A college education is quite an investment, and it only makes sense to get the most out of it.

Here are some thoughts on enriching your learning and growth:

(1) Please realize that a college education is not merely an accumulation of knowledge, but is also mastering academic-related skills such as reading, writing, and critical thinking. Those skills will not only contribute to greater success in class, but they will also pay off for the rest of your life. In a Sept. 5, 2017 column in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Mike Masterson wrote that one study demonstrated that 45 percent of college students had “no significant improvement” in those kinds of skill development in their first two years of college. One could blame the college or university for that, or one could simply take it upon himself to work at it until achieving mastery. Those skills are crucial to success in almost any field.

(2) In your studies, it helps to go beyond what is required by the professor. One way to do this is to look for things within the coursework that spark an interest, and then pursue them further. You might be saying that you don’t have time to do more, but it will pay off it you make it work. Delve in to the subject matter. Do some extra digging on occasion. Make some notes for further reading. It could be that something you find interesting in one class can be a learning project that you complete for another class. In addition, it may serve as a source of inspiration or enjoyment for learning in the summer or after your college years.

(3) Is it possible to do too much in the way of academics? You might be thinking that there are times in which you need a mental break, and that’s true. But those times aren’t needed quite as frequently as you might think. Continuing to read and to cultivate your thinking will certainly make you sharper than the next person. And let’s face it: there is no individual who can truly say at the end of his or her life, “I’ve just learned far more than I needed.”

(4) Look for connections from one class to another. Because there is often some common ground between various curricula, you might notice that certain issues or certain terms will appear in unrelated subjects. If you synthesize your learning around those items, it will help you be more proficient in every class.

(5) Work to improve other skills such as teamwork, collaboration, meeting organizational goals, and good customer service. Those may not be required in some of your college coursework, but they are skills that you need to be learning about somewhere in life, if you aren’t already.

(6) Cultivate an attitude that will make you a very good employee. To do this, you will want to approach work based upon what you can contribute rather than what you can get out of it. During your college experience, you should focus on good character, trustworthiness, and reliability. In other words, you want to be the kind of person and the kind of employee that they can’t do without. A good resource on this (if you haven’t already read it) is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Very practical.

(7) Understand that once you get the degree and begin job hunting, you will be competing with applicants from all over the world (depending upon your profession). In many countries, the best and brightest are working harder and studying more hours than college students do in America.  It may not be possible for you to match their effort in that regard, but at the very least, it may mean that you’ll have to step up your game to prepare yourself to compete.

(8) Finally, remember that the degree is great but it doesn’t guarantee everything you want in life. You’ll have to focus on the learning and work towards what you want, especially after graduation. As my oldest son put it, “…getting a college degree is not a ticket in of itself to getting a job; it’s one piece of a multi-faceted equation.” So true. A college education is vitally important, but it is only one of many important ingredients in your recipe for success.


Transit and Parking Communications Director David Wilson contributed this article.