The following is an article I wrote specifically for the readers on the lower end of the age spectrum (high school graduates and college students). College is a huge investment in terms of time, money, and energy and itâ€™s only natural that you strive to get the biggest return possible to help you later on in life.
The following are 10 ways in no particular order on how to get the most out of college.
1. Learn How to Think Critically
You will most likely be introduced to several subjects in college that are brand new to you or are on a very advanced level. This requires you to really learn the material.
Learn how to listen (filter out all the unnecessary information) and take notes (not the ones where you scribble down every word the professor says); learn how to speed read through the books and comprehend them; learn how to identify the main points, concepts and the reasoning behind them.
If at any time you donâ€™t understand something during the lecture or time with your TA, ASK. In all probability, 99% of the students are silently asking the same question but donâ€™t have the nerve to ask. Most professors will be more than happy to make sure you understand. After all, evaluations come out at the end of the quarter/semester
Then take what you learned and go a step further. Learn how to think critically. Based on what you learned, start expanding on the subject. Ask yourself â€śWhat ifâ€ť questions. Try to look at what you learned from all angles, not just how it was presented to you by your professor and the textbook. Start drawing your own conclusions, make your own points, offer different ways of looking at things, but by all means, be able to back them up. By doing so, youâ€™ll take your thinking to a whole new level and develop one of the most useful â€śreal worldâ€ť skills that you can learn in college.
You will find that critical thinking often manifests in discussions groups (classes held separate from lectures to talk about what was learned in class and in the readings). You will hear from a variety of people, varying viewpoints and conclusions with supporting evidence that you would have never dreamed of thinking before. This occurs despite the fact that everybody read the same material and listened to the same lecture.
Developing that type of critical thinking is an essential skill. It brings you up to a whole new level and allows you to look at things from several different angles, which might tangent off into several different outcomes, which is a skill that will serve you well later on in life.
2. Build Quality Relationships
I laugh at people who brag about how they have hundreds of â€śconnectionsâ€ť. Hereâ€™s the thing. Will any of those people be willing to help you when the time comes, or will they be only willing to help you if they get something in return?
Spend the time to develop quality relationships at school. What do I mean by develop quality relationships?
Make quality friends.
Spend time and energy to develop these friendships. Donâ€™t just say hi to them everyday while you walk to class and hope to have a quality relationship. Listen to them, really listen. Listen to their dreams, stories, and problems. Provide comfort and advice. Give freely to them without expecting anything in return. Let them borrow your notes, help them get a job, introduce them to your social circle You will find that by making these quality relationships, and by giving freely without expecting anything in return, you will be rewarded ten fold in the future.
3. Take Interesting Classes
You are not limited to taking classes associated with your major. You have an entire catalog of classes to choose from. Thatâ€™s the beauty of college. Itâ€™s a central hub of experiences and learning possibilities that you canâ€™t find anywhere else.
Off the top of my head, Iâ€™ve taken classes such as the history of martial arts, life skills (yeah it sounds corny but that class did help a lot), oral communication, swing dancing, entrepreneurship, Russian history, etc that have really opened my mind and shown me things that Iâ€™ve never seen before. I also learned things about myself that I would never have known. Always expand your bubble of curiosity and you will be suprised to see what comes in.
Taking interesting classes reminded me of Steve Jobs talking about how he went to calligraphy class, which ended up influencing the typography for Apple. You see, you never know when that interesting class you took might come in handy.
By taking classes that interest you, not only will you learn interesting things about the classes and about yourself, you may find it helpful to you indirectly down the road.
4. Learn to Socialize
This is for all you shy ones. Learning how to socialize is an extremely important skill you must learn and college is the best place to learn it. The easiest way to practice is in class.
You will find that 99.999% of the people in classes want you to go up and talk with them. You see that guy or girl sitting alone in class reading the newspaper or playing with their phone? They desperately want you to go up and talk to them. The phone and newspaper is just an act to pretend to look busy to cover up their self consciousness.
Itâ€™s so funny, because when the first day of class comes, everyone sits as far away from each other as they possibly can and they sit there in silence till the professor comes. Everybody is too scared to make a move. Be the guy who breaks the ice and you will instantly see people warm up to you. The look of relief and warm surprise on their faces is priceless.
So when the first day of class comes, choose somebody to socialize with and relieve their anxiety. Just start talking with them. Shoot the breeze. Ask questions about themselves and be really and genuinely interested in them. Everybody loves to talk about themselves and thereâ€™s no faster way to socializing than to get the other person to talk about themselves. You will find that they will cling to you like a lifesaver the next time you meet.
Plus, by socializing in class, you can easily form study groups (very helpful when it comes to studying) and have someone to borrow notes from in case you miss class. And letâ€™s not forget, you can develop quality relationships as well.
5. Gain Quality Work Experience
Face it, we all need dough in college and unless you are an entrepreneur and have an idea of how to make money, youâ€™re going to need a job to pay for all those expenses that creep up.
Many students get jobs as cashiers, waiters, or valets. Try to avoid getting those types of jobs. You will find that once you get those types of jobs, you will start to rely on that income, and it will become hard for you to quit it.
Take your time to find a quality job or internship that is related to what you want to do. The key part here is that you have to know what you want to do. The reason why so many students settle for the jobs mentioned in the above paragraphs is because they donâ€™t know what to do.
If you know what you want to do, then search for quality jobs or internships that are related to that field. If you want to be a lawyer, try becoming an assistant at a legal firm. If you want to be a programmer, try getting an internship at a programming company nearby. You get the idea.
By doing this, you will gain valuable work experience that will set you apart from the rest of the competition come graduation. And you may find that the job at that same company will be waiting for you when you graduate. Only with a lot more $$ and benefits.
Trust me, the majority of people tend to put this valuable task off and come graduation, they wonder why they canâ€™t find a job. Everyone will graduate and have a degree. Whatâ€™s going to separate you from them is your quality work experience.
6. Develop â€śReal Worldâ€ť Skills
Contrary to popular belief that college doesnâ€™t teach you â€śreal worldâ€ť skills, they actually do, at least in my experience. Browse your catalog of classes carefully and you will find many offer â€śreal worldâ€ť skills you can learn. Here are just a few handful of examples: Social psychology, sport psychology, human motivation, principles of oral communication, analysis and briefing, leadership for the 21st century, individual leadership development, leadership and management, foreign language class (thatâ€™s a BIG one), analysis of communication effects, entrepreneurship and venture initiation, business plan development, marketing management, applied ordinary differential equations (well maybe not that one). You get the point. The classes are there. You just have to go search for them.
7. Get In Shape
You should most definitely spend some time getting in shape. A strong body will lead to a strong mind. I find that statement to be 100% true. I can attest to the fact that after working out, your mind becomes much more sharp and clear. You donâ€™t tend to procrastinate. You get things done. You make things happen. You become more animated when you socialize. You sleep better at night and wake up earlier.
A lot of colleges have gyms, competitive sports, sport instruction classes, stadiums, fields, tracks, etc. Take advantage of these offers. Play flag football Monday night with your buddies. Take a beginnerâ€™s tennis class. Take that tai chi class. Lift weights. Run around the track. Box. Rock climb. Do physical exercise on a consistent basis. If you habituate this in college, you will find it to be one of the most valuable investments you make in yourself.
8. Keep a Journal
College will be one of the very few times in your life that will be filled with so many diverse experiences. Donâ€™t forget them. Donâ€™t trust your memory. Keep a journal and write about those eventful days and nights. Describe them in great detail with all your five senses. Use this journal too as a record of what you have learned, not necessarily in class, but in life in general. Youâ€™ll be glad you did.
9. Learn to manage your time effectively
Youâ€™ve got a ton of things to do in college. Youâ€™ve got to learn, study, build relationships, exercise, work, party, etc. Thatâ€™s a lot of stuff to do. Do it all by learning how to manage your time well. Create to do lists the night before. Wake up early and work out. Go to class, do homework in between classes. Then go to work, hang out with your buds, study a little bit more, go to that party and then go to sleep. Keep a schedule and stick to it. Donâ€™t procrastinate. Read up on time management techniques from your student bookstore and apply them.
10. Have Fun! Donâ€™t be such a square.
I saved the best for last. Go to the parties, the clubs, the midnight underwear runs, the games, the concerts. Go drink beer with your buddies on Thursday night at the local pub where they serve $1 Thirsty Thursday pitchers of watered down beer and stale popcorn. Play pranks on each other. Laugh your heads off. Do things youâ€™ve never done before. Meet new people. Expand your social circle. Try new foods. Have fun and remember to write it down in your journal. That way, whenever you have a bad day, you can always travel back in time to the fun days and nights you had to instantly put a smile on your face.
There you have it. 10 ways to get the most out college. Now go out there and make it happen.