Hey, reader! My name is Émile. I just graduated from UCSB in June and, funny enough, I was actually the editor in chief of this paper last year, so I’m really coming back to my roots right now.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my time here at UCSB and I was fortunate enough to find quite a bit of success, too. To keep it brief, I graduated with straight As and a University Award of Distinction, was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and I got to give the commencement speech. All in all, I’m happy with my time at this magical University, and my goal in writing to you today is to give you a few tips on how to be happy and successful here, too.

Art by Tarush Mohanti / Daily Nexus

Art by Tarush Mohanti / Daily Nexus


#1. Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of business!

On airplanes they always say, “In the event of an emergency, put on your oxygen mask before putting on anyone else’s,” and that is just the perfect way to think about your time here at UCSB. What good are your grades, accomplishments, awards, whatever, if you are too burned out to even appreciate them, or worse. Make your health — both mental and physical — your #1 priority because without that, nothing else matters. Give yourself oxygen before you give it to anything or anyone else.

#2. Invest your time — it’s never free!

You’re already, just by virtue of being here, among the best of the best students in the world. That means you have a HUGE amount of opportunity ahead of you and that is awesome! But it also means you have a HUGE amount of responsibility to wisely pick and choose where you invest your time.

Your daily choices — like how much time you spending  on Facebook, watching Netflix, talking on the phone and texting, or whatever it is that you do — add up to be your big choices. Invest your time here as if it were your money … your time is never free because it always costs you something else you could be doing. Find ways to make it as profitable as possible.

Ex: You could call your friend back home for two hours or you could go to a club meeting or go work out or study, or learn guitar or meet new friends at school or take your first story at the Nexus or whatever!

There are a million different opportunities that you have and every choice costs you something, so make sure your return on that time is better than the cost.

You’re already, just by virtue of being here, among the best of the best students in the world.


Please say this with me, “I will never have another chance to live in a building surrounded by an infinite number of friends who just want to hang out with me.” Repeat that indefinitely. There is plenty of time to go out and join a fraternity or sorority or commit all of your time to some club or whatever else, but the most unique thing about your freshman year, by far, is the dorm life.

I know it can suck sometimes, and you might end up with a roommate who’s annoying, but that will pass and you’ll forget it. Cherish the whole experience and do your best to make the most of it … for my sake!

It really is the perfect opportunity to make a huge amount of friends in an extremely short period of time. And friends are more important than you might think! I’ll explain below.

#4. Work with the Daily Nexus!

Shameless plug! It really is a good idea. I won’t go too deep into it but it was easily the most influential decision I made in college. Just check out the orientation!

#5. Be the world’s best bridge builder!

There is more research on this than I care to describe (if you don’t believe me, Google it). Social capital, as in your real-life social network, is one of the biggest predictors of success, health, longevity, happiness and general wellbeing. By making connections with as many people as possible, in as diverse situations as possible, you are helping to set yourself up for not only more fun at UCSB but more success in life. Don’t get too sucked into just one person or one group — keep your eyes open and be open to make the first move.

And, there is another huge body of research on how important it is for your well being to have a focus on helping others. There are no enemies or even competitors at UCSB, only friends and allies. Treat everyone with respect and empathy, and you will find they do the same.

#6. Minimize your stress!

Stress is a stupid state. When we’re stressed, our brains do not function the same way they do when we’re relaxed — there is a severe decrease in higher functionalities, performance and recall. Plan your study schedule in a way that works for you, so you can go to sleep the night before your test and be confident in the fact that you prepared to the best of your ability.

You should never need to pull an all-nighter. Most people will do it anyway but that’s a choice, not a necessity. I never did.

Please remember this: Avoid studying with people who are not actually trying to study. Separate your hangouts from your study sessions, and excuse yourself when the latter turns into the former.

#7. Build an Awesome Attitude!

Every day at UCSB gives you a chance to prove yourself, learn something new and make your life and the lives of people around you better. Be the perpetual student! In and out of the classroom, you have so many chances to learn and grow. Be the one that actually does it.

If you try to skate through doing the bare minimum, cutting lecture and avoiding the work, you might get good grades, but what’s the point? You can get a job with good grades, but without the knowledge to back it up, how are you planning to succeed?

Once you change your mindset from getting the grade to gaining the understanding, your whole perspective on learning will change. And, usually, grades will follow.

One of the best tips I can give you is this: go to class and section. Even if it feels like a waste of your time and energy, just go. Professors and TAs notice, and you’ll notice a difference in your performance, too. Aside from your health, prioritize your academics first and fill in the rest as it fits.

The reality is, you’ll blink and it’ll be over — the good stuff and the bad.

#8. Smile!

It’s such a cliché that it almost hurts me to write it, but your time at UCSB will go by so obscenely fast. Just treasure the experience and learn from all of it — even all the stuff that happens outside the classroom. Stay flexible and stay open, forgive quickly and learn from it all. Most of all, be nice to yourself. You’re learning! You’re here to learn! That means you will make mistakes. None of them are that significant, unless you really harm somebody else or yourself (don’t do that).

The reality is, you’ll blink and it’ll be over — the good stuff and the bad. And, no matter what, you’ll want to go back and do it all again. So, for the old Gauchos like me, please just love every second of it.

Of course, there’s so much more I would like to say here, but I’m already over my word count and the editor’s not going to like me if I keep going. Long story short: have fun, be humble, learn from everything and love the process.

If you do want to hear more from me about how to succeed in college, check out my information below.

Émile Nelson is the author of Nailed it! Your Pocket Coach to Student Success and co-founder of Feel Good Press. For more information, please visit FeelGoodPress.com or email him at info@feelgoodpress.com.