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What Successful Students Do

What do successful students do?  The following characteristics help to distinguish successful students from average students.


successful students


  1. They get organized.

Learning how to effectively use a planner and developing a system for finding schoolwork is essential to being successful, especially when the workload gets more difficult in middle school and high school.   (For tips on how to use a planner effectively, read this blog

  1. They learn how to study.

Successful students understand the difference between studying for a math test rather than a vocabulary test. They use these techniques to learn material on a higher level so that they can apply the concepts.

  1. They sleep.

Cognitive functioning is enhanced by quality sleep, and successful students make sure to give their bodies rest.

  1. They engage and ask questions.

Successful students realize the power of questions.  Asking questions engages the student in the lessons and makes the material more relevant and more deeply understood.

  1. They study in short bursts, not marathons.

Studying continuously for multiple hours is counterproductive because the brain becomes tired, and attention dissipates.  Successful students are able to focus more intently because they study for shorter periods of time with breaks in between.

  1. They turn off distractions.

Multitasking is not effective because the brain cannot focus on two things at once; instead it moves quickly from one thing to the other.  Turning off distractions allows the brain to concentrate on the material at hand.

  1. They make their own study guides.

Successful students create study guides of their own rather than relying on what the teacher gives them.  The process of going through notes to consolidate and organize them is a valuable study technique that provides a more complete understanding for the student.

  1. They write on paper.

When students write something, they have to first put some degree of thought to evaluate and order the information.  That process helps fix ideas more firmly in a student’s mind which leads to greater recall later.

  1. They learn by doing.

Successful students know that the difference between knowledge and applied knowledge is substantial.  Learning a language requires practice speaking the language, and learning math skills requires practice working the problems.

  1. They look at mistakes.

Instead of focusing on what they got correct, successful students use their mistakes to determine what they need to improve.   The mistakes give a clear picture of what wasn’t fully understood.

  1. They ask for help.

Successful students know that they can always find someone with superior knowledge in a specific subject, and when they reach a hurdle they find that person and ask for help.

  1. They create specific and realistic goals.

Goals need to be specific and realistic, and successful students are able to determine what their goals should be and develop a strategy to attain them.   (For ideas on how to set SMART academic goals, read this blog