Letters & Opinion

Advice For College

THE late, great Nelson Mandela, former South African president and champion for civil rights, has been credited with the quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Just as students across the globe opt to begin their career journeys after secondary school, others will begin the path to making a difference in their lives and the lives of others by choosing to further their education in college. As with any major decision, there may be a degree of excitement, but this excitement may also be accompanied by anxiety or fear. This article aims to address some of this anxiety by providing some advice to make the best of your college experience.

Have integrity
Before you head off to college, make a decision to be a person of integrity during your educational journey. Sure, college may be an exciting time, but it can also become very stressful as a result of the numerous responsibilities one may encounter as a student. These include part time jobs, extracurricular activities, heavy course loads and other personal responsibilities, along with the obligation to excel even in subject areas that may not be one’s forte. Unsurprisingly, there may be the temptation to cheat or plagiarize. After all, it may make a student’s life easier in the short-term, however, there may also be negative consequences. Aside from compromising your personal integrity or pride in your achievement as you walk the stage on graduation day, there are also other penalties that can be overlooked. Cheating may lead to a failing grade, suspension or expulsion from college and plagiarizing is illegal and can be punished quite severely (caution, to those planning to study in developed countries such as the United States). For instance, during college, one of my professors related the story of a man who had his PhD revoked years after it was discovered that his dissertation was plagiarized. Aside from these grave consequences, cheating may deny the cheater of the opportunity to learn very crucial material that may be vital to his/her career. Be a person of integrity. Don’t cheat.

Manage time wisely
It has already been established that as a college student, a person may be faced with a number of responsibilities. These responsibilities may get in the way of fulfilling certain goals or obligations that a student may have. Club memberships may encroach on study time or heavy course loads can interfere with personal relationships. Let’s face it. There will never be enough time to complete every task that needs to be accomplished, but managing time wisely by setting up personal timetables, to do lists and holding oneself accountable to these tools, can definitely relieve some of the frustrations of completing the seemingly endless tasks on ones to-do-lists.

So you’ve paid a significant amount of money to receive a formal education and you beat the books every time to earn an A on every exam. Off course, that is commendable, but this is what the famous author, Mark Twain had to say about schooling: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Though this quotation may seem to reflect opposition to getting a formal education (i.e.in college, for instance), there is a valuable lesson to be learned in its interpretation. Some may argue about this quote’s interpretation, but put plainly, students should not simply allow their formal education to be the end-all and be-all of their educational journeys. There is value in learning from your experiences during your life in college and it pays to seek knowledge outside of the four walls of your classroom. Don’t allow yourself to simply be stuck in the vacuum of your textbook. Knowledge exists outside of it!

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I’m a huge advocator for networking. It’s a fantastic way to expand one’s horizons. Talk to and connect with professors, students and other people you may encounter during your time in college. Your professors are your best friends. Talk to them! It helps to interact with professors because not only do they usually have a wealth of contacts which may be useful for your life during and after college, but also, they may offer great advice on getting started and succeeding in your field. For instance, through my own interaction with my professors I achieved the small milestone of having my first academic publication.

Aside from communicating with professors, connecting with your peers may also be helpful. Ambitious college students are always on the lookout for career opportunities and sometimes actively seek them. They may inform you about unadvertised job opportunities or tips for overcoming some of the hurdles of life in college. You can only find out when you make these connections.

My next article will include more tips for the college bound.

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