🎙️ The 4 HABITS of Successful Students

(And how to develop them…)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) and Ethar Al-Saraf (PhD) | April 2024

At Grad Coach, we’ve worked with thousands of students. Over the years, we’ve noticed a few simple but powerful habits that are common across top-performing students. In this episode, we share these insights. If you’re looking to up your game, this one is for you!

Habit #1: They Think (And Write) Critically

Critical thinking is a foundational skill that distinguishes top-tier students from the rest. Critical thinking is all about questioning—not just passively accepting information but actively evaluating arguments, sorting facts from opinions, and grounding your conclusions in solid evidence. Here are some practical tips to help you develop your critical thinking capacity:

  1. Question Everything: Approach every claim with scepticism. Whether it’s a scholarly article or a post on social media, ask the basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why?
  2. Analyse Arguments: Break down the information into premises and conclusions. Make sure each premise supports the conclusion logically and factually.
  3. Practice Regularly: Like any skill, critical thinking gets better with practice. Make it a part of your daily routine to analyze and critique information.

Habit #2: They Read Extensively

It’s no surprise that successful students are voracious readers. Reading consistently out of interest, not just obligation, broadens your understanding and enhances your ability to engage deeply with topics. Here are some practical tips to help you develop your “reading muscle”:

  1. Read Broadly and Deeply: Start with subjects that pique your interest and gradually expand your horizons.
  2. Engage with Different Perspectives: This not only increases your knowledge but also builds empathy and a well-rounded worldview.
  3. Use Resources: Leverage the wealth of free resources available online, including summaries, analyses, and discussions, to deepen your understanding of complex materials.

Habit #3: They Rely On Discipline, Not Motivation

The third key habit is about getting those ‘reps’ in, regardless of motivation levels. Success in academia—and in life—often comes down to consistent effort over time. Here are some practical tips to help you become more disciplined over time:

  1. Regular Practice: Whether it’s reading, writing, or problem-solving, make practice a regular part of your routine.
  2. Set Small, Achievable Goals: Break your tasks into smaller, manageable actions that you can consistently complete.
  3. Stop Waiting For Motivation: Motivation can ebb and flow, but discipline ensures you keep moving forward.

Habit #4: They Set Clear Goals & Action Plans

Successful students understand the importance of setting goals. But, they don’t just dream big; they plan meticulously and adjust their strategies based on real-world feedback and results. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when setting goals:

  1. Be Specific and Realistic: Ensure your goals are clear and achievable within your current constraints.
  2. Develop a Detailed Action Plan: Outline the steps you need to take daily, weekly, or monthly to progress towards your goals.
  3. Reflect and Adjust: Regularly review your progress and be willing to adjust your plans as necessary.

Key Takeaways

It’s useful to remember that the habits of successful students are not just about academic success; they are life skills that will serve you well beyond university walls. Critical thinking, consistent reading, disciplined practice, and smart goal setting are all part of a toolkit that will help you excel in any endeavour.

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