BOONE, N.C. — Student success shows up both inside — and outside — the classroom at Appalachian State University. Below, several students share their tips for excelling academically and making the best of their overall Mountaineer experience.
These students have all achieved strong grade-point averages, and most have been awarded scholarships during their college careers. They hold leadership roles in clubs and organizations, and participate in activities to develop professional skills and to contribute to the campus and local communities.
Some of their strategies for success:
- 1) Have a front-row mentality.
Building strong connections with faculty tops the list of advice from students.
Aidan Keaveney, a junior double majoring in physics-applied physics and mathematics, said the top resource for him at App State has been his relationships with faculty.
“Faculty are interested in working with students,” he said. “If you are open with your instructors about what you are interested in, who you are and what you are capable of, you never know what kinds of opportunities will come your way.”
Students described how faculty mentored and guided them in career exploration, research projects and internship opportunities — and provided help in classroom assignments as well.
“Have a front-row mentality,” advised Jordan Dennison '21, a graduate student in App State's reading education program who earned her Bachelor of Science in elementary education in December 2021. “Never be afraid to ask questions. Raise your hand and ask when something doesn’t make sense.”
- 2) Keep a calendar.
Whether using a big desk calendar, a planner, sticky notes or an electronic organizer — almost every successful student stressed the importance of blocking out time for classes, study sessions, club meetings and other activities.
Malikia Cherubala, a junior majoring in community and regional planning, said she breaks up large assignments into steps and marks deadlines on her calendar. “That way things don’t pile up,” she said.
Senior Emily Broyles, a communication, journalism major with a Spanish minor, said she uses a detailed agenda to schedule time blocks for each day, marking off activities and tasks when completed.
Some students block off time for themselves on their calendars — scheduling a few hours to go for a hike, drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or read a book for enjoyment.
“Don’t spread yourself too thin,” cautioned Malcolm Vaughn, a sophomore majoring in music education-choral music education. “Prioritize the things that will give you the most experience or the most enjoyment.”
- 3) Get involved outside the classroom.
Join a club, volunteer and participate in professional organizations. Makayla Wilkins ’21, who is pursuing her Master of Science in applied data analytics at App State, advises a balance of social time and study time. “Get involved with two clubs: one geared toward your program of study, and one toward something fun and recreational,” she said.
“Getting involved in clubs and organizations that are tied to my major helps me relate what I’m learning in the classroom to real-life experiences,” said Hannah Ross '21, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in management from App State in December 2021.
Involvement in professional organizations helped Ross develop leadership skills, refine her career goals and build relationships within her industry, she said.
Many students recommended volunteering on campus and in the community as a way to garner new perspectives, gain practical experience and give back to those in need.
- 4) Study with friends.
Almost all of the students cited their support system of friends as important for emotional support, relieving burnout, acting as “study buddies” and making their lives more enjoyable overall.
Ross said when she first came to App State, she was a member of a Residential Learning Community and formed friendships within her classes and clubs. She said, “Studying is hard, but if you do it with your friends, it makes everything fun.”
Broyles said she is energized when studying alongside peers — “even if everyone is doing their own thing.” She schedules study time with friends in App State’s Summit Trail Solarium or on Sanford Mall.
- 5) Be kind to yourself.
Broyles advised students not to be discouraged by setbacks. During her junior year, Broyles said she felt overwhelmed and ended up dropping a course. “For my personal well-being and overall success, it was best for me to lighten my schedule and come back to the class in my senior year,” she shared.
All of the students recommend taking time to reset, relax and take “mental health breaks.”
Cherubala said, “Taking care of myself is important — because that is what allows me to do well.”
Keaveney emphasized a good night’s rest. “Get your sleep,” he said. “All-nighters are not helpful. You’ll be worse at what you do.”
- 6) Use university resources.
Cherubala said the Writing Center has been very helpful to her. “Whether it is a scientific report or an English literature paper, they have people who can assist with every category,” she said. Consultants at the center can help with the entire writing process, from idea generation to the finished product.
Students also emphasized the importance of being aware of and using the tools and resources available to combat stress, burnout and mental fatigue. “Mental health is extremely important for academic success,” said Alexis Loveland, a senior music performance major.
- 7) Keep your eye on the prize.
The students who were interviewed suggested setting long-term goals.
“When you have in mind what your end goal is — what you want to do when you graduate — it helps keep you motivated,” Ross said.
Vaughn acknowledged that some incoming students may not know what they want to do when they graduate. “That’s OK,” he said. “Just set a time frame for when you want to be more sure of your career goals, and use your time to explore options.”
“Care about your work, care about your classes and care about your learning and level of production,” said Isaac Wood, a senior interior design major. “We are here to learn, develop and push ourselves — so caring about these concepts will go a long way in making you a better student, professional and person.”
Goals can change along the way, said Wilkins, who started at App State in 2013. She was not successful initially and twice had to step out. She took some classes at a community college and worked a few different jobs to discover new interests and refine her goals.
After returning to App State, she earned a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management in spring 2021 and is now pursuing her master’s degree at App State.
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.