BY: Barbara Kantrowitz
One professor's notes on success could help make the next four years a little easier
This is the time of year when many of us are getting ready for high school graduation parties – the last step before the empty nest. We’re anxious for our children as they head off on their own, usually for the first time. Will they make friends? Will they stay healthy? And will they really get what they need from the college experience?
The answers to those first two questions depend a lot on the individual student, but be reassured: by the time most graduate, they usually have at least a few pals and have managed to stay reasonably intact despite all-nighters and frat parties. The last question is a lot trickier. With the cost of college adding up to a huge amount of debt these days and a bleak job market for new grads, it’s especially critical to make the most of these years.
A new book by an Iowa professor offers some useful tips. Philip Freeman received his PhD from Harvard and now teaches classical languages at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. His book, Lecture Notes, offers an insider’s view of what it takes to succeed on campus. There’s lots of detailed practical advice (how to deal with advisers, how to pick a major) but Freeman says it really all boils down to three basic rules:
1. Go to Class: “Nothing in college is more important than showing up for your classes. And I don’t mean just at the beginning of the semester when you’re still excited about learning a new subject. I mean at the end of four months when your brain is dead and your body cries out for precious sleep.”
2. Read the Books: “You can’t do well in college without reading the books. And I don’t mean just perusing a book like you would a magazine article, but really working through material in an organized and productive way. Whether you’re doing calculus or Chinese poetry, you have to put your heart into it.”
3. Talk to Your Professors: “Professors are there to help you, but they only way we can do that if if we know you have a problem..”
As you look for graduation presents for the senior in your life, you’ll find lots of choices (including the perennial favorite Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess), put this slim volume on the list. It could be the one book that really makes a difference.
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