It seems like everyone has advice for high school seniors and college students – usually tired expressions like “give it the old college try.” What students need to thrive in today’s world is something more specific. Let’s focus on your habits because they are the best predictor of your future. We all have habits, whether we are aware of them or not. To change them, you first have to notice them! Answer the questions below – and be honest with yourself.social_college_student

How do you spend your time?

I just read a newspaper headline that said teens spend an average of nine hours a day on social media. Texting, tweeting, posting, responding, taking selfies, watching videos, and more! Nine hours a day! I would call that a habit, wouldn’t you? Just think of all you could accomplish in a day if you had nine additional hours to spend. Here’s the deal – you do have nine extra hours a day, but you’ll need to cut down on social. Even if you allow yourself one hour of social daily, you still gained eight hours of productive time. Try it, your future depends on it!

How do you spend your money?

Student debt is a hot topic these days, as it has been for decades. The difference is that the amount of debt has skyrocketed. It’s not unusual for college graduates to leave school with nearly $27,000 in student loans. That translates to about $275 a month (for ten years) in loan payments. Just think what you could do with that money if you had saved for college rather than taking out student loans. Don’t think that’s possible? Students do it all the time. It’s called delayed gratification. You’ll have to save most of what you earn and be frugal with your spending money, but your college savings will grow over time. Also, think about getting two jobs in the summer to really pad the bank account.

Who do you hang out with?

Whoever you choose to surround yourself with will soon be who you become. Remember the movie, Mean Girls? Lindsay Lohan’s character shifted her friend group from the mathletes to the plastics and everything changed for her. Her grades plummeted, she got in trouble at home and in school, she lost the respect of those around her, and she was miserable. Life really is that way. Hang out with the smart kids and you will soon be one of them. Hang out with losers and your life will take a drastic downward turn. Like mom always said, “be nice to everyone, but choose your friends wisely.”

Who do you see as role models?

Anyone who wanted to be president someday saw past presidents as role models. Tech nerds want to be like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Financial want-a-bes adore Warren Buffett and swarm to Omaha each May to attend a shareholders meeting. Those who focus attention on athletes and rock stars have a whole different view of the world. Think about who you want to become, and then find your role model there. My role models are teachers, principals and counselors because they truly change lives for the better, every day!

Do you take care of your health?

It’s easier to be healthy in high school than in college because you might be in sports, gym class, and have the benefit of home cooking. In college, you have to be self-motivated to hit the gym, go for a run, and select healthy food. Need a way to make it more fun? Invest in a Fitbit to monitor your steps, activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep. It’s a tech-y way to get or stay in shape – and when you feel healthy, you make better choices.

You were born with instincts, but not habits. Those are all on you. Develop good habits and life will be easier. You have a morning routine that takes little thought because you have a habit of brushing your teeth, taking a shower and getting dressed. Develop other good habits for how you spend your time – and with whom — and you will soon be on the path to success.