Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thriving in College #1

My youngest brother Christopher is a freshman at LeTourneau University in Texas. He's smart as a whip and is taking classes I would have died in, like Calculus and Chemistry. When I talk to him about the college experience, I think of things I wish I had known when I was a freshman (but probably wouldn't have listened to if someone had told me - oh well). Consequently I feel like telling him those things, because that is what big sisters like to do: imagine that a younger brother might learn from his older sister's stumblings through life. I asked Christopher if he'd like to hear periodic thoughts and tips, and his enthusiastic response was, "Yes!" Maybe these thoughts will be of interest to other college students, as well.

So without further ado...

Thriving in College #1: First Impressions

First impressions. You've probably been told how important they are. That applies to your college experience more than you may know. When students embarking upon taking lessons with my college violin teacher ask me for advice, I usually say something like this: "Work really, really hard. Show that you're interested, fascinated, and passionate about the violin by your body language and by your work ethic. Impress him now, or I'm sorry, but he'll write you off. If he starts being "nice" to you, that means he doesn't think you're going anywhere. You have a window of time in which to make him think you're worth his time. Take it and use it well."

While not all teachers are as intense as my violin teacher was, the principle applies to your college courses. Show your teachers how much you care about what you're doing - even if you have to fake it. If you are struggling, or get a lower grade that you expected on an assignment (everybody does at least once!), go talk to the professor about it. It puts you on his radar in a good way, so you're not just a name on a roster, one of many (most likely) who may be straggling. It also lets him know that you would like to do better. Be front and center and show that you want to succeed, and your teachers will take an interest in helping make that happen. That's what they're there for, and if they're worth their salt, it's their top priority as teachers to help YOU soar.

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