Graduation season is now upon us, so I am addressing this to all my high school senior friends and readers. Firstly, congratulations! Graduating high school is a huge bench mark! Now it is time to celebrate the end of one stage and beginning of the next. Right now you’re brimming with self-confidence over your success in high school and maybe, just maybe, you’re thinking it’s going to be an assured cakewalk at your chosen college. As a friend and fellow student myself, I’m here to tell you it’s not. To gently dispel such naïveté I’d like to proffer these five nuggets:
1. Studying. To all my graduating high school seniors and fellow high-achievers, I’m going to put this bluntly, get over yourself if you don’t think you have to study. If high school didn’t require you to study much, starting learning how. Now. Figure out how to study and get good at it. Discipline yourself. You will find that an extra hour of hard studying pays dividends on a test.
2. Tests. At university a lot rides on them and they’re demanding. In high school I was one of those super-achievers that took nine AP tests my senior year and felt sure that I could fare just as well in college. I’m an engineering major and believe me, if you think AP tests are as hard as it gets, think again. College tests can be harder still and it can be disconcerting to realize that no matter how many tests you take, you might never feel 100% prepared for any of them.
3. Grades. Here’s a shocker: grades aren’t everything. Chances are you’re a sharp-shooter. Maybe you’ve bulls-eyed good grades with little or no effort and you’ve felt “mission accomplished.” Well, the target changes in college. Don’t aim exclusively at grades. Instead, the mature student knows that mastering the material will get you farther in college and life. Do that, and the grades will come. Guaranteed. Plus, your professors will recognize your hard work, which just might give you that extra sway when you need a half-point at the end.
Research. If you have even a hint of interest in research as an undergrad, field notwithstanding, ask your professors about getting involved. This serves a dual purpose: 1) your classroom professor will know your face and associate you with hard work and passion and 2) you will get your foot in the door for a possible job in a semester or two—and I don’t mean working the library desk at midnight. Especially in the sciences, laboratory professors are always looking for capable underclassmen to grab the knowledge baton as seniors graduate.
Moderation. If you do not set limits, you will quickly get overstretched. If you hear the story of the 3 S’s, Sleep, Social, and Study, you might be told you can have only two. However, if you are skilled about it, you can have all three—but only through moderation. Equilibrium is tricky to find. If you can’t have all three, then do a great job on two—just make sure one of them is Study.
No doubt you’ll find others besides these five. Keep yours in mind when you’re asked to pass on your wisdom to your underclassmen friends after you. Now, hit the ground running at college this fall!