College Advice I Wish I’d Taken

Great article by the NY Times that’s definitely worth reading. Some highlights are below. Full article available here.

Here’s what I wish I’d known and done differently:

A’S ARE COOL AND COME WITH PERKS – As a student, I saw myself as anti-establishment, and I hated tests; I barely maintained a B average. I thought only nerds spent weekends in the library studying. I was retroactively envious to learn that a 3.5 G.P.A. or higher at many schools qualifies you for free trips, scholarships, grants, awards, private parties and top internships.

SHOW UP AND SPEAK UP  If a class was boring or it snowed, I’d skip. My rationale was that nobody in the 300-person lecture hall would notice and I could get notes later. Attendance barely counted. When I went, I’d sit quietly in back. Yet as a teacher, I see that the students who come weekly, sit in front, and ask and answer questions get higher grades and frankly, preferential treatment. I reward those who try harder with recommendations, references, professional contacts and encouragement.

CLASS CONNECTIONS CAN LAUNCH YOUR CAREER – As an undergrad, I rarely visited my professors during office hours. I didn’t want to annoy teachers with what I considered triviality. Besides, I thought I knew everything already. But it’s not just your professors who will help your life trajectory. Several classmates of mine from graduate school wound up working as editors at other publications, and they have since hired me for freelance work.

PROFESSORS ARE PEOPLE, TOO – As a teacher, I’ve kept all the letters, cards and poems of gratitude I’ve been sent. It’s nice to be appreciated, and it makes a lasting impression. After one of my intro sessions, a freshman from Idaho blurted out: “Awesome class! It’s like you stuck my fingers in a light socket.” I laughed and invited her to speed walk with me around the local park — an activity I take part in nightly as a sort of active office hours — and we workshopped ideas that led to her first book. And when a student confided she was dying to take another class with me but had lost her financial aid, I let her audit. In retrospect, I should have been more open with the instructors I admired.

FIND YOUR PROFESSORS ON SOCIAL MEDIA – I answer all emails, and while I may not accept all friend requests, I respond to students who follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More important, social media is where I post about panels, job openings and freelance work. Checking out students’ social media feeds also allows me to see new sides of their personalities.

YOU’RE NOT STUCK – Don’t be afraid to ask for emotional support. It was a graduate school professor who recommended my first therapist to me: She was a fantastic listener who charged on a sliding scale. Therapy can be cheap, fun and easily available — not to mention lifesaving. And if it turns out you’re in the wrong school, don’t worry. A third of college students transfer before graduating.