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Achieving Academic and Career Success

Tom G. Stevens PhD
Psychologist/Professor Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach
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Achieving Academic and Career Success



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Academic success help topics are included in the boxes above.  Click on the box to go to that help link.  Academic success includes high learning, high grades, and high achievement of degree objectives, but it also includes becoming the kind of person that can make a contribution to others and to society, and can lead a healthy, happy life.

Knowledge can help give you the basic values, beliefs, and skills that you need to achieve these goals.  Learning how to learn more efficiently and effectively can help you in all your pursuits of a better life, because it can help you gain the knowledge you need to be successful.

Academic Success Factors  Following is a list of some of the major factors affecting academic success or failure. Each is linked to self-help materials on this website.

  • LEARNING SKILLS  How efficiently you read, study, solve problems, and learn, and how well you remember and can use that knowledge.
    Go to:

  • STUDY/WORK HABITS  Giving proper time and energy to your studies and various "tricks" to help you study more effectively.
    Go to:  the above Learning Skills reference, the Time-Management reference, and see some of the Internet links below.

  • TIME MANAGEMENT  Setting goals for each area of your life, prioritizing, managing your time and life effectively, reserving proper time for your academic pursuits, and sticking to your system.
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  • Your RELATED ACADEMIC BACKGROUND (taking courses with the proper prerequisites, how well you have learned relevant content in the past that can help you with future courses).
    Go to:  Consult with your university academic advisors, major department advisors, and try to find "mentor" faculty who teach in areas similar to your interest.  In many universities you can seek appointments with them even if you are not in their class or their official advisee. Students often to not realize that these professors care about their students, especially students with interests in their area of expertise.

  • CONCENTRATION/FOCUS Ability to concentrate on your studies and get involved in them to a high degree versus casual, uninvolved study.
    Go to:

  • CLEAR and STRONG ACADEMIC GOALS Having clear learning and academic goals such as really wanting to complete a degree and finish a certain major, wanting to make high grades or go to graduate school, enjoying the process of learning, etc. Thoroughly re-examining your life values, goals, interests, and abilities and matching them to majors and careers that you decide will maximize your chance for a happy, successful career and life is one of the best ways to improve your academic motivation.  Many students have gone from low motivation and failure to high motivation and success after establishing clear university and career goals.
    Go to:

  • SELF-MOTIVATION and SELF-CONTROL Wanting to be successful and meet your goals; having friends, family, and others who reinforce your academic pursuits; being a highly motivated person in general; etc. Also, the ability to keep control over your own life and factors that may cause you to drift from your goals.
    Go to:

  • WRITING HELP. It is impossible to succeed in college (and most professional careers) without being able to write well.  Most universities will not grant a degree without adequate writing skills.  For more help,
    Go to:

  • READING HELP.  Understanding and remembering what you read in your textbooks, etc. is crucial for academic success and even correlates with success in many careers. For help,
    Go to:   



The Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ) measures many factors which affect academic success.  In fact assessing and successfully predicting academic and career success was one of the major design goals of SHAQ.  Research has shown that SHAQ's items and scales do significantly correlate with Grade Point Average and Academic Attainment.  SHAQ also has a special section for helping you choose a major.  Taking either the Academic parts or all of SHAQ is a good way to find out what some of your strengths and needs are in the above and other factors related to academic and career success.
Go to:   Go to:



See if your university has a Learning Assistance Center, a Math Assistance Center, a Writing Center, an English as a Second Language (ESL) Center, a Science or Engineering Assistance Center, a Counseling Center, a Disabled Student Services Center,  or other center that may give you special help that fits your special needs.  Identify one or more faculty, advisors, or counselors who might serve as informal mentors to you.  Let them take a personal interest in your academic success, they are caring people who delight in helping students succeed when they see the student really cares about their degree and academic success.  They may not feel motivated to help someone they perceive as not taking their studies seriously.  If you are ready to turn over a new leaf, tell them.


IS ACADEMIC PROBATION AN ISSUE?  If so, one of your first steps should be to find out exactly what grades it takes to either avoid probation or get off of probation.  Talk with a knowledgeable academic advisor who can explain how the system works at your university.  Usually Grade Point Average (GPA) or Grade Points (GP) are used to set the criteria and measure progress toward good academic standing.  Understanding Grade Points and how to make up GP deficiencies can be very confusing; yet many universities use this type of measure to determine probation status.  If you do not make certain progress toward getting off of probation within a limited time, most universities will disqualify from the university.  Following are a few tips related to avoiding or getting off of academic probation and academic disqualification.

  • Learn how to calculate GPA, GPs, and how many courses at what grades you need to avoid or get off of probation for the next few semesters/quarters.
    Go to:
  • If you are concerned about the possibility of academic disqualification/dismissal, find out what you can do to 1. get reinstated if you are dismissed, and 2. find out how you could take acceptable classes to bring your GPA/GPs to a level where the university might reinstate you. Some institutions will allow you to keep taking some classes through their extended education program. If you are afraid of being disqualified, check this out.
  • Do a brutally honest self-assessment to discover the real causes of your academic problems. Then make a commitment and take action.  Assess yourself on the academic success factors above, and complete the SHAQ questionnaire online.  Talk to people who are knowledgeable and can give you honest feedback.  Then find out what you can do to improve you situation and make a commitment to do it!  You can do it if you really, really want to and you make a firm commitment over time to do so!  Many others have done so before you.

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Check out the LINKS TO THE MORE SPECIFIC AREAS ABOVE to learn more about areas that you think you may need help in.  If you have not taken our CARES assessment, do it.  Also, check out the links below.

 Comprehensive Academic and College Success Links

***First  Year Experience Site at the University of South Carolina--nationally known program


*** Penn State University Academic Success Website.  An excellent resource for many academic success topics.


***Virtual Pamphlet Collection of the University of Chicago
Free online pamphlets about relationships and many other topics written by psychologists and other counselors from University Counseling Centers across U.S.A.

***Wadsworth Publishing Co. website for personal and academic success

***McGraw-Hill publisher website has academic success help

***Oncourse Skip Downing is Professor of English and Coordinator of Student Academic Success and Learning Communities at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC). He is an international consultant in the field of faculty development and student success strategies, and is the author of On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life published by Houghton Mifflin. His website.

**Houghton Mifflin Publishers website.  Publishes college academic success-related books.

**The College Survival Guide: Hints and References to Aid College Students
Bruce M. Rowe, Los Angeles Pierce College

**Ten Tips You Need to Survive College

* Glencoe/McGraw-Hill publishers site for postsecondary education--only a catalog.  

*CLEP is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program in the United States today.  What is CLEP?  


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The BOOK (free download): Go to Contents of Dr. Stevens'  book,  You Can Choose To Be Happy: "Rise Above" Anxiety, Anger, and Depression.

FREE SELF-HELP materials available on this web site (click here to see list)  

  How to ORDER You Can Choose To Be Happy  

Success and Happiness Attributes Questionnaire (SHAQ)  to assess self on many factors  including HQ-Happiness Quotient 

Email feedback to Dr. Stevens I welcome your comments about my web site or any of its contents.           

Self-Help and other resources on this website (and site map)

Web site created and maintained by: Tom G. Stevens PhD Psychologist-Faculty Emeritus,
California State University, Long Beach Counseling and Psychological Services.
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