What Happens After You Get Into College

Getting the Best Out of College is the title of a book by Peter D. Feaver, Sue Wasiolek, and Anne Crossman. They were interviewed on the Freakonomics blog recently, and had this to say:

“Your choices in college matter more than your choices of college, so choose wisely.

We have found that too many students were more strategic and calculating about getting into college than they are about getting out.  It is almost as if they have been programmed to believe that the most important part of college is the name on the degree.

We agree that is important, but for most students what makes or breaks the college experience is the choices they make after they have picked their alma mater.  The students who really get the best out of college are those who navigate wisely the bewildering puzzle of decisions they will face from the moment they sign their commitment letter until the time they receive their diploma.

Many students—too many students—navigate poorly, but some do wisely.  In our experience, it is not necessarily the smartest or the richest or the ones with the most impressive high school resumes who figure out how to navigate the system by the time they reach graduation.

After years of watching students unintentionally squander their undergraduate opportunities, we published a book to help students be strategic about their choices.”

Here is some of the authors’ best advice for beginning college students:

• Since professors are the heartbeat of the university, invest as much time in those relationships as possible, especially early on in the semester when there are fewer demands on a professor’s time than there are later in the semester.

• Select courses based on the strength of the professor teaching it and not simply racing through a list of graduation requirements as fast as possible.

• Try to take at least one independent study in your academic career—it will challenge you in more ways than your typical course.

• Take several courses well outside your comfort zone (provided the professor is well-recommended) and a course or two that forces you to think about a subject in ways you never imagined.

• Attend functions where there is a high ratio of faculty and alums so that you can expose yourself to the wide world outside campus.

• Pick two extracurriculars (preferably outside your area of study) and invest your time richly into them.

• As for monitoring your progress, if you have established a set of specific goals and standards going into all this, it will be a clear indicator of how you are growing and meeting them.” (Read more here.)

The authors are undoubtedly right that most students are more intentional and strategic about getting into college than about what they do once they get there.

I’ve heard about “College 101″ courses offered to community college students who might be unfamiliar with a university environment—but I think some instruction in how to handle the choices and decisions of college would benefit most every student.

2 Responses to “What Happens After You Get Into College”

  1. Eps says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. My success in undergrad was definitely due to many of these suggestions, especially focusing on what professor was teaching a course. Instead of chasing a highly published professor, I focused on professors who were great teachers. Those courses are ones in which I still remember and retain information.

  2. Sue Frantz says:

    In the same vein, I recommend this book by one of my colleagues, “Say This, NOT That to Your Professor: 36 Talking Tips for College Success”.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/say-this-not-that-to-your-professor-ellen-bremen/1110930372?ean=9781935254683

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