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Do College Right with Accountability (8 Tips)

by Scot Chadwick

Going to college brings many opportunities for new experiences and new friendships. But many of your familiar support structures might be changing. What can you do to establish accountability in college, and why does it matter?

Why You Need Accountability in College

You are responsible for your choices and actions. In the various situations you face when in college, you can distinguish yourself both positively and negatively by what you decide to do. You are also accountable to others—liable to give an account of your choices and actions. Accountability starts with you, but it doesn’t end with you.

Accountability comes through relationships with other people. This might be the first time you are away from those that likely know you best—your parents and siblings. In college, you can relate to many different types of people, from your professors to your roommates.

Cultivate strategically transparent conversations with others to help you maintain your integrity, purity, and overall success. Here are some specific ways you can enjoy the benefits of accountability during this formative season of life.

1. Know Your Professors

Your professors play a big part in your college experience. They can even affect the rest of your life, possibly as research associates, career advisors, and friends. So, get to know your professors!

Quizzes and exams are accountability tools to help you and your professor gauge how well you know the subject matter.

Start by attending classes in person (even if you could attend over video), arriving early, and staying to the end. Introduce yourself to them at the beginning of the term. If you regularly sit toward the front of the room, you can minimize distractions while also becoming a familiar face to your instructors. Ask questions and participate in class discussions if you have something to say. Recognize that quizzes and exams are accountability tools to help you and your professor gauge how well you know the subject matter.

Visit each of your professors in their offices a few times each term. Find out what they look for in a good student. If you have questions about an assignment or upcoming test, ask your professor for clarification. If necessary, explore what you could do to raise your grade in the class. Your class syllabus should identify how you can contact them, including their phone number, email address, and office location. Building a relationship with your instructors can motivate you to do your coursework successfully.

2. Work with Academic Aides

Get to know your department secretaries for help, tips, and general counsel. These administrative assistants can offer considerable benefits to you as you navigate assignments, deadlines, and other issues. Avoid making excuses or asking for exceptions, but probe for reasonable ways to succeed. They know the system well, so maximize your college experience by working carefully with them.

Also, coordinate with your academic advisor to help you decide on a major and then map out the courses you need to graduate. You can avoid obstacles and disappointments in your studies by reviewing your course schedule with them. Ask for their expert opinion on how you can get the most out of your program.

One goal of attending college should be to prepare for your working life. Talk to the career center of your school for help deciding on a particular major, locating internships, and finding employment opportunities both during and after your college studies. They can help you make wise choices and plan an appropriate course of action to get prepared for your desired vocation.

One goal of attending college should be to prepare for your working life.

You should also befriend students who are ahead of you in your studies. You can learn tips on what to do and what to avoid. You might be able to buy or borrow some books from them, and you could find someone to tutor you in a class. (You could also ask your professor or department secretary for referrals to suitable tutors.)

Consider establishing a study partner from each of your courses. You can share notes, prepare for upcoming tests, and encourage one another to finish assignments on time. You could also review each other’s papers and other projects to improve your performance and identify any errors or omissions. You might even find or form a study group with two or three other students to help you all succeed in your classes.

3. Live at Peace with Other Students

Your relationships with your roommates also contain elements of accountability. Observing one another, talking with one another, challenging one another, solving problems together—all of these are opportunities for you to grow. Promote a relationship with your roommates and your resident assistant (RA).

Be friendly with others but choose your friends wisely.

Respect one another by doing your laundry and keeping your room tidy. Also, honor any curfew and quiet hours to help you and your fellow students to study, relax, and sleep in peace. When you have troubles with one another, pinpoint the root issue, identify possible solutions, and come to an agreement that you all can accept.

Look for ways to encourage and serve other students. You are all in a new environment and away from home in some way. Be friendly with others but choose your friends wisely. Take your time to develop close relationships and ask your friends to help you identify any issues in your life that you might not recognize.

Your school likely also offers counseling services for the whole student body. They are there to help you and your fellow students. So, take advantage of their care and counsel as you face any challenging issues during your college experience.

4. Communicate with Your Loved Ones

Remember to communicate with your family and friends back home! Your parents love you and want you to succeed, so share your happenings with them. Consider including your parents in any communication from the school, including financial and academic matters. You should also think about using an accountability software on your devices to share with your parents or other trusted partners how and when you are using your technology.

Find a good church near your college and actively participate in its meetings. Be accountable to the leaders and members of the church so they can share the good times and the bad times with you. You need the steady encouragement of sound biblical teaching and the fellowship that a church provides.

5. Guard Your Time

You are principally in charge of your hours and days. So, you are accountable for how you use your time. What can you do to use your time responsibly?

Build consistency in your daily habits so that you will have margin to do spontaneous things.

Know what time it is by carrying a watch or other timepiece. And keep a calendar of events whether on paper, online, or some combination of the two. Here are some dates and times you might want to note in your planner:

  • Class times
  • Mealtimes
  • Assignment deadlines
  • Tests
  • Dorm events
  • Final day to add or drop a class
  • Due dates for bills
  • Work schedule
  • Class holidays
  • Registration for the next term
  • Special events

Practice responsible time management so you will avoid being surprised by deadlines or miss out on other important events. When in doubt, write it down. Build consistency in your daily habits so that you will have margin to do spontaneous things.

College life affords you many opportunities to try new experiences outside of the classroom like clubs, choirs, bands, teams, and more. But be careful of what you commit to and avoid overextending yourself. Make your studies your priority and fit in other things appropriately.

6. Protect Your Health

Take care to get adequate sleep, eat well, and engage in some physical activity each day. Sleep is an essential part of your day because it helps your mental sharpness and alertness while also maintaining your immunity and ability to process new information. While you might regard sleep as a luxury, you will likely have better performance by getting at least six hours of sleep each night.

Take care to monitor your weight and overall nutrition when you are assembling your meals. You will encounter enormous amounts of processed foods that taste good and are convenient, but they can add weight to your body and leave you feeling bad. Watch what you eat, how much you eat, and how often you eat.

Also, remember to get some physical activity each day. Walking or biking to class helps you expend energy. Your school might also have an exercise center for students. Use it! Make a habit of alternating strength training and cardiovascular exercise to maintain your fitness.

7. Govern Your Money

Up to this point in your life, your parents have likely worked closely with you to manage your income and expenses. You would be wise to continue getting their counsel as you begin to make financial decisions that can affect your life for years and even decades to come.

Work closely with your parents and others that you trust to plan how you will pay for your complete college education.

Having your parents’ names on your checking account, for example, enables them to monitor your spending habits and talk with you about any concerns they have. Speak to your parents or other trusted counselors if you have any concerns about your school bill, apartment lease, or other bills. Be careful not to allow money issues to cause anxiety.

Financial coach Dave Ramsey often laments the myth, “You can’t be a student without a student loan.” Your financial aid package might include scholarships, grants, and loans—recognize that scholarships and grants are money that is free to you, but you must repay student loans. Work closely with your parents and others that you trust to plan how you will pay for your complete college education.

Also, be on guard against credit card offers that you will receive.

8. Do Your Homework

Your course syllabus forms a contract between you and your professor regarding the requirements of your class. Read it! Then reread it because you will be held accountable to follow it to the letter. Identify reading assignments, projects, and papers along with their due dates. Discover what course elements your professor will use to calculate your grade as well as policies about tardiness and late submission of assignments. If you have any questions at all, ask your professor to clarify. Know your syllabus!

Know when and where you study best.

When preparing a paper or other project, use a software tool like Grammarly to check grammar, clarity, and potential plagiarism. You could also invite other people to read your work and offer their corrections and suggestions to improve your writing.

Know when and where you study best. Are your thoughts clearer in the morning or later in the day? Do you focus best in a quiet environment or a crowded food court? Recognizing your tendencies will help you make wise choices about how to get your work done most efficiently. Commit to high standards and give adequate time to excel in your studies!


In many respects, your time in college sets the stage for your life for years to come. Use the experience wisely and nurture deliberate relationships with others so you can grow, and you can help others grow. Keep moving forward by living accountable!

Originally published on September 2, 2019

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