Learn the Secrets and Habits of Successful Students

Learn the Secrets and Habits of Successful Students

There is a creek near my house that ducks and geese love. (I love the ducks – the geese not so much.) In just a few weeks, their eggs will hatch and fuzzy ducklings will be everywhere. I love to watch the mama ducks and their babies float down the creek.

Have you ever just watched a duck swim? They look so serene floating on the surface. Man, they make it look so easy! But you know what? Under the surface, that duck is moving her feet SO fast. They don’t just float effortlessly – they work for it!


Just like those ducks, successful students seem to float through the school on a sea of smartness. It must be nice to be so smart! How do they get it all done? How do they ace tests and quizzes? I’ll let you in on a few secrets: they aren’t that much smarter than anyone else, but they do work their butts off for those good grades.

Most average or struggling students seem to think they can never improve or could never be a top student. They are stuck in a fixed mindset – that they have intellectual limits that won’t allow them to improve academically. That’s just WRONG! We know the brain can get stronger, just like a muscle. You can get “smarter” and you can learn how to work more productively.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”You can get “smarter” and you can learn to work more productively.” quote=”You can get “smarter” and you can learn to work more productively.”]

I’ve taught a LOT of kids over the years. The difference between successful and struggling students is rarely intelligence. Successful students tend to have a number of habits that contribute to their academic success. The great thing about that – other people can acquire these habits and become successful themselves.

study skills

6 Habits of Successful Students


Top performing students have their stuff together. Literally. Notebook? Check. Planner? Check. Paper and pen? Check and check. Why is this important? They always have the tools to complete the job. When they are ready to write down an assignment or to take notes, they don’t lose time (or information) searching for items or borrowing them from someone else. If you want to be more successful in school, this is also an EASY way to up your game.

For more help on student organization, check out the following posts:


School is a top priority for successful students and they are willing to work for those grades. Top students usually have a long-term goal they are working toward – dream college, career, etc. They have their eyes on the prize.  To reach that prize, top students set a series of short-term goals. These goals may change month-to-month or semester-to-semester, but these shorter goals always support the long-term goal.

For more help on setting goals, check out this post on SMART Strategies to Jumpstart your Motivation

Good Note Taking

The fact that I even have to mention this one drives me nuts. So many kids aren’t willing to do the most basic act of a student- take notes. Yes, it’s convenient if the teacher just gives you a hand-out. But guess what? That’s not how you learn!

You learn by physically writing information down on paper, by deciding what information is the most important, and paraphrasing the teacher’s words. Also, my top students mostly use Cornell notes (of their own volition!) Cornell notes are great for review later.

For more help on taking notes, check out the following blog posts:

Asking for help

My most successful students were willing to ask for help. If they don’t understand an assignment, they ask before or after class or (gasp!) e-mail the teacher. If they need help with a concept, they stay after school for assistance.

Many kids struggle, but never go to the expert (the teacher) for assistance. Or they talk the talk about staying after school, but never come. Or come the day before the test. Hint: that’s too late. Show up early. Show up often.


While it would be great to just hear information and know it for all time, our brains don’t work that way. You need to see and interact with information multiple times to be able to understand and also recall that information later. Looking over your notes the night before a test just won’t cut it. You should be studying for at least ONE week before the test. And you should be using multiple study strategies to review.

For more help on study techniques, check out the following posts:

Strong Work Ethic

My successful students always had something in common – they completed all their dang work. Every homework assignment, every lab report, every essay, every time. The assignments weren’t always perfect and sometimes they weren’t even that good, but they were handed in. Mediocre work will beat another student’s empty page every single time.

Other students seemed shocked by the volume of work top students can crank out. However, by high school, most high performers have been doing this for years. They have all the routines down that enable them to complete the work. They write all assignments down in their planner. They know all their other commitments so they can budget their time accordingly. They are willing to give up free time in order to finish assignments. They have a long-term goal that keeps them focused when they would rather watch TV. Successful students’ habits build on one another over time.

Anyone can improve their academic performance without a brain transplant. It’s about organization, motivation, and work above all else.

study skills

After reading this, what changes are you going to make? Let me know in the comments below! 

Related Posts: Study Techniques Every Student Should Know, How to Start the School Year Off Right, Learn How to Improve Your Study Skills

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