When I was seven, my parents gave me the thing I wanted most: a rock polisher (didn’t see that coming, did ya?). I had begged for this and even started to collect the rocks with the most potential should they ever get the chance to shine. I am embarrassed to admit that I never put the machine to use. I became lazy, so all of these rocks lost their chance to be their best.
student raised hand

College is like a rock polisher. It’s a process with great potential to make you a more brilliant and refined version of yourself but if you don’t put in the effort, it’s all for nothing. Don’t be a dull rock! Follow these hacks to get the most out of college.

  1. READ THE  READINGS… Why?
  • To get more: Learning the same information multiple times helps you master the content. The readings are often written by the most respected minds in the field, meaning that they contain fundamental viewpoints and theories to understand.
  • To ace the exam: You will have questions straight from the readings!
  • To stand out: With a greater understanding of the content, you will have more to share in class discussions, appearing far more prepared than those who didn’t read.
  1. Ask a question. Speaking up in class when you have a question helps you and everyone around you. Chances are that if you’re confused, someone else is too. Be bold and ask for clarification. *TIP* If you need to warm up to the idea of speaking up in class, you can wait until after class to ask a question and introduce yourself to the instructor.
  1. Go to office hours. What if you could pick your professor’s brain, one-on-one, getting all of your questions answered…? Guess what? You can! Professors have set aside specific hours throughout the week to meet with students. To make the most of this time, do the following:
  • Be prepared: Think about your questions beforehand to guide the discussion.
  • Go BEFORE & AFTER exams: In my experience, professors don’t have much empathy for someone who isn’t proactive before an exam. Instead of procrastinating, go to office hours throughout the semester. You can also go to the office hours offered after receiving the results of your exam to review any mistakes.
  1. Join a research project. If I could yell this from the Nebraska mountain tops (that don’t exist), I would. Join a research project for the following reasons:
  • Experience: Participating in an aspect of research gives you a new perspective. In school, I had the opportunity to work on a research project that was testing a pilot program for toddlers. Besides working with adorable children, it helped me understand the power of research to affect policy and change lives.
  • Mentorship: Working closely with a professor means that you will have time for them to get to know you and your work ethic, making for better letters of recommendation and opportunities for lifelong mentorship.
  1. Value the experience, not the grade. Chasing an ‘A’ is not going to make you the best version of yourself. While grades are taken into consideration for scholarships and graduate school, your goal should be bigger picture. You are gaining skills and refining strengths for life.

Your English class will make you a better communicator. Your political science class will make you a better global citizen. Your Spanish class will create opportunities to know 400 million more amazing people in this world. It is more than the classroom; it is life.