Getting a good education is always a good idea. Coursework is not the greatest challenge today’s students face. There are some critical things to remember when you enroll in school.
1. Keep Your Focus
If you’re in college, why are you there? Even if you’re not sure about a major and your direction in life, a degree in a field you can live with is a valuable way to spend your time while you make up your mind. No matter what is happening in the world around you, keep your eye on the ball. You want your degree, and nothing should get in the way. The degree is your goal, and everything you do should serve that goal.
2. Being Away From Home Doesn’t Let You Off the Hook
There’s no one waking you up with breakfast on the table. There’s no one to tell you it’s time to do your homework, or it’s late and time for bed. You're making your own decisions. You’re responsible for yourself and your successes and failures. Think, carefully, before you act. Do your best to make sure your decisions support your focus.
3. Pick the Right Friends
If your friends get in the way of your focus, find new friends. If these are old friends you care about, make sure you don’t let those friendships get in the way. If your old buddies want you to go out and get wasted every weekend, and you have school work to do, you can’t serve two masters. If you spend your time partying, the work won’t get done, and you’ll flunk out. That doesn’t serve your focus.
4. Don’t Let Work Get in the Way
There are employers who want you to fail. They need uneducated employees who will work for minimum wage forever. They’ll ignore your requests for schedule considerations. I’ve seen it happen. I had a student who rarely attended class. I discovered her employer, who shall remain nameless, insisted she work at the same time class was in session. I told her the employer didn’t want her to succeed, or they would have cooperated. She missed class after class. I'm sure she will spend the rest of her life struggling to make ends meet. If the job doesn’t cooperate, find another job. Do without if you have to, but don’t let a job get in the way of your focus.
The more stuff you have, the more you need to work to pay for it. If you are in college and living near campus, you don’t need a car. You’ll live if you don’t go to a restaurant while you’re in school. New clothes can wait. You don’t need a sound system and big screen TV. College is for investing in your future. Credit card companies come to college campuses with free gifts for a reason. They know college students are young, often away from home for the first time, and not financially savvy. Walk by their enticing offers. They’re meant to enslave you with debt you can’t escape. They know what they’re doing. You don’t.
6. Get to Know Your Teachers
When you understand what your teachers believe is important, your grades will improve. I had a teacher my first year as a computer science major. He was a real programmer and just taught the course as a favor to the school. He had no office hours. I walked backed to his office with him almost every day. We talked about computers and programming. I learned about the things he thought were important about programming. I owe my "A" to what I learned on those walks.
7. Don’t Let Dating Get in the Way
When you go to college, you’re finally on your own. You make your own decisions. You don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder. It can be a heady experience. Chances are, the people you meet are different than any you have ever known. It’s like being a kid in a candy shop, but it can morph into a bull in a china shop in an instant. The lure of love can be intoxicating. Whatever you do, don’t let it get in the way of your focus.
8. Don’t Let Relationships Get in the Way
Relationships are important. People who are dying don’t regret not spending more time at the office or getting another degree. They regret they didn’t love enough. Having said that, if you know a degree is something you need for a better future, your significant other should support your goal. If that’s not happening, you have to understand why. Only you can decide what you want your life to be like and what matters to you. If someone truly loves you, your happiness should be a priority.
9. Drugs and Alcohol
Just don’t. If you think you can handle it, you can’t. If you did, you’d be the first. No one has ever handled drug and alcohol abuse. Any illegal drug use is abuse and dangerous, and the line between alcohol use and abuse is hard to define. If you're doing drugs or drinking, and you think you’re handling it, you’re not. If you reserve your partying for semester breaks and don’t overdo it, it’s probably not a problem. If you’re not sure how damaging drug and alcohol abuse can be, sit in on an AA or NA meeting, and listen to people whose lives have been destroyed.
10. Don’t Get Distracted
College is full of distractions. There are campus events, fascinating conversations, movies, new experiences, sunny days, favors to do, people to meet, sunsets to watch, and causes to fight for. The list goes on and on. It’s unbelievably easy to get distracted. There’s no shortage of things that can get in the way. You have until Monday to turn in the assignment, and it’s only Thursday morning. Take it easy. You’ll be ready to start Friday. Friday turns into Saturday then Sunday and, before you know it, it’s time to turn the assignment in, and it’s not done. Time passes. It’s better to get work done early. You’ll never regret it.
College is hard work. It requires all your attention. Put it first. You'll spend the rest of your life reaping the rewards that are the result of your effort, so do the best you can. You'll be glad you did.