Tips for Early Success



Importance of Setting Goals

Think of having a successful college career like competing in a race. The better your start, the better your chances of winning. Just as it is difficult to win a race if you start slowly, it is extremely difficult to improve your grades, and your chances of being successful in college, if you have to play “catch-up”.


One of the best ways to get off to a fast start is to set goals. Setting goals means identifying where you want to be at the end of your college career and figuring out the best path for you to reach that destination. Most importantly, make sure that your goals fit your academic and career paths, your values, and abilities.


What are things to consider when setting your goals?

  • Put them on paper and post them where you can see them everyday! Seeing them on paper will help keep you on track.
  • Develop short-range and long-range goals. Take your goal-setting process in chunks. How do you want to complete the semester? How do you want to complete the academic year? What do you want your professors, classmates, peers, and family to say about you by the time you receive your SUNO degree? You may even want to develop week-by-week goals. It’s up to you!
  • What tools do you need? We are confident that your SUNO professors will provide you with the knowledge you need to be successful, but what else will you need? You may need tutoring to manage a class. Maybe becoming part of a student group or network will help. The answer may be getting a faculty or staff mentor to help you go from “point A to point B”.


Making It Happen in the Classroom

  1. Make your calendar your friend. Record your class times, study group times, lecture times, and other academic dates and times of note in your calendar as soon as you get them.
  2. Know your professors and course information. Write down your professors’ names, their office hours, and all of your course information.
  3. Prepare for your classes. Go over the assigned material in order to be prepared for class discussions. Professors take note of students who do their assignments. In other words, DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
  4. Get to class early and stay until the end. Sometimes professors engage students in discussion before their classes. This may be an opportunity to learn information that may not be covered in a lecture. It also gives the professor an opportunity to learn your name in order to build a healthy student/teacher relationship. Packing your stuff and leaving early, however, is disruptive and rude to both the professor and your classmates. You will also run the risk of missing critical assignment information. If you must exit the classroom, leave quietly.
  5. Give your instructors your undivided attention. It is much easier to retain information if you are attentive. Professors tend to work better with students who make every effort to pay attention. Most importantly, NEVER answer your cell phone or text in class. It is disrespectful, and sends a clear message to the instructor that you have no interest in the material. If you don’t think paying attention is important, why should the professor think your getting a good grade is important?
  6. Sit in the “T”. Did you know that studies show that students who sit in front of classes or in the middle seats tend to get better grades? It strengthen the lines of communication, thereby giving you a better chance to understand and appreciate the course work.
  7. Communicate with your professors. Ask questions in class, even if you feel you should know the answer. You never know who else has the same question. Feel free to respectfully voice your opinions in classes if you disagree with your professors. Sometimes, professors want their students to give them a healthy debate! If your professor does not have time take questions during class, don’t get offended. Ask him or her if she or he is available to address your questions or concerns during office hours.
  8. Take advantage of office hours. Professors universally agree that students do not use office hours enough. Office hours present a great opportunity for you to get to know the professor better, and for him or her to get to know you. This could come in really handy when you need career advice or letters of recommendation.
  9. Be organized. Know what you need before you arrive to class. Professors take note of students who are prepared.
  10. Be a problem solver. If you receive a grade that you feel the need to dispute, approach your professor with the intent to understand why you received the grade. Be prepared to discuss his or her grading process, rather than accuse the professor of wrongdoing. If you are not satisfied with the professor’s answers, find out the proper process to appeal your grade(s).
  11. Get to know your classmates. Remember, you are all in this together. Get names, numbers, email addresses, and even their social network information (if they have profiles). Remember that a social network, such as Facebook, is a good place to schedule study sessions or remind your classmates of academic events to keep everyone ahead of the game.
  12. Hold on to your assignments and exams. Keep them in case you want to appeal your grades. Some people even keep this information as reference tools when they get into their careers.


Doing Successful Assignments

  • Know, understand, and follow the directions. If your professor provided written instructions, keep them and refer to them frequently. Check the completed assignment against the instructions before you turn it in. If your professor provided oral instructions, write them down.  If you think you might have missed something, check it out during office hours.
  • Turn your assingments in on time. It is best to have it done the day before it is due. That way, you can still have a friend deliver the homework on time even if you have some kind of emergency the next day.
  • If you have a legitimate emergency, contact the instructor right away. Identify yourself, then explain the situation and find out what, if anything, you should do. Dealing with late work is an inconvenience for professors, so be polite and courteous.
  • Identify yourself. In some prominent location on the assignment, indicate your name, the date of the assignment, the course name and number, and the professor’s name.
  • Follow up. Be sure to get the homework back from the instructor. Study it to find out what you need to work on. If you don’t understand something, remember office hours!
  • Be sure you understand your score or grade. If you don’t, schedule an appointment with your professor during office hours. Politely ask for an explanation of why an answer you think is correct is incorrect (in fact, this is an important thing to do to avoid making the same mistake on the next assignment).


Academic Materials

Make sure that you have these tools, besides your textbooks, notebooks and writing instruments, to serve as your basic academic resources:

  • Undergraduate catalog – This contains the rules, policies, procedures, course information, and faculty information for Southern University at New Orleans.
  • Course syllabi – The assignment and test schedules, textbook name(s), professors’ names and contact information, and classroom tools are located on this critical document.
  • Course supplies – You may need additional supplies for your classes. Make sure you know what else you need besides your textbook(s).
  • Recording device – Check with your professors to find out who allows recording devices in their classes. This will save you lots of time, ink, and paper.


Managing Technology

  1. Save, make back-ups on external drives or CDs, and print hard copies of your work.
  2. Be sure to have whatever document software is supported by the SUNO Information Technology Center, and learn how to use it. Check Blackboard to find out if there are classes to help students how to learn to use required software.
  3. Check the formatting guidelines for your assignments. Some professors are very specific about how they want their assignments to be completed. Also, know the versions of software that your professor will use. Should you electronically submit an assignment that is not compatible, your professor will not be able to view it and grade it.
  4. Plan your work schedule to allow for technical difficulties. Students often have problems finding printers, computer screens freeze, networks crash, and computers catch viruses all the time. Print papers out at least 24 hours before they are due to ensure smooth delivery of your assignment.
  5. Make sure that you have your professor’s correct email address. Although the SUNO email format for faculty and staff is first initial, last name at SUNO dot edu, some professors’ last names are not completely spelled out in their email addresses. Also, use your SUNO email address. Sending assignments from free email accounts (i.e. Yahoo!, Gmail, or MSN) may cause your assignments to go to your professors’ junk email folders.
  6. There is no doubt that the internet makes life a lot easier, but don’t attempt to use it as a one-stop-research-shop. The purpose of research is to use various sources of information to study a subject.
  7. Use as a resource. Our web team is constantly at work improving the University web site, but it should be the first place you stop to gather critical pieces of information and resources. Bookmark the site to monitor faculty contact information, the University’s academic calendar, the events calendar, handbooks, etc. Should you find information missing, please feel free to contact the Information Technology Center to address your concerns.
  8. Be careful of the web sites you access. Evaluate web sites with care, and avoid the pitfall of thinking that the web is a legitimate substitute for the campus library.


Know Your Advisor . . . And Listen

  • Find out who your advisor is.  Know his or her name and office location.  Find out the best way to make appointments to see your advisor.
  • Know what your advisor is responsible for. One advisor helps you in your introduction to SUNO. This advisor helps you get off to a fast start. Another advisor, your academic advisor, helps you select your most appropriate courses and even your career options.
  • Meet with your academic advisor at least once per semester. He or she will steer you in a productive direction on your way to graduation.
  • Do your homework before you meet with your academic advisor.  Bring a catalog, a schedule of classes, a current transcript that includes the courses you’re taking that semester, and a couple of plans for your coursework the following semester. Also make a list of any questions you have about your requirements, academic progress, etc. Your being prepared will make the advisement process go a lot smoother.
  • Follow your advisor’s advice. Your advisor understand the system, and has been there and done that.


Success Outside of the Classroom

  1. Live healthy. In order to maintain an active mind, eat healthy meals and get some exercise. Use the beautiful scenery of Lake Pontchartrain to go for a daily 30-minute walk after your classes.
  2. Develop healthy relationships with your SUNO family. Associate with students who are serious about their academic success. Their dedication to graduating at the top of the class, and having successful careers puts you in company with winners. Your associations will not always go smoothly. Should you develop conflicts with schoolmates, find healthy ways to resolve your conflicts. Southern University at New Orleans has a great counselor who can help you make productive decisions in dealing with other students, faculty, and staff.
  3. Adopt healthy financial habits. Everyone struggles with money at some point, especially in college. Learn to budget, spend your money wisely, and save your precious dollars.
  4. Consider joining a student organization that will help you excel in the classroom or in your career. Student life is an important component of college success. Not only do employers want to know that you made great grades, they also want to know that you have developed leadership skills through group activities. Utilize one of the University’s student organizations to supplement your classroom learning to build your college resume.