Here’s the dirty little secret about college. You cruise right through it without learning a thing. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars, buy all the books, take all the classes – in short, go through all the motions without getting a useful education.
Sure, you’ll have the degree. But will you have the skills you need for the job you want? Will you have gotten your money’s worth out of college?
That’s the crucial question you have to ask yourself when you are preparing to go to college, or when you’re in the middle of your college career.
The truth is, especially at big schools, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. Professors can have lecture classes of hundreds of students. Advisers can see dozens of students in a day.
To make sure you get the education that you want, you have to be proactive. That means having clear goals in mind for what you want to achieve and communicating those goals to your professors, advisers and others who can help you get there.
Even for financial aid, you can often get more just by asking. One of my friends, who attends a large, private university, got her college to pay for the computer programs she was required to buy, because she made a good argument that they cost beyond a reasonable price range for her to pay out of pocket. Other students in a similar situation just took out loans to buy the computer programs. The takeaway lesson here: Assert yourself, be your own advocate, and never be afraid to ask.
When planning your schedule, it’s also possible to tailor your classes to your interests and needs, if you are proactive. Many schools offer independent studies, research stipends and other opportunities for students to study what they actually want to study. But if you want to do this, you have to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, so you can write a convincing proposal.
Communication is important in any aspect of a person’s life, but it is especially important for college students, many of whom find that they have to be their own advocates for the first time in their lives. Those who aren’t proactive may have a less-than-desirable experience in college. Those who have clear goals in mind and actively work toward them will find that they get what they want out of their college experience.