Tomorrow I'll head off to bring my oldest daughter off to college. I'm incredibly excited for her, but I know that I'll miss her a great deal. Each year on this blog, I often provide some advice for incoming college students... hoping my own students will take a look and perhaps heed some of my advice. This year, I want to share some thoughts from a very good column in the New York Times this week. Frank Bruni wrote a column titled, "How To Get The Most Out of College." Among other things, he touches on some of the key findings from research by Gallup, Purdue University and the Strada Education Network. Here's Bruni's summary of the results of that work (emphasis added):
Previously known as the Gallup-Purdue Index and now called the Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, it has questioned about 100,000 American college graduates of all ages about their college experiences, looking for connections between how they spent their time in college and how fulfilled they say they are now. The study has not found that attending a private college or a highly selective one foretells greater satisfaction. Instead, the game changers include establishing a deep connection with a mentor, taking on a sustained academic project and playing a significant part in a campus organization. What all of these reflect are engagement and commitment, which I’ve come to think of as overlapping muscles that college can and must be used to build. They’re part of an assertive rather than a passive disposition, and they’re key to professional success.
My experience validates this research finding. My students who have achieved these "game changers" have achieved academic and professional success, while thriving personally as well. Find a mentor, engage in an in-depth piece of academic work, and become a leader of a campus organization or initiative. Those are key elements to a successful college experience.