Greene: Five underrated ways to make the most of college
With the sun shining bright, summer break being just around the corner and parties and shows every night, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important during spring term. Studying is less appealing when the river is warm and friends are calling, and school tends to slip into the backseat as students rush into summer. But this year, instead of checking out early, try to finish off strong. Remember why we’re here in the first place: College can shape us into capable, efficient and downright impressive individuals.
Here are five ways you can kick your college game up a notch this spring term and build skills that will remain useful long after college.
1. Class participation
Professors pose questions to the class as a way to break the monotony of a lecture; they engage students and get them to analytically think through the material and reach their own conclusions. Don’t be afraid of this opportunity; embrace it! It’s a great way to build speaking skills, confidence and rapport with your professor.
Make it your goal to raise your hand for at least half the questions asked. No one expects you to have the perfect answer. Just try to come up with something substantial. Listen to the other students’ responses and try to come up with a comment that builds off what they said.
Class participation helps you understand the material better and teaches you to think on your feet.
2. Do the assigned readings
It is astonishingly easy to skim — even skip — assigned readings and still do solid in a class, or at least think you’re doing solid until finals come and you have to speed read three books. After discovering this convenient hole in the lecture system it’s tempting to push readings off. Don’t.
You should have picked this class because something about it interested you, so take the time to actually learn the material. This will help you retain the lessons longer, and you’ll be surprised how much more you get out of lectures.
You could even keep a list of authors you enjoy, something to go back to when looking for a good book.
3. Find a nerdy buddy
Study groups are a popular resource for students, but too often these turn into one person carrying the group. This kind of stuff. many times doesn’t induce deeper thought about the class.
Instead, try finding a friend to geek out with: someone who raises their hand and seems to be interested in the subject. Introduce yourself, sit next to them and ask if they’d like to get a cup of joe and discuss the material.
Casual conversation gives you a chance to digest the class as part of your everyday life and dig deeper into concepts that interest you. Not only will your friend serve the role of a study group, but it’s the equivalent of studying over a long period as opposed to cramming before an exam. You’ll remember the lessons longer and appreciate the class more.
4. Keep a diary
It sounds cheesy, like something more suited for teenybopper girls than college students, but journaling is a great way to reflect on your day, studies and general life. This introspective process is rejuvenating and the practice will sharpen your writing skills.
Research has suggested writing things down in your own handwriting reinforces your memory of it — this is why I always take notes by hand. Even then memory won’t last forever. Someday you’ll be thankful you kept a record of experiences and insights during college.
Make writing a part of your nightly or morning routine. Students less inclined to follow a schedule can carry their notebook and write on the go whenever the mood hits.
5. Think dialectically
College is full of people who think they’ve got it all figured out trying to indoctrinate you. Have an open mind, but remember only fools follow blindly. Recognize that every issue has several angles and approaches. It’s not about picking a “right” side, but recognizing the pros and cons of each and how they work together in the bigger picture.
Pay attention to your professors and that person preaching politics at a party, but take it with a grain of assault. Try to play devil’s advocate to every statement you hear. Be respectful, but push people’s ideologies to test their strength and better understand the subject at hand.
Make sure to think and converse with positive, not normative, statements. Put thought and weight behind everything you say, and think critically about all the information you ingest.
Mastering dialectic thought is difficult, but it will eventually build cognizance, problem solving, analyzing, and debating skills.
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