With students all headed back to school, it is a good time to look at some ways to get the most out of college. College is a fascinating place and most people won’t fully appreciate all the opportunities they were given until years later. With that in mind, here are some tips for students wanting to get the most out of their college experience.
A large part of the value of a college education is the people you meet, but to really take advantage of that you are going to have to intentionally network with people. Don’t be the person who sees every person as a potential “networking” opportunity, but do be someone who is friendly and keeps in touch. Facebook and LinkedIn are great, but don’t overlook the power of a Rolodex type solution (even if it is now electronic) in which you keep a name, contact information, and any notes that might be useful. Use this regularly to keep in touch with people after school.
2. Student Pricing
Students typically get very good pricing on everything from software licenses to opera tickets. Take advantage of this to broaden your horizons. If you’ve never been to an opera or ballet, get some friends together and go. You are much better off learning if you like something while spending $5 to $15 than when spending $40 to $100. And don’t overlook the fact that many cultural activities can get you extra credit in certain classes.
3. Challenge Yourself
It is easy to get complacent when you are earning an A in a class. However, if you understand grade inflation, you’ll realize that earning an A doesn’t always mean you are above average. If you want to get good–really good–at something, you are going to have to challenge yourself well beyond what it takes to get an A.
4. Community Opportunities
When I was an undergraduate, I had a chance to conduct the Sound of Music for a small private school. It was a great experience and I learned a lot that had nothing to do with music. Try to take advantage of opportunities like this. Being a student can help put you in positions to do things that may be very difficult to do at a later point in life when you have a family and job commitments.
5. Summers are Important
If you want to get the most out of college, spend your summers wisely. Jobs or internships that are related to your field can help make your classes much more meaningful and productive. Learning about things in which you have real, hands-on experience is very different than simply learning theory.
6. Teach to Learn
If you want understand your field better, sign up to tutor other people. Understanding a concept well enough to pass a test requires a certain degree of mastery, but it is nothing compared to what it takes to explain the concept to 10 other people who all have different ways of thinking. The things you teach are the things you will remember years later.
The privilege of going to college is an extraordinary opportunity, so do your best to get everything possible out of it.