Today’s guest post comes from author and blogger Dustin M. Wax, from his new e-book, Don’t Be Stupid: A Guide to Learning, Studying and Succeeding at College.
Special Offer: If you like this article and want to download the full e-book, use the code “BackToSchool” to get $3 off at checkout.
I’ve been a university student off and on since <whispers>the ’80s</whispers> and a university instructor for the last five years. In that time, I’ve had a chance to see over and over what worked and what didn’t, what separated the most successful students from the least successful ones — first, in the habits of my fellow students and then in the work of my students.
The #1 tip I’ve picked out of that experience is the one I chose as the title of my book: don’t be stupid. Now, I don’t mean “avoid possessing a low IQ” — I know you’re at least reasonably bright or you wouldn’t be in college. What I mean is, don’t sit back and wait for everything to fall into place. Don’t spend more time and energy looking for ways to avoid working and learning than you would just doing the work.
And most of all, don’t buy into the false distinction between college and “real life” — what you do in college matters. Of course, the stuff that matters most is almost never the stuff your academic advisor or the university handbook says is important…
At the day-to-day level, everything I have to say boils down to three things:
1. Be organized. At the very least, get a pocket notebook and a calendar. Write everything important in the notebook, and transfer all the dates onto the calendar when you get home. Every morning, write a list of things you need to get done that day — and do them.
2. Take the opportunity to grow. College gives you the opportunity to learn about thousands of things you never even knew existed, let alone had whole fields of academic study devoted to them. Keep an open mind about everything — that professor whose politics you can’t stand might well turn out to be the one who pushes you further than anyone else and leads you to a greater understanding of your own values.
3. Be balanced. College is a time for trying on new identities and roles, and that means engaging in some risky behavior. You’ll have the opportunity to drink (excessively), have sex, trespass on private property, vandalize buildings, and on and on. And I don’t discourage that — for all the good it would do if I did. I know that you’re going to learn a lot about yourself by pushing at your boundaries. But have some balance — make time for work and time for play, time for socializing and time for just you, time to take risks and time to play it safe. And don’t be stupid, of course.
That’s the nutshell version — everything else you need to do to succeed in college follows from those three principles.
Thank you to Dustin M. Wax for the post and special discount offer.