience and make the most of it—in the ways described above, and in any other opportunity that will further your development as an educated, informed person. (12-15)

What traits do you believe lead to student success? Leave a reply below.

Reference: Staley, Constance. 2015. FOCUS on College Success, Fourth Edition. Boston: Cengage Learning.