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Office of the Provost Teaching at WSU

The Keys to Cougar Success

1. Get organized, stay organized

Make sure you keep track of class deadlines, assignment due dates, and anything else coming up on your schedule.

Take action: Many successful students use day planners to keep track of class deadlines. Others use calendars on phones, tablets, or computers. The Guide app is an excellent resource for staying organized.

2. Know your syllabus and course materials

Your syllabus is the map and rulebook for your course, so get to know it well. Also make sure to read your textbooks and other reading materials. Many of these will contain important information that professors expect you to know, even if it isn’t discussed in class. Ask your professor if you have questions, or find a tutor to help you out.

Take action: Check out the Academic Success and Career Center’s online resources on reading for comprehension, including the Reading Strategies workshop. If reading a textbook seems difficult, try converting text to MP3 files. Listening to it can help you absorb the material.

3. Treat class like a job

Attend every day and grab a seat in the front. The idea that class attendance is optional in college is wrong! Barring an emergency, you should attend all of your classes, including during the first week of each semester. Class attendance is a big predictor of test scores and course grades.

Take action: Get to class and then grab a seat at the front. This makes it easier to focus on the lecture/discussion and avoid distractions. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, chances are several of your classmates don’t either.

4. Healthy body, healthy mind

Staying active and eating right will help you stay sharp. While studying is vital to academic success, it’s important to keep your body active and healthy as well. Mix in some movement to make your study time more effective and make sure to eat right. Also, get a good night’s sleep before morning classes. Sleep is critical for physical and emotional health.

Take action: The WSU Rec Center, the Chinook, and the Down Under Rec Center are brimming with activities, from yoga to weight training, rock climbing to swimming. There are numerous WSU clubs to get involved in, or start your own! Take a walk, go for a hike, toss a Frisbee, take a bike ride. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, there are resources available to help.

5. Take note(s)!

Write down the key points during lecture and review them after class. Once you’ve made it to class and have a prime seat near the front, you’ll want to take effective notes that you can study later. Many professors make their lecture notes available online, so be sure to ask. Also keep your own notes to review, and study for tests. For the record, studies have proven that taking notes by hand is more effective for knowledge retention than taking them on a laptop, tablet, or other device.

Take action: Not sure where to start with note-taking? Try these tips, or visit the Academic Success and Career Center, which offers coaching and skill development sessions in note taking.

6. Go beyond the classroom

Get involved outside of class through research, volunteering, and internships. Maximize your college education with hands-on experience. Participating in research, volunteering, and finding internships can help crystallize academic concepts, is great for your résumé, and can lead to further opportunities. Even first-year students can find opportunities like this!

Take action: Study abroad is a great way to enhance your education. Even first-year students can and should get involved. The Center for Civic Engagement is a great place to find opportunities. Your professors and academic advisors often have ideas about how you can get involved. Most students find this makes classroom material even more interesting and engaging, and it often leads to better grades.

Find even more tips for academic success to share with students here.


The CougarSuccess site has all sorts of resources and helpful advice for students. Send them to: