Big challenges build confidence

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Acting, speaking, and behaving confidently is a goal I have set for myself over the years. In many ways, I have moved the needle forward on this goal. I have learned to take risks, speak up, make eye contact, and sit at the table. Mostly, I have given up old habits of overly apologizing and constantly seeking approval.

These behavioral changes helped improve my outward appearance of confidence, but the greatest change came from overcoming some really big challenges. Confidence came when I had to take care of a six-month old baby without being able to walk or drive. Confidence came when I stepped out of my house and accepted that I may never return to it. And confidence came when I worked every night and weekend for three years to earn my Ph.D.

These were three of the most challenging times of my life, but I was also completely in the zone. When I broke my foot and had to take care of my infant for months while on crutches, I was completely focused on my family. I was in survival mode. I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone. When I left my unhealthy marriage and gave up most of my possessions, I was raw. I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I only knew that I was moving forward and never back. When I completed my Ph.D. while working full time, I didn’t have time to worry or be self-conscious. I was too absorbed to listen to naysayers.

It was in these times that my confidence grew. It was like ivy. It creeped and climbed until it was so prolific that I could not contain it. It was so beautiful and full that people noticed it. All I was doing was living and breathing, but I was also thriving. I was alive and in the moment. I wasn’t overthinking or analyzing. I was acting and responding.

We are most confident when we lose our egos and show up as our authentic selves; when we have a goal or purpose that comes from our core values; and when we are completely present and focused.

I am thankful those times have passed, but I’m even more thankful that I had them. My ivy plant is still alive and well.

 

 

 

 

 

7 Steps for Achieving a Super Simple Life

As I embark on a new year, I am reflecting on what it means to live a simple life.

I recently removed the television from my living room. Everyone in the family has a device (or two), and removing the television helped transform our living space into a more open and welcoming area to hang out. However, I still sometimes fantasize about replacing the small, simple television with a big screen. This internal struggle led me to revisit my early commitments to simple living.

I wrote the following post several years ago on my blog Just Plain Joy, but many of the principles still hold true.

When I started my blog, I wanted to create an outlet for exploring and defining a simple life. I decided I wanted to pursue a simpler life for several reasons – I wanted to save more money to invest in my child’s future, I wanted more time to spend on the things that matter most to me, and I wanted to reduce my impact on the environment.

The benefits of simpler living have been overwhelming – I worry less about finances, I spend less energy keeping track of my possessions, I have a greater appreciation for natural beauty, I am less concerned about status, and I’m enjoying life!

Simple has many interpretations. After careful consideration, I chose four concepts to define my interpretation of simple living:

* clutter-free
* debt-free
* organized
* green

Here are seven steps for achieving a super simple life based on these four concepts.

1. Simplify your home. The first step to physically simplifying your life is to get rid of the clutter. Start with the room where you spend most of your time (or the one that is most manageable).

Then, move methodically through every drawer, desktop, shelf, and countertop and sort items into three categories – keep, toss, and recycle (these are items that will be given away, donated, or sold). If you are undecided about an item, ask yourself, “Do I love it? Is it useful?” If the answer to both questions is “no,” then don’t keep it.

The second step to physically simplifying is to get organized. Ask yourself, “Where is this item’s permanent home?” Everything you own should have a physical place.

2. Simplify your finances. As a rule, we tend to spend as much as we earn (or more). To simplify your finances, spend less than you make. This is a basic debt-reduction strategy, but it also allows you to work less and spend more time doing the things that really matter to you.

There are simple strategies for staying out of debt – write down every single thing you spend money on, evaluate your spending habits, create a budget, identify a money management system that works for you, pay down your highest interest debts, create an emergency fund, and pay your bills in full and on time.

3. Simplify your virtual world. It is easy to be sucked in by email, instant messaging, social networking sites, and online media. Technology can assist you in delegating everyday tasks, but it should not be allowed to overrule the more important things.

Clean out your inbox, choose one social networking site, and minimize your time online. Mastering technology will simplify your life.

4. Simplify your work. First, stop trying to do it all. You may think you can respond to an email while you are on hold and in the middle of drafting a document, but when you multi-task you are not giving any activity your full attention.

To simplify your work, clean up your physical work space, limit your commitments, find an organizational system that works for you, and learn to delegate.

5. Simplify your day. Managing ourselves from day to day is about prioritizing our values and goals. Before you decide how to manage your time, you have to identify what is truly important to you in your life. Then, using simple time management tools can help you control how you choose to spend your time.

Create a list of goals, establish a morning and evening routine, schedule time to relax, and leave your weekends unscheduled.

6. Simplify your health. It is much simpler to stay healthy than to deal with illness. To simplify your health, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, fill your frig with fruits and vegetables, stock your medicine cabinet with basic remedies and supplies, exercise regularly, and identify a doctor you can trust.

7. Simplify your philosophy. Adopting a simple lifestyle can require a shift in thinking. It requires you to accept that what you have is “enough,” learn to let go of the need to be a superachiever, live in the moment, find simple pleasures, and define your identity by reflection rather than by consumerism.

Simple living is not difficult!

It is not necessary to tackle every area of your life at once. If you feel you could benefit from simplifying any of these areas, then I hope this article was helpful.

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Keep it simple!

Lessons learned at #ACPAASSAO 2015

Am I aspiring to be a Vice-President for Student Affairs? Maybe. Will I ever be a senior student affairs officer? Who knows. Am I aspiring to make a difference in the lives of students, to help student affairs get the resources needed to make the greatest impact on a student’s university experience, and to increase retention and employment readiness? Absolutely.

I recently returned from the ACPA Aspiring Senior Student Affairs Officers Institute in beautiful Nashville, TN. My head has been spinning since the institute. I’m excited to share a brief snapshot of lessons learned from the Vice-Presidents who served as the institute’s faculty -Royster Harper, Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Michigan; Dwayne Todd, Vice President for Student Affairs, Columbus College of Art and Design; Zebulun Davenport, Vice Chancellor for Student Life, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis; John Hernandez, Vice President for Student Services, Santiago Canyon College; Luoluo “Lo-Lo” Hong, Vice President for Student Affairs, San Francisco State; and Cissy Petty, Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Provost of Academic Affairs, Loyola University New Orleans.

For three days, the well-versed faculty of the ACPA ASSAO Institute spoke truth to power. They shared the personal and professional experiences that took them to the executive cabinet and kept them there. They were humble, transparent, and genuine. They told us with empathy that we needed to get over our own brokenness and heal our own wounds before going into battle for our students.

We talked about successful traits of today’s leaders, change management, and technical vs. adaptive challenges. They asked us hard questions and forced us to take a long look into our underlying motivations and values. They held up the mirror. And they reminded us, this is work.

Here are 5 lessons I came away with from the ASSAO Institute:

1.  Find sponsors, mentors, and champions. Career progression requires having people who will advise you and will use their influence to advocate for you.

2.  You need gravitas. Gravitas is confidence, reputation, credibility, and the voice of authority. An effective leader is both confident and competent. It’s not enough to have only one of the two.

3. Align the external with the internal. When considering where you might serve as a senior student affairs officer, fit is essential to success and satisfaction. External factors include university size and location, scope of responsibilities, spoken and unspoken expectations, strategic initiatives, leadership, and campus climate. Internal factors include your values, personal obligations, readiness, and career goals.

4. Maintain integrity and prepare for a rainy day. You will have to make tough decisions. Know that if you are let go, you will land on your feet. You can’t do the job of a Vice-President with integrity if you need it or can’t live without it. Do not connect your livelihood to other people.

5. You will make mistakes. And not only will you make mistakes, but you will be judged on how you recover from your mistakes. You hope your mistakes will be small and inconsequential, but if they aren’t be sure to remain authentic and humble.

If you are interested in attending the ASSAO Institute visit the ACPA website!

Managing Your Boss Saves You Time

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Today Paul Gordon Brown published a great post on What They Didn’t Teach You in Grad School: Managing Up. He is right on when he said, “learning to manage up entails a critical set of skills necessary to advance and be successful in your career.” I share the following tips on how to successfully manage your boss in my Time Management workshop. I have been presenting this information to groups of students and young professionals for years, long before I started working for my current boss. Regardless of your age or professional level, I think these tips are still helpful.

Why is it important to manage your boss?

•  An adversarial relationship with your boss can cause stress (which equals wasted time)

•  When your boss trusts you, you will be given more freedom to work independently (big time saver)

•  A positive relationship with your boss may result in additional resources or support (that may save you time)

9 Steps for Managing Your Boss

1. Bring solutions not excuses

Believe it or not, your boss doesn’t have all the answers. And if he/she does, it may not be the answer you want to hear. It is better to bring the solution you would like to see than to take a chance on the solution your boss may suggest.

2. Exude confidence

When your boss sees that you are confident, you are more likely to be trusted and given more autonomy. This creates more flexibility for you to do your work independently as well.

3. Prepare your “done” list

Be prepared to share your accomplishments with your boss. When you are asked “what have you been up to?” or “how’s it going?” you should have a positive response that demonstrates your contributions and productivity.

4. Clarify

Clear communication and expectations are paramount to your success. Be sure you understand what is being asked of you, who you can turn to for help, and how your success is being measured. If necessary, take notes in your meetings so you can refer back to conversations about these key expectations.

5. Approach your boss with honesty, respect, and empathy

Support your boss’s decisions. Do not bad-mouth your boss. Approach your boss in private if you disagree or have a concern.

6. Manage your meetings

Be sure you know when your next meeting is with your boss and what you need to have done by then. Be prepared with appropriate questions.

7. Avoid Interrupting

Your boss is a busy person. Do your best to find answers and resources independently before interrupting your boss.

8. Don’t draw attention to your mistakes

Avoid turning a mole hill into a mountain. Overall, your boss wants to hear your good news and positive stories. For every problem you bring to your boss, be sure you have shared 2-3 solutions or positive outcomes.

9. Learn to read social cues

Timing is crucial. Understanding how your boss behaves when he/she is working on a deadline vs. feeling sociable can increase your chances of gaining positive or negative attention. Do not attempt small talk if your boss appears stressed. On the other hand, if he/she is feeling sociable take the opportunity to share a few success stories.

Check out another great article on What Everyone Should Know About Managing Up at Harvard Business Review.

3 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationships and Grow Your Influence

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Last week, there was an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education written by two seasoned college presidents. In the article, both presidents highlighted the critical role of relationships, which reminded me of this previous post on the importance of relationships. For presidents, relationships are crucial to being an influencer.

The president is often seen as the most influential person on a campus. However, we all have influence. Whether we have positional power or are trying to influence someone in a higher position. All members of the campus community can be influencers.

Some people we can influence through relationship are donors, supervisors, and peers.

How do we improve our ability to influence through relationships?

1. Our presence. Our ability to influence is affected by how others perceive us. How do others see you? What qualities do others admire about you? These qualities may not be the same characteristics that we see as our strengths. For example, you may believe that others most admire you for your expertise and experience, but they may actually love your sense of humor the most!

2. Service. When we think about donors, we may focus on what they can provide us. But when we ask what we can give them, we may be surprised that we have a lot more to offer – opportunities to reconnect with faculty and alumni, recognition at campus events, or networking opportunities. When we serve others, we are proactively building our relationship with them.

3. Shared interests. One of my favorite quotes is “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” When we impose our influence through rules and positional power, we take away other people’s dignity. When people share an interest, the shared solutions can be greater than one person’s alone.

5 Questions to Help Make Tough Decisions

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That’s me standing on the Porch of Indecision

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As Student Affairs professionals, we are often faced with some tough personal and professional decisions. In my career, I have had to decide whether to pick up part-time teaching work, when was the best time to start my family, would I consider relocating for career advancement, was I ready to get my PhD, should I accept a time-consuming volunteer role, and should I take on my family’s business. I firmly believe  we cannot be satisfied with someone else’s answer to these tough questions – we must make these decisions on our own.

Friends and family can offer advice, but the best thing they can do is ask you the right questions. A big decision can feel…well, BIG. But like a big goal, it can be more easily achieved by breaking it down into smaller pieces.

Here are 5 questions that can help to make tough decisions:

1. What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

Fear of failure often keeps us paralyzed. It prevents us from maximizing our full potential and fully exercising our strengths. When I was considering a Ph.D. program, the fear of failure was my biggest limitation. I have come to accept and embrace failure as an essential part of learning. Often our failures are not as irreversible or detrimental as we make them out to be in our minds.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins

2. How does this decision fit into your greater purpose?

Indecisiveness or resistance to making a decision can often be rooted in an underlying value or belief. When a choice seems logical and clear, yet we are still resistant, there may be some deeper inner conflict going on. When my mom approached me about being more involved in our family business, I wanted to honor her and was attracted to the earning potential of a career in real estate; however,  real estate was not my calling. There were aspects that I would have enjoyed, and I could probably have been successful, but my passion is working in education with students.

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” – Steve Jobs

3. Is this the right time?

Some decisions seem crystal clear, except for the timing. One of my toughest decisions was declining the invitation to be the volunteer coordinator for my friend’s mayoral campaign. I wanted to do it, it felt aligned with my greater purpose,  and it was a great match for my skill set, but the timing was terrible. I was a full-time working mom, struggling in my relationship, and had several other commitments. On the other hand, there isn’t always a perfect time. Timing is an important factor, but it’s not the only factor. When an opportunity arises, you may not feel fully prepared but it may be the time to take a risk.

“You can do anything but not everything.” – David Allen

4. How will you feel after you have made this decision?

Visualizing the outcome of the two or more scenarios when trying to make a decision can help us tap into our “gut” reaction. The power of intuition is discussed in a lot of decision-making research, including Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. According to Gladwell, the more expertise you have on a topic, the more likely your gut will predict the most accurate outcome.

“There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it.” – Judith McNaught

5. What role does your ego play in this decision?

Fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, and anger are the manifestations of the ego. Ego causes us to compare ourselves to others. Ego takes everything personally. It wants to be right. It needs to feel superior. And, it can lead us to make poor decisions. When we make a decision because we want what someone else has, or we think something will make us happy, the ego is in control.

“You create a good future by creating a good present.” – Eckhart Tolle

 

 

 

 

12 Self-Promotion Strategies for Introverts

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Introverts are awesome! They are the calm, humble, thoughtful people who are quietly doing a ton of work and taking very little credit! Introverts tend to be deliberative and self-aware; they tend to be detail-oriented; they spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting; and, they can give intense focus and concentration to a task.

Introverts are also the best leaders for proactive teams because they listen to their followers and are receptive to the team’s ideas (Harvard Business School, 2010). Introverted leaders view their positions as a responsibility to take care of the people and organizations entrusted to them. And, they tend to be great problem solvers – developing solutions based on observations, research and reflection.

Given these characteristics, how do introverts make connections and sell themselves in the workplace? Here are 12 self-promotion strategies for introverts:

1. Use social media. Introverts tend to excel at writing. Excellent social media content can set you apart from others. Another advantage of social media is you can choose to engage when you feel inspired or schedule a regular time to be active when you feel most sociable.

2. Give a presentation. Introverts tend to be more creative and energized when they can think alone. Planning a presentation for a conference or staff training allows you the time and space to research, plan and prepare (all things that introverts are great at doing!) and then showcase your knowledge and skills.

3. Be prepared. Introverts are thoughtful processors, which can create anxiety around events or conversations that require thinking on our feet. Prepare for meetings or social events with one or two ideas that you can contribute based on the topic or purpose of the meeting.

4. Be confidently quiet. Being quiet can sometimes be misinterpreted as being insecure, annoyed, or uninterested. Although you may be thinking deeply about the topic being discussed, be aware of your body language, non-verbal cues, and other signals you may be unintentionally sending to others.

5. Build one-on-one relationships. Introverts prefer deep meaningful relationships rather than having lots of contacts. Focus on developing strong connections with influential people in your life – mentors, stakeholders, supervisors – rather than trying to please or engage with everyone.

6. Provide solutions. Introverts are keen observers. They miss very little, although others may assume they are not engaged. Introverts are also great at connecting the dots and executing. Use the information you learn, observe the gaps, connect the missing pieces, and use the information to propose solutions or improve your work.

7. Create your community. Identify the other quiet observers around you and take intentional action to make a connection. Other introverts are likely to understand your needs and can help provide support and encouragement. Also, seek out other self-proclaimed introverts who are successfully navigating the extrovert world and who can give you guidance and suggestions (such as Keith Ferrazzi).

8. Build a portfolio. Introverts tend to avoid tooting their own horn. A portfolio does the talking for you. Use examples of your work to demonstrate your skills during an interview or meeting. It can include photos, certificates, writing samples, lists of projects, or letters of recommendation.

9. Schedule meetings. Spontaneous meetings can derail an introvert. In order to stay in touch with other staff members, schedule time into your calendar for catching up or reviewing projects. If you miss your opportunity in an impromptu meeting, you can also follow up afterward in an email or one-on-one.

10. Network intentionally. Introverts are great at research and asking poignant questions. Before you attend an event, pick one or two people you want to meet. Research the person(s) and develop a few potential talking points or questions.

11. Create trust. Introverts are great listeners, and by using your listening and empathy skills you can make others feel calm and secure. People remember the way you make them feel more than what you say. When you can establish trust with others, you become seen as fair, ethical, and competent.

12. Serve others. Introverts are characterized by humility, a desire to serve others, and the ability to empower others. These are  also the traits of servant leadership – a powerful style of many leaders of high-performing companies. The best leaders treat others with respect and acknowledge the contributions of others. When you find ways to make other people successful, help them accomplish their goals, and support others, your load becomes lighter, your path becomes easier, and you become unstoppable!

5 Ways to Treat Students Like Family

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Giving my daughter cheap advice at the Live Oak Music Festival

When I look into the eyes of my students, I often imagine my six-year-old daughter sitting on the other side of the desk in eleven years. It’s unlikely that she will be sitting  across from me, but she may be sitting in another office somewhere. What will bring her to the dean’s office? What experience do I want her to have? What advice will she get?

My daughter is just entering the public school system. She will be completing first grade in a few months. She loves school and is an avid reader, but last week she received a behavior ticket. I won’t say what it was for, because years from now when she runs for presidency I don’t want her campaign tarnished by her mom’s blog post that disclosed she threw applesauce down the slide and soiled another girl’s clothes (oops! there I said it!), but it has me thinking about behavior and choices.

Personally, I’m hoping my daughter makes all her mistakes in first grade, and it’s smooth sailing from here into adulthood. But since I realize that’s likely not going to be the case, I’m embracing these incidents for what they are…teachable moments. I also realize I will not always be around to clean up the metaphorical applesauce and, as a mom, I hope that there will be caring adults throughout my daughter’s life who will also help her navigate through the messy, sticky situations that come up.

Whether it’s a mistake, a personal challenge, an academic setback, or another life event that  brings someone else’s child to my office, I try to treat all students with the respect, compassion, and attention I would provide to my own daughter in these five ways:

1. See their potential. Students who have been admitted to the university have already demonstrated they have great potential. Students also each possess unique strengths they can draw upon during challenging times. Looking for strengths and encouraging students to envision what is possible demonstrates our belief in them.

2. Believe them. It takes courage for students to share their stories. When we listen and validate their feelings, emotions, and concerns, students can ask for what they need and tell us how to best support them.

3. Give accurate information. Myths, out-dated information, and misunderstood policies can create stress and confusion for students. Empowered with information, students can make educated and appropriate decisions.

4. Advocate. Advocacy can take many forms. It can be connecting students to resources, speaking up for underrepresented students, creating a safe environment for students to express themselves, or educating ourselves on critical issues  in order to contribute to positive change.

5. Offer unconditional positive regard. Psychologist Carl Rogers developed the term unconditional positive regard, which means showing complete support and acceptance of a person. By showing students our acceptance and setting aside our judgment, we create a safe space for students to take risks, explore their possibilities, and maximize their full potential.

5 Facts about Student Veterans

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Today Cal Poly will be celebrating the opening of the Veterans Success Center. This solidifies a significant relationship between the university and its student veterans. The relationship between higher education and the military dates back to the enactment of the GI Bill after World War II. Over 2,232,000 World War II veterans used the GI Bill to go to college during the 1940s and 1950s (Livingston, Havice, Cawthon, & Fleming, 2011).

Here are 5 more facts about student veterans and higher education (Vacchi, 2012):

1. More student veterans will be enrolling in institutions of higher education than since WW II.

2. The new GI Bill offers the best educational benefits for veterans in the history of our nation.

3. Student veterans have greater classroom performance, higher retention rates, and more successful transfer rates from community colleges to four-year institutions than their nonveteran peers.

4. There are currently over 800,000 student veterans attending college.

5. Over 90 percent of student veterans are former enlisted members, not officers.

Military culture is much different from the culture of a college campus. When surveyed, student veterans say that military service has matured them, allowed them to see the world in a different light, and exacerbated the age gap they felt with non-military peers. According to research, student veterans are characterized by self-sufficiency, confidence, self-reliance, humility, and pride (Livingston, et al, 2011).

Check out the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on the History of the GI Bill.

Resources:

Livingston, W. G., Havice, P., Cawthon, T.W., & Fleming, D.S. (2011). Coming home: Student veterans’ articulation of college re-enrollment. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 48, 315-331.

Radford, A. (2009). Military service members and veterans in higher education: What the new GI Bill may mean for post-secondary institutions. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

Vacchi, D.T. (2012). Considering Student Veterans on the Twenty-First-Century College Campus. About Campus, May-June 2012, 15-21.

10 Habits of Successful College Students

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Today was the first day of a new quarter, which means lots of students are setting new academic goals. Based on my interactions with students over the years, here are 10 things successful college students do:

  1. Go to office hours.

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Taking advantage of office hours is critical to academic success. Office hours are an opportunity to build a one-on-one connection with the professor. In addition to advice on homework assignments or feedback from the last test, spending time in office hours could lead to a letter of recommendation, an undergraduate research opportunity, or helpful career advice.

  1. Get involved.

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Research supports that student involvement increases academic success. Successful students engage in their learning in- and out-side the classroom. They participate in discussion groups, attend educational events, join clubs, and give back to their communities.

  1. Study in groups.

Study groups can reduce procrastination, help students overcome difficulties understanding the material, get new perspectives, and develop interpersonal skills. Studying alone has benefits but can also easily lead to distraction, social isolation, and boredom.

  1. Go to the library.

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Studying in the library can help many students focus better. The library has fewer distractions than a bedroom or residence hall. The library also has useful resources such as helpful librarians, textbooks on reserve, group study rooms, and assistive technology.

  1. Take responsibility.

Successful students do not blame others or make excuses. They realize that they have control of their choices, actions, and behaviors. They own up to mistakes and look for ways they can improve next time.

  1. Aren’t afraid to fail.

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Failure is an important part of the learning process. Successful students do not let the fear of failure prevent them from taking risks, being creative, trying new activities, and stepping outside their comfort zone.

  1. Utilize resources.

Successful students do not try to do everything on their own. There are extensive resources on campus for students. These resources include, but are not limited to, advising centers, careers services, study skills workshops, writing center, and counseling services.

  1. Hang out with healthy people.

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Behaviors and attitudes are contagious. Success has a lot to do with who students choose to surround themselves with.

  1. Have a mentor.

A close mentoring relationship with a faculty member, advisor, resident hall director, or another staff member is an important part of college success. Mentors can provide career connections, encouragement, support, and advocacy – all things that college students need.

10. Use their voice.

Self-advocacy, self-expression, and self-actualization are different forms of using voice. The ability of students to realize their full potential is linked to their ability to communicate, be their authentic selves, pursue their passions, and express their feelings. Successful students  know themselves, know what they need, and can express their needs.