Our time at college is a great opportunity for us to grow in both knowledge and values. The amount of resources at our disposal is so vast we forget just how much we are capable of doing.
Making use of any of these 25 smart goals will ensure your time is not wasted.
1. Get to know one professor really, really well.
Your professors are more than just graders of papers and lecturers. They each have their own motivations, desires and interests which has shaped them into the person they are. They followed a winding path to get where they are. Get to know at least one professor. If they are successful at what they do, they will offer insight into what it takes to become so. They might know some tricks of the trade that aren’t in the textbooks, and they will most likely have some hands-on experience which will give you an edge over others.
Plus, your time on campus may be more enjoyable when you get to know the people there. Heck, they may even cut you a break on your grade those times you forget about the term paper due the next day and write 30 pages of jumbled mess that uses your aunt Sherry as a source. I wouldn’t count on it though.
2. Get an on-campus job in your department.
The best thing I did in college was get a position as a logic tutor in the philosophy department. I was around my professors often, got to chit chat about small topics, had access to more resources than normal, and was very active with the students of the classes. It was a great time and I felt like I made a big difference for a lot of students.
Grading papers wasn’t the greatest thing, but it did give me a chance to see what kind of work goes into being a teacher, good or monotonous.
3. Read an extremely difficult text.
We tend to stick to a comfort zone when it comes to reading. This tip doesn’t apply to your textbooks; you are expected to read those anyways.
Find a difficult text (it doesn’t even have to be in your field) and attempt to conquer it. Be an expert on it by the time you are done. Your knowledge will increase substantially.
4. Write a detailed paper on that text.
There is nothing more challenging than writing a clear and concise paper upon a text you hardly have any experience with. You are forced to really do your research and make a strong case for whatever you happen to be arguing for.
Writing a paper on the text will ensure you have paid attention whilst reading.
5. Go to most of your classes.
I remember the first time I skipped a class. Goody little two shoes me felt like such a rogue. It was an unfathomable thing coming out of high school only to realize that in college skipping class every once in a while is, dare I say it, okay.
It’s not something you want to do often though, and by god, be smart about it. If your professor states he/she doesn’t like it, then you best not do it. If you can’t remember when the next test it, please don’t dare, lest you get a text from your classmate asking where you were because “this test was worth 50% of the final grade.”
You are an adult now (or at least expected to be one). You can make your own choices regarding the class. What you get out of it is equal to what you put in. So don’t worry about skipping a class here and there for good reasons (key word:good), but just be smart about it.
6. Learn something that changes the way you think.
Thinking is the way by which one thing signifies another. Associations are made and each time certain things come up, your mind suggests a solution based on past experience. In short, we create habits of thought.
Take some time this year to look for other ways of doing things, other ways of solving problems. Make sure to give this different way a chance; don’t give up on it after one try. You may find a new pathway by which to solve deep and important problems, whether in your field or in your life generally.
7. Learn something that shakes your foundation.
Think of your core beliefs about anything, whether political or spiritual or related to your field. They are the beliefs you would never think to be wrong. Except it’s just not the truth.
Many ideas just work for a long time, until one fateful day when they come across a problem they just can’t solve. Learn something this year that hits hard at those core beliefs and really tests them. If they can’t hold up to the test, it’s time to find something new.
8. Take a class outside of your major.
This does not mean take something easy in order to bolster your credit hours. Take something challenging that shakes you up a bit. Find your weakness and start there. Credit hours cost money. Don’t waste it on something that won’t do you much good.
Think of it as an investment. Spending the same amount of money on an easier class will only result in a weaker return than if you were to really challenge yourself.
9. Join a club or activity.
Colleges have lots of people, with lots of interests. Whatever interests you may have, there is likely a club for it, with others who think like you. Joining a club or activity will give you a good group of people to go to with new ideas and general chit chat related to your field.
Hell, you might actually have fun at such events. It’s a scary thing I know.
And if you can’t find a club, maybe you should think about starting one.
10. Get involved with your peers in your major.
Other people involved in your major likely have things to contribute which you may not have thought of. Just like your professors, they are there to fulfill certain goals of what it means to be successful. It may be that your paths are similar and you could help each other out.
11. Don’t let your diet crumble.
It’s easy to give into beer and pizza all the time to make things easy, but your ability to learn is tied to your ability to stay healthy.
If you are short on time, plan ahead. Follow a handful of principles if you have to eat out.
Sure, your diet will likely take a hit during finals week, but just don’t let it completely break down. Those bad habits will be hard to break.
12. Find your way of relaxing.
The art of relaxing is something that you should take definite steps towards, as often as you can. Being able to get out of the fray and release some tension and anxiousness does wonders for you in the long run.
While we all instantly think of hot tubs and massages, the truth is that we all relax differently. For some people, its taking a jog on a nice day. For others its reading a good novel. For some it might even be something more extreme like juggling knives while someone shouts out trivia questions. It doesn’t matter, you need to find out what helps you relax and do it each day to let off some steam.
13. Go on a perspective changing trip.
During a semester studying eastern religions, our professor was able to secure a grant to take several students to tour some religious temples. This was a couple day, out of state trip.
It ended up being a great experience. We met many different kinds of people who taught us much more than we would learn from any textbook.
14. Meet with a career planning advisor.
Colleges offer so many resources to help you out with your future career that often we forget they are there.
Seek out these resources and get started on planning out how you will transition from a college student, to a member of the work force in whatever field you are studying. The path may be trickier than you think and having a head start will allow you to have an edge over your peers vying for the same positions.
15. Get rid of your TV.
A better option may be to “get rid of your cable.” In this age of Netflix and online streaming, there is no need to zombie out in front of a TV for hours on end.
Your time is important to you. Know what you want to watch and then go watch it. Channel surfing for days looking for something to watch is so 1997.
16. Befriend a person with the opposite religious perspective.
If you are Christian, find an atheist and vice versa. Don’t be so daft as to think that you can’t get along with another human being, even considering you have different views about the world as large. Doing so will open you up to how other people view your beliefs and how maybe they are wrong about some things but right about others.
Your perspective is the point from which you view the world. This is contingent upon where you were born, how you were raised, how you were educated, from your self knowledge, and from your own rational thought. Other people came up in different circumstances, and thus different variables acted upon them, as well as the way their personal investigations cohere with these variables.
Understanding this is key to understanding other people and the world at large and getting to know people with the a different perspective will shed light on just how different we all can be.
17. Pay attention so well you don’t even need notes.
Taking notes is a time-tested strategy for retaining what was in the lecture. Merely taking notes by itself in whatever fashion just won’t work. There are much better ways to take notes than others, but in all the note-taking it can be easy to forget to use our best asset for learning, our own mind.
A passive mind sits and listens to what the professor is saying, and this is the default mode most of us take because it makes it easier to take notes. However, having an active mind is much more engaging for the class.
Don’t just listen to what the professor is saying. Think of ways to apply the teachings, mull over the arguments and try to counter them, or just think of the consequences of the ideas.
Attending the class in this way makes taking notes less important, and while the notes you take will still help you later, they won’t be such a crutch as they are now.
18. Actually read the required texts.
A lot of professors are kind and will summarize the main points of the texts in class before moving on to talk about them. This helps ensure the class moves along smoothly and helps to sift out any possible mis-interpretations, so you may actually be able to get away with not reading the texts.
If this is something you do often, I challenge you to change your ways. You don’t necessarily have to read it twice like some say you should, but at least take a look at it and try to get a clear picture before you enter the classroom.
19. Find the cheapest activities around town.
You may be new to the town if you are just starting school, or maybe you are a veteran, but still broke.
It helps to know the best ways around town to relax without breaking the bank. Maybe there are some hiking trails, or parks, or cheaper bowling alleys. Whatever it is, it helps to know where you can get a deal on something without losing too much.
Plus, you can seem like an expert on all the cool places in town in front of your friends.
20. Participate in something that has measurable progress.
Self-Improvement, one of the main topics of this website, can be a tricky endeavor. “Improvement” is not always measurable. We just kinda know we have become a better person.
While some things like money, how much we can lift, and how fast we can run a mile are measured by numbers, things like virtue and growth as an individual are hard to pin down.
Taking part in activities that do allow for measurable progress is a nice breath of fresh air when it comes to personal development. Get involved in something you can measure week to week, month to month, year to year. They may not be good indicators of overall success, but they give you nice checkpoints by which to see progress come to life.
21. Go to all the free college sponsored activities you can.
As a student you get access to all sorts of things, whether free or discounted. Take advantage of everything you can. Back to school picnics, meet ups, football games, whatever. You will meet new people, learn new things, and have a good time.
22. Start putting money away from day 1.
Saving money in college is a tough thing to do, but you should start anyway. Get a savings account and be vigilant about putting something in there each week. It doesn’t have to be much.
When something big comes along, you will have a bit of padding to help you out. The transition from college to work force can be a tough one and you don’t want to be unprepared.
23. Enjoy every bit of it.
As long as you have clear goals about who and what you want to be, you are going to have to learn how to love the daily grind. All the accomplishments come with failures. The highs comes with lows.
Each of these things has a place in the overall picture, but you need to have a picture for it to make sense. Understand your own goals and motivations, and know that tough times will come, but so will the successes.
24. Learn how to respect others.
Each of us has our own perspective, our own emotions, and our own goals. We attempt to bring our dreams to fruition through our endeavors.
Respecting other people is respecting their journey. They may not be where you are (and they may not even be interested in being there). Their ideas of success may be elsewhere. They may not have the same resources at their disposal.
Basic respect should be given to everyone. Don’t assume the worst just because someone thinks differently. If you respect others, they will respect you.
25. End it all completely exhausted.
Energy is a big aspect of learning. You learn best when you are operating on a full tank. As you do activities throughout the day, throughout the year, you expend this energy.
If you have learned how to relax and how to recover, you can hit each day with a full tank and really give yourself a chance to dig deep into whatever you want to learn about.
The best goal you can have this year is to participate in so much, involve yourself with so many different endeavors, that you end the year completely exhausted. The break is not only welcome. It’s required. You’ve given your all to the cause, and now its time for a break.
College can be an amazing experience, one of intense growth as an individual. Don’t let it go to waste. Your future self will thank you.