The “best” advice people used to give about doing well in college was that your grades would never matter at all after college. What? People rarely had advice to offer besides. Someone once told me that their degree became obsolete a few weeks after graduation because of new technology. People told me to go to a coed school because dating was important. Well, anyway, maybe I’ll just sound like one of those people now who gives the worst college advice, but here’s a go at my own advice about how to do well in college!
1. Don’t go to a school that’s too hard for you.
Probably the happiest guy I met at Bard College was a guy who had also gotten into Reed College, but “didn’t want to work that hard.” I had Swarthmore grades and SAT scores, but I hadn’t gotten in, and was likewise relieved. I didn’t apply to Harvard University, even though getting in would have made my family proud, because they would have wanted me to go. Sure, I had gotten a weighted 4.02 in high school, but all that time I spent doing my homework, successful Harvard students had spent memorizing the dictionary. If the school work is too hard for you, you’ll constantly be discouraged, you might get bad grades, and all in all, you’ll feel like a small fish in a big pond.
2. Don’t take classes that are too hard for you.
The first week of classes, you could probably attend as many classes as you’d like. Some people will drop the course and then you can get their spots. If you have room for four classes, sit in on twelve. Listen to the professor, take a look at the syllabus. You could even go to the bookstore and fip through the books that are required for every course. If you don’t feel ready for anything, you can usually drop out at this point without paying any money. College is hard enough without courses that will leave you feeling constantly discouraged, or that will leave you with bad grades, or having you feeling, all in all, that you’re a small fish in a big pond.
3. Try to finish in four years.
Sure, everybody’s considering mental health these days, but if you’re not done in four years, perhaps look into transferring your credits and finishing at your own pace at an online college. All of your friends who graduated in four years will be looking for work, and it would be nice to be on the same page as them. Prospective employers might really like that you are enthused about working and won’t mind that there are two schools on your resume instead of one. They might prefer it to five or six years at the same school for a four-year degree. However, having one school on your resume that you finished in four years would be the best. So make sure it’s a school, and courses, that you can handle.
4. Eat and sleep are more important than social media.
Priorities are really important to understand in college. If school is your first priority over your health, you might be so overwhelmed that you drop out. However, if health to you is going to the gym for 25 hours a week, you might not be able to get all of your schoolwork done. Make a list and share it with your family if you’d like. Try to get organized. How many hours of sleep do you need per night? What hours of the day are you most productive? Do you have any appointments, and can you make them phone sessions to save time? Time is so precious in school because you also might want to hang out with your friends. A lot. But school has always been more important than social time in every decade.
5. Try to stay ahead in your courses.
A lot of the time, the syllabus outlines what will be next. The smartest, most annoying, students always have questions during class that show that they read ahead. Instead of relying on your professor teaching you everything you need to know by reading ahead, you’ll just be looking to your professor for clarification. The professors don’t think that that is annoying at all. Make the next formula feel familiar. Read a little about the next era of art. My nanna told me that nobody likes surprise parties. Don’t make your education a constant surprise party!
6. Maybe think about working.
We talked about priorities, and you might feel that your schedule is chock full of schoolwork, eating, sleeping, self-care, and then social media and hanging with your friends once the priorities have been fulfilled. Sure, some college students need to work, or are expected to work, and their priorities have thus been rearranged. You might discover, though, that on-campus work is some of the easiest work to get in this economy, that these positions are nevertheless full of prestige, that they will kindly train you from soup to nuts in a very understanding way, and that it is part of your educational time, part social, and part self-care for boosting your self-esteem in being competent.
7. Nobody knows what you should look like.
Some generations truly believe a college student should look professional at all times, dressing for the job that they want, networking with other college students, and making a professional impression on professors, who will be writing their letters of recommendation. Honestly, though, dressing professionally for college isn’t like walking into the office at 9 and leaving at 5. Those people get home and often put on sweatpants. College is basically a 24 hour a day gig, full of studying, clubs, social time in dorms, and more. It might feel like too much pressure to dress professionally all day and all night. Do I put on a tie when I need to use the bathroom at midnight while studying for finals? It doesn’t make sense. In my opinion, parents always want to make you feel like an adult as soon as possible, but now as a 34-year-old, I really already think of college students as teenagers (part II) finding themselves. Just make sure to save up some nanna money for interview clothes, and at least four work outfits, by the time the four years are done.
8. Do have fun, but everything should be fun anyway.
People with the “work hard, play hard” mentality forget that work is fun. You’re learning, you’re growing, you’re interacting, you’re being challenged. You get to play dress up if you have a job. You get to make new work friends. You are being mentored by the best. Maybe you mess up at work and feel awful. However, you could say the wrong thing at a party as well. It doesn’t mean that work isn’t fun. That said, maybe also always be at least 1% professional at parties. It’s a small world. This is like a guy taking his shirt off at a party, but not his pants. Taking your shirt off is legendary. Taking off your pants is gross.