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Getting the most out of college

We are all in college to get educated, yet many of us tend to forget that. Some of you believe that college is a means to an end. It’s all about getting a piece of paper certifying that you’re qualified to earn big bucks. Some of you are here because it’s just the natural order of things. You’re expected to go to college once you graduate high school.

However, I’m sure many of you returning are eager to begin classes and to see what’s in store for another year.How quickly does it take for us to stray from good intentions? During the first couple weeks of school, I usually wake up early for breakfast and get to class five minutes ahead of schedule. I sit down in lecture and take detailed notes. I make sure to have the reading done ahead of time. I organize and carefully label my notebooks and folders, sharpen a few pencils, clean my desk and maybe add a potted plants.

But by mid-semester, everything usually goes straight to hell. Last year, after my first midterm, I decided I could skip my astronomy lectures and just read the textbook. Since my history class gave detailed study guides, I didn’t need to do any of the assigned readings as long as I crammed for the exams a few nights before. No one collected my chemistry homework, so what was the point of doing it? And who needs to keep up with the weekly reading in political science when the only two term papers due all semester don’t require any references? Once again, I compromised myself and my education.

I needed to have a good transcript for graduate school. I had to get high marks to stay competitive with my classmates and friends. I also needed to make my parents happy with their decision to finance my schooling.

Once again, education took a back seat to point totals and academic laziness. I did what all good over-achievers do – the bare minimum to get an A. You learn to play the system. You do what you need to do and nothing more.

How many of us are diligent enough to take the other route? To always sacrifice our points and our free time to actually do some solid learning? Sadly, today it’s not what you know, but what you can show.

What company or university will take the time to interview each applicant when it can just screen them by qualifications and scores? It’s not about who’s the most qualified as much as who has achieved what and where it was achieved.

With pressure coming from all sides and a competitive job market, it’s not easy to disregard grades and be a total idealist. The goal is to strike a delicate balance.

The system is the way it is, and you can’t help but play by its rules if you want to win. Still, you are the master of your education, and the more you put into it, the more you will get out. Many of us tend to stop when we’ve reached the boundaries and standards that have been set for us. We never wish to know more than we need to.

All of us want success, but many of us have lost sight of the fact that the process is more important than the end result.