Simply "going to school" doesn't guarantee a college degree and a good job after graduation. For the most successful outcomes, career college students should take advantage of all of the support their college provides, and strive to get the most out of every moment on campus. As a career college, you have a unique opportunity to provide your students with advice upon signing enrollment papers. Relaying to your students the value of self-discipline, persistence, and a great attitude can help ensure a rewarding career college experience. Share with students the following seven successful habits that they can use as a guide to maximize their college experience.

1. Be Proactive

Your college serves as an academic and hands-on environment designed to cultivate job placement opportunities. It isn't reserved exclusively for academics and career training; college is also a place for active job preparation. The sooner that begins, the better off you will be. Successful students who transition smoothly from college into a career don't put off the job-searching process until their last semester or after graduation. Optimize college as the time and place for establishing real-world job experience and career connections with local companies in your chosen field.

Go beyond the basic classroom training by taking advantage of internships and apprenticeships, as well as any mentorship programs for personal educational advice and career guidance. An internship is a gateway to professional work and even acts as an assessment of potential recruits. Internships offer out-of-the-classroom work experience and provide a much-needed edge against other potential candidates. During an apprenticeship, a student apprentice is paid on-the-job while still earning professional qualification. Internships and apprenticeships are also a time for when you can experiment with different trades to ensure you're choosing the right career.1

2. Envision End Success

Students who can visualize their success beyond college manifest a goal attainable enough to achieve. Once you can envision a goal, work with a school professional or mentor to identify the detailed steps to get there. Each completed step becomes a victory, a confidence booster to take on to the next endeavor. As each step is accomplished, you'll become more dedicated to classroom studies and trade mastery.

Without an end goal and a well-developed, actionable plan for how to attain it, motivation can be easily lost. Distractions, setbacks or disinterest slow momentum. Tackling small tasks and conquering major challenges along the way make you closer and closer to reaching your ultimate objective, and a mentor or role model can help you along the way. Anyone can become an ambitious and tenacious go-getter, as long as you can plan for and envision the end success.

3. Make School a Top Priority

Many students enrolled in post-secondary education are nontraditional learners who have more responsibilities than just earning high grades. Nontraditional learners typically juggle a job, family demands and other obligations, and these demands can derail an individual's academic journey. Nontraditional learners who are at risk for leaving school because of outside responsibilities require ongoing support, and it's vital to view education as non-negotiable.

If this sounds like you, prioritize school as your top focus and understand that education creates long-term opportunity for an overall better quality of life. Support from approachable school professionals is essential, and don't be afraid to seek it out. Balance can also help mitigate the various pressures that can debilitate any progress. Participate in a mentorship program or visit a counseling center where you can communicate openly and learn coping mechanisms, including tools and strategies for maintaining balance and adopting effective time management.

4. Leverage Resources

Seeking out and using college resources can have a substantial effect on student performance and the college experience, especially for first-generation students (college students whose parents don't have a four-year degree). The study "Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap: A Difference-Education Intervention Improves First-Generation Students' Academic Performance and All Students' College Transition," produced by experts from Northwestern and Stanford University, found that by increasing students' tendency to use college resources, a student ultimately experiences less stress and anxiety. The college-life adjustment improves, and academic and social engagement increases.

The study explored how a "different-education intervention" (an intervention educating first-generation students about how diverse backgrounds affect and shape college experiences) provide first-generation students with better student outcomes. This one-hour intervention taught students that differing backgrounds matter in college. Yet, tools and resources can help them feel more comfortable, overcome background-specific obstacles and succeed. As a result, students transitioned more easily into college. End-of-year grade point averages improved and the social-class achievement gap between first-generation students and continuing-generation students (students who have at least one parent with a four-year degree) was reduced by 63 percent. Nontraditional learners who understand their unique educational experience and reach out to school professionals as a support system have a higher likelihood of positive psychological outcomes and academic performances. Embrace your background and never hesitate to knock on a counselor's door or send an email to your instructor.2

5. Adapt & Learn Soft Skills

First-generation students and nontraditional learners can have trouble acclimating to college life because of unique circumstances. Adaption is an essential soft skill for adjusting to a college learning environment. Learn to possess and execute these soft skills to not only adapt to college life and graduate, but to enter the workforce and succeed in a career. Bradford Holmes, a professional SAT and Latin tutor for Varsity Tutors, identifies the following soft skills as paramount for a positive college experience:3

  • Collaboration: Students will have to learn how to work in a group setting academically and professionally. Graduating from college and working at a job requires an individual who knows how to work independently and dependently in an efficient and appropriate manner. Take advantage of collaborative opportunities such as group projects, athletics and even team-based extracurricular activities.
  • Interpersonal Communication: Basic communication skills (such as holding a conversation, asking questions, actively listening and maintaining eye contact) can turn a college student into a high-quality attractive job candidate, especially during the interview process. Meeting with instructors and engaging with your peers face-to-face can develop interpersonal skills and communication abilities.
  • Problem-Solving: Outside of an academic environment, you won't always have an instructor or career counselor to help with an unexpected challenge at a job. Learning how to handle problems and find creative solutions during college can help you prepare for overcoming problems in your professional future. Challenge yourself to new pursuits that put you outside of your comfort zone, helping you experience and overcome uncomfortable situations.

6. Synergize

A college community is a powerful network. This network of peers, mentors, instructors, counselors and administrators helps students grow both personally and toward a professional future. Friendships with classmates can keep you inspired, engaged and even competitive. Peers who face similar challenges and understand your experiences creates good emotional support.

Also, connect with faculty, follow their guidance and use them as references while applying to jobs. To make contacts in your chosen field, create a LinkedIn profile, visit the career services office and join a professional development group or industry-specific organization. Build a relationship with a role model, such as a professor or family member, who will help you stay on track to set and achieve your goals.4

7. Sharpen the Saw

According to Stephen R. Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," "sharpening the saw" means to preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have-yourself. Sharpen your saw by truly embracing all that you have to offer. Accept and believe in your talent and skills. Once you realize you have something great to offer, you have the foundation to fully engage in school, from online coursework to in-classroom and hands-on training. If you're stuck, work with a mentor or a school counselor to determine your motivators and values. Focus on these to stay on pace for further self-improvement. Commitment and action work in tandem to produce results and get you where you want to be.5,6

How do you see these skills being developed and applied by students today?

Resources: Photo(1) Generation i (2) Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap: A Difference-Education Intervention Improves First-Generation Students' Academic Performance and All Students' College Transition (3) Hone the Top 5 Soft Skills Every College Student Needs (4) 6 Things You Must Do To Get Your First Job After College (5) Sharpen Your Saw: Habit No. 7 of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (6)