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Seeing it Through: Tips to Excel in College
While there are many innumerable pieces of advice to contribute and add to your college experience, here are five that I have valued, learned from, and endeavor to pass on to whomever.
1. Go to Class!
It is a mystery to me that people who do not regularly attend class expect to receive a great grade! When you get to college, the first key in making the grayed want is making every effort to be in class. If you like your sleep, make sure to take care of any administrative holds or paperwork to register for the next semester as early as you possibly can so you can schedule for the 1 PM class opposed to the 8 AM class. Say you got stuck with the 8 AM class, the worst case scenario is that you must get to bed a couple hours earlier than you might. Whatever the case, try your hardest to attend class. One benefit being that your professors will notice, especially the ones you want to impress. While attending class should be a given, and most professors consider it a given, they will notice a class that you miss if you attend every class. They will notice, if nothing else, that your seat is empty and that a body frequents that seat. Secondly, If you make attending class a habit and consider it as important as going to work, you will value what you learn. There have been classes I have taken that have been dramatically less than enlightening, yet, I committed to attend every time if at all possible, and I learned something: that I would never study the subject in that class. That is an okay lesson to learn! And one you may learn multi[le times while in University or College. While you may miss a couple classes (I miss 4-5 in a 15 credit hour semester), and that is okay, but committing to go even when you do not like it will change your mentality on learning and will show your professors that you care about their class.
Going to class every single day, week in, week out, will immensely benefit you; however, going to every single class and merely sitting in a desk, taking up oxygen and warming a seat does not prove to the class, professor, or yourself that you want to be there. Part of the quintessential college experience remains contributing to the classroom environment. As Dr. House so eloquently puts it to Dr. Taub immediately started on the diagnostic team in season four of House M.D., "Have an opinion!" If you add to discussion, ask questions, make comments, and look interested, it will convince your academic colleagues you enjoy the class and value this experience. Also, participating in how the class runs will help you learn the content, and cut down on study time. In the vast cosmos that is college life, extra time spent not studying gives you time to meet people, have fun, watch Netflix, and maybe even ask out that girl or guy in your second class. It is often more effective in learning material than traditional studying anyway, and is far more memorable. Participating in a subject you know nothing about may do more harm than good. If your professor gives you a reading assignment and it is something you know nothing about, give it a read, or at least a skim. This is your ticket with the professor. When they see you took initiative in reading the afore-assigned material, they will be encouraged and it will help to spark intense discussion, helping you to make relationships with your classmates. Plus, as I have mentioned above, discussing what you already know in class will solidify that learning and help convert it to long-term memory. You may also, dare I say it, enjoy the class and in it pursue a major.
3. Meet Your Professors.
I remember the hardest class I ever took. It was a research class teaching the methodology and practices of researching history (since I am a history major) and involved writing a thirty page paper with less than twenty-five mistakes - yeah, it still sounds impossible. I remember the professor even more vividly, because I consecutively took two more of his classes. He was a difficult professor, but he was fair, interesting, and insightful into the history profession. One of the greatest things I ever did involved meeting with him in his office one day. I was particularly confused over a particular direction to take my paper and what to include. Instead of toiling over books trying to find just the right source or information and trying to work out my problems alone, I packed up my stack of research, my binder of multiple drafts and trucked to his office. Luckily, he was there, hunched over a computer returning emails, his desk cluttered with towers of success, and I sought his help. He made time to answer my questions and superbly so. I left there on mission and with a direction, thanks to his help. I knew what I wanted to do with my paper. At the end of the class, after a couple breakouts and subsequent visits to his office, I received an A! I believe I was only one of two A's in this section of twenty-five people. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! I worked hard, but a major contribution to the end result was a simple visit to the instructor. If you work hard and still have trouble understanding material or assignments, go meet your professors, cultivate a relationship with them, and I promise you will foster a working friendship that will come in handy when networking becomes a necessity. Go talk to them, the majority care about you and want you to succeed - utilize them!
4. Treat Class Professionally.
I have heard it said that one should "dress for the job you want." I cannot concur enough with this statement. It seems that in the endless sea of college co-eds, this is a lost art. The great Brett McKay from the blog Art of Manliness wrote that, "Dressing up for class used to be de rigueur because the learning process was thought to have a solemn, almost sacred quality. Dressing sharp shows your respect for the power of education. It also shows respect for your professor, who will be more likely to reciprocate." He directly answers any controversy. The way we dress reflect the way people judge us. When we show up to class looking sloppy, people will commit that to their memory of us. On the fist day of class, I very seldom ever show up in less than nice, dark, clean jeans and a button down shirt, sometimes I throw on a tie! The first impression, like in the work-place, should hold a sort of reverence in our lives, forcing us to consider empathy for what others will think about us. When gentlemen where the cute, novelty, "My mom picked this out for me" styled shirt, it reflects what you think about yourself - you do not take yourself seriously! In the classroom, when you dress to impress, you force those around you to take notice. When your wardrobe consists of nothing more than yoga pants and oversized tees, or ripped jeans and Walmart tees, your professors and classmates will notice and attribute that to you as part of your personality. Furthermore, when you dress to take yourself seriously, those around you tend to as well. Instead of dressing for the job you want, dress for the grade you want, the professional connections you desire, and the learning you receive from the experience.
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5. Make Memories!
The last piece of advice to help you succeed in school is a viable part of your experience, headaches, and money you pay for school! A major part of this chapter in your life is enjoying it. I hear of many people who go throughout college and did not make any memories, meet anyone, and left without any significant mark on their lives. College is a unique time in that you are not quite child and dependent on your parents, and you are not quite fully adult, completely dependent on yourself. These four to five years embody a spirit of freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, and become who you were born to be. During college, I learned how to suffer heartbreak, break up well, and enjoy a positive, incredible romantic relationship. I also met people who will be invaluable to me in my life, as I strive to be the best me. If you allow it, you will uncover an experience that changes you, as it should! College has unto it an immense pressure and value commended. The individuality you learn, the unique struggles you face, and the invaluable lessons you learn prove to be some of the greatest achievements of your life so far. It seems as though every experience you have ever faced has built up to this point, and it has! College is not only to be an academic learning experience, but also a life learning experience, as you grow into the person you will be for the rest of your life. College was not meant to be an isolated event, but one such to give you immeasurable memories from which to draw from and remember, as they bring you joy and happiness of which to think. Enjoy this experience. Fail, succeed, and learn to do both equally graceful.
Take time in college serious enough that you can enjoy the craziness. This is a time to explore, grow, and learn how to navigate this life. Grow good habits, foster a inquisitive spirit, and begin a path to becoming a lifelong learning - it will not be something you regret.