18 Suggestions for Thriving in College

Markus Beyer’s wisdom on making these years the foundation of your successful adult life.

In less than a year, I will have my Bachelor’s degree. Four-and-a-half years of sometimes excelling, sometimes stumbling, and sometimes falling flat on my face in my life as a university student. Each person experiences college life differently, for sure, but based on what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen and heard from others, here are some tips for college guys. This is what I’ve learned:

  1. Explore the campus, not just your residence hall or academic building. It’s your home for the next four years. And wandering around is sometimes the best way to find something to do.
  2. Find your “spot.” It helps to find one place where you are the most comfortable, to unwind before and after classes. This could be the student union, or a local park near campus. (For me, it was the botanical gardens within walking distance from campus.) This spot is your own personal meditation room.
  3. Go to the library. You’d be surprised how many people neglect familiarizing themselves with the library through freshman year, and sometimes all the way through college. The library is likely your best academic resource; don’t ignore it.
  4. Join a student organization right away. You’ll have a common purpose with other students and feel closer ties to the campus community. It’s also a great way to meet older students.
  5. Make goals for each semester, large and small. Yes, the final goal is a degree, and hopefully a job after graduation. But you can’t spend four years ignoring what’s in front of you.
  6. That being said, be prepared to make mistakes along the way.
  7. Pick a professor-mentor, preferably in your field of interest, to guide you deeper into the subject. Oftentimes that professor will be your future colleague, an indispensable networking tool, and an engaging conversationalist all in one.
  8. Talk to people in your classes. Who knows? You might meet a study partner, or you may meet a lifelong friend, or both.
  9. Sleep. It sounds obvious, but college life can be exhausting. Get rest.
  10. Stay physically active. You don’t have to adopt a radical diet and exercise plan, but make sure to go for walks. It relieves stress and keeps your body in better shape.
  11. Drink responsibly, or don’t drink at all. Know your alcohol limit. As a rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t do something sober—such as climbing onto the roof of a house—being drunk gives you no excuse to do so.
  12. Don’t get caught up in relationships your freshman year. It’s too distracting.
  13. Look into studying away or studying abroad. Studying abroad was the single best decision I made in my uni career. While I went to northeastern Europe, I had friends who went to Ghana, Scotland, New Zealand, Israel, and countless other places. Each person I talked to had a unique experience, but each one agreed it was a worthwhile investment.
  14. Take courses outside of your major. I’ve been lucky enough to study at a liberal arts university, where this type of exploration is encouraged. Interdisciplinary studies help students make connections they might not otherwise make. It doesn’t hurt that employers like well-rounded employees, either.
  15. Show gratitude. Let others know when they are appreciated. My first sociology professor, a brilliant man, died before I could tell him how much I learned from his work.
  16. Experiment. College is a time to develop as a man, and that involves challenging what you already know about yourself and others. Find a new hobby, or a quirk that makes you, you.
  17. Keep a journal for self-reflection. Number 16 and 17 necessarily go together.

Which brings us to the last point…

  1. Be yourself. Everyone from Shakespeare to your parents has probably given you this advice, and for good reason. We all come from separate backgrounds and will make our own ways through university life. You cannot measure your success on someone else’s definitions.


Read more: 7 Things I Wish I Could Tell My College Self

Image credit: Charleston’s TheDigitel/Flickr

About Markus Beyer

Markus Beyer is an undergraduate student at UNC-Asheville, where he is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies. He grew up in a military family and has never lived in the same city for more than four consecutive years.
Markus is also a compulsive journal writer.
The Good Men Project is Mark’s first venture into internet writing.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    Leaving college and returning later may be the best option for some people. There is no such thing as a “college dropout.” Don’t stay in college just because your friends are in college and you’re afraid to leave. Don’t assume that because you’re 18-22 that means you have to be in college.

    • I agree with the leaving college and returning later. Just because a bunch of people do the traditional route doesn’t mean everyone is going to do well that way. Sometimes people need a little life experience to really figure out what they want to do. And with how much college costs these days no shame in really feeling sure about what you are going to college for.

  2. Nate Lytle says:

    Great article! I’d also like to add that you never know where a compliment will get you. So give them out freely and with great abandon.

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