Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A Few Nuggets of Advice for College Students at the Start of the New Year

As students arrive on college campuses throughout the country this time of year, I would like to share a few words of advice.  I hope that students, particularly first-year students, find these comments useful.
  1. Ideas don't sink in through the process of re-reading the book and your notes.  You need to actively work with the material.  Writing is much more useful than reading in this regard.  When studying, try writing a synthesis of your notes.  Boil the extensive notes down to a 5-10 page outline of the course, and then to a 1 page outline.   This process will enable you to synthesize and integrate what you have learned.  If applicable, do practice problems as a means of studying.  Practice beats reading notes any day of the week. 
  2. Go to class!  It's so easy to skip class when you are tired.  However, going to class is more than half the battle. You will find it so much easier to excel if you aren't trying to make up for absences. 
  3. Find a mentor.  I'm not talking about going to office hours just to try to improve your grade.  I'm talking about a true mentor, someone can offer you guidance about your studies as well as your career.  Use that person as a sounding board.   In your early days at college, you should begin trying to identify who that mentor might be.
  4. Explore topics beyond your area of specialization.  Take courses in multiple domains, and broaden your knowledge.  Many creative ideas come from the process of reaching outside one's area of expertise.   Thus, building a broad knowledge base is important.  Moreover, you will be much more interesting at dinner if you can have a conversation that spans many topics.  You'll find that ability to be an important life skill!
  5. Find opportunities to develop as a leader.  Those opportunities typically come outside the classroom. The primary way to become a better leader is to practice.  Thus, seeking out opportunities to lead groups, student organizations, and the like is crucial. 

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