Learning the ropes of college can be a difficult task – but with practice comes near perfection. Kandice Solin shares five key lessons she has learned to master college learning (and life):

1. Balance is key to success in all areas of life

Balance is important in all aspects of life. There are many different facets of my life that have to fit together. I’m a student, an employee, a partner, a pet owner, a family member, and so much more. All the different aspects of my life have to fit together, revolve around and complement each other in order for me to succeed in all of them.

I can’t focus on one and ignore another – or all areas suffer. I have to be careful to dedicate the appropriate amount of time and energy to each thing or face potentially throwing everything else off.

2. Highlighters and Post-It notes are your friends

Use your text book! Highlight, take notes, and mark important pages. Follow along during class and highlight in your book. Write notes in the margin. Use Post-It notes to mark pages, add notes and to indicate important things you need to know. While your teacher is lecturing, follow along in your textbook. It helps you pay attention, highlights study, and usually gives you a preview for quizzes and tests.

3. Know your limits

Know what you can and cannot do. It is important that you only take on what you can complete. Taking more on than you can handle causes stress and can limit your ability to succeed in all aspects of your life. Everyone’s capabilities are different. Some people work full time and can manage 12 credits, while others who work full time can only manage eight. Recognize your limitations and work within your means to create a low-stress, healthy environment for you to succeed in. Pay attention to your personal needs!

4. Manage your time

It’s important to manage your time. Until college, I never had to do this, and took me several stressful years to figure out. How many hours a week did I need to set aside for my classes? I performed better in class when I was well rested so a regular sleep schedule was something I needed as well. How did I fit that in around my work schedule? What activities did I need to do for myself? I created a planner and laid out a flexible hour by hour schedule to figure out my personal, professional and academic needs.

Buy a planner, take notes on your time needs and write down what you are doing. If you are technology literate, use your Google Calendar, your Blackberry, etc. Utilize the tools that are out there for you, including your college’s student support services. Recognize that sometimes schedules need to change and don’t hold yourself to a rigid inflexible schedule. If you need an extra hour for homework then fit it in and take it from your personal time.

5. It’s okay to change your mind

Growing up I had more than one person ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (As if at five or ten years old I could say with any certainty that I knew what I wanted to do with my adult life.) In junior high and high school, instructors gave us aptitude tests to tell us what areas we excelled in to help us “shape our futures.”

All my life I’ve been pressured by family, instructors, and mentors to pick a career path and future. It was a lot of stress for a young person. How was I, someone who was still growing up and learning what I liked and disliked about the world, capable of making such a life-impacting decision? What if I chose wrong? At what age was I a grown up? How could I make up my mind about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I didn’t know when the rest of my life started?

The most important lesson college taught me was that it is ok to change my mind. It is ok to say “I think I want to be a teacher” and then realize that my passions lie elsewhere. It has showed me that there are whole disciplines of information out there waiting for me to stumble upon.

Kandice Solin is a Rasmussen College business degree student from the Brooklyn Park, MN college campus.