9 Lessons for Success in College - That Actually Make Sense
Most students know what it takes to be successful in college because some genius told them already. But here's the news flash: The prescription probably won't work. Why? Free advice is usually forgettable advice. And guess what I'm offering? More advice. But guess what? It is sensible and forgettable.
Lesson #1: Be honest about your abilities and goals
If you don't want to go to college, then don't go. You will only be frustrated and miserable. Forcing yourself to attend college will kill your motivation. It takes dedication and persistence to finish. If you are dying to work as a poodle-groomer after high school, then do that.
If you do go to college, be sure you are prepared. The stunts you pulled in high school might not go over so well with college professors. If you were undisciplined before college, you will likely be undisciplined in college and you will likely not meet your main goal-which is to graduate on time. Don't make a career out of being a college student. The pay is awful.
Lesson #2: Figure out the college zone
There are many different types of colleges and universities from which you can choose. The better your academic record, the more choices you have. Each college or university has a specific mission or purpose. Knowing what that purpose is isn't vital. But you do need to visit the campus and talk to some professors and students in order to determine if that particular institution is right for you. The school you choose should fit you. You shouldn't try to fit the school.
Lesson #3: Don't dig a big money pit
The cost of higher education continues to go up. It is likely that you will acquire debt in order to finance your education. Fine. But be wise. Getting admitted to a college or university doesn't necessarily mean you can afford it. The truth is that you can get a good education at a cheap school. Prestige is beneficial; however, what really matters most is not the school itself but the professors who teach there. The job market for college teachers has been saturated for years. It is not uncommon to find PhD's from prestigious universities teaching at small state colleges and community colleges. So, it is very possible to get a first rate learning experience for a fraction of the cost.
Of course, you've probably heard that student loan debt is "good debt." If it is so good, try missing a few loan payments and see what happens. It won't be all hugs and kisses.
Lesson #4: Know that the money is in the major
Yes. You should major in something that you love. Sometimes, doing what you love does not pay the bills. If your first love is money, then preparing to enter a field that will provide you with opportunities to make money is very pragmatic. The trick is to find balance. Major in something that you love and that brings you the amount of money that will allow you to be comfortable, if not rich. By the way, capitalism requires only a few rich people and many not-so-rich people. Which group will you be in?
Lessons #5: Get the experience you need to get the job you want
The degree that you earn will not be enough in today's competitive workforce. You will need experience and you will not gain experience until you get a job. No one will offer you a job because you lack experience. You know the cycle is cruel. However, there is something that you might not know: While in college, you can offer your labor for free as an intern or volunteer. Your pay is the experience you gain and the relationships you establish with people in the workforce. You become more employable when you know someone who knows someone who used to work for someone who is now the boss at the place where you applied for a job.
Lesson #6: Learn how to fail
The reason most people do not succeed is because they never learn the art of failing. When you accept the fact that failing is a part of success, then you are less prone to fear failure. The fear of failure makes you apprehensive about taking risks. You should not interpret these comments as an excuse to fail courses-although this does happen sometimes. I'm advising you to learn to be resilient in spite of the obstacles you encounter. No guts, no glory.
Lesson #7: Develop a critical imagination
You should attend all of your classes-not because all of your professors will be lively and inspirational teachers. Most of them won't be. You should go to class to learn how to think critically and use your imagination. What do I mean? Learn to investigate, analyze, and question the ideas that you encounter in the various courses you take. More importantly, learn to challenge those ideas and try to discover new ways to think about them. How? All you have to do is use your imagination to develop those ideas. If your idea is different, quirky, weird, or whatever, stick with it and be passionate about it. That idea distinguishes you from the crowd. Don't just think outside the box. Ask why a box is necessary and who does it belong to and why can't you have your own.
Lesson #8: Don't become an island
The years you spend at a college or university will offer you opportunities to meet a variety of people and develop lasting friendships. Use this time to your advantage. Everyday you spend on campus provides you with a chance to network. Keep a list of the people you meet and where you met them. Catalog their contact information and keep this information updated. I know you are probably thinking that most alumnae associations take care of this stuff. Don't count on it. Do it yourself. Always remember, an old acquaintance is better than no acquaintance at all.
Lesson #9: Don't Graduate
You will forget most of what you learn in college before you graduate. Knowledge that is not used regularly dies very quickly. Don't think that once you graduate that your education is over. The world of work changes constantly and you will probably find yourself being retrained on the job or having to go back to college for refresher courses. The workforce will teach you everything you didn't learn in school and much more. Don't be surprised at how embarrassingly different these two worlds are and how much you have to learn and relearn. Life is about learning, and it will never allow you to graduate. So don't do it. Don't graduate. You can forget everything else, except that.
J.K. Dennis is the author of "9 Lessons for a Meaningful Life." To learn more about the book, visit http://www.atlasbooks.com/3hp/index.html#titles. Questions and comments can be sent to email@example.com.
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