CollegeDegrees360, CC 2.0
Source: CollegeDegrees360, CC 2.0

Whether you’re off to college for the first time or are a veteran of exam cram, these reminders, which stray little from common sense, may be worth this quick read.

Better the good instructor than the good course title. Medieval History can be transformative while Advanced Sex can be soporific. It all depends on the instructor. Sure, especially at a small college, you may be stuck with the only professor who teaches that  required course but often you have discretion. To help pick, use sites that aggregate student reviews of professors but don’t just opt for charismatic or easy profs. Sure, you want to avoid the instructors who are incomprehensible or trying to win the World's Most Rigorous Professor Award but mainly screen the reviews for one factor: How transformative s/he is. You want professors who will broaden and deepen how you think, write, and appreciate. They’re too rare but they exist.

Take an independent study. Some professors will let you take a one-on-one course with them, studying something that intrigues you that is relevant to their expertise. Pick a professor whose course you’ve taken and with whom you click.

Choose extracurriculars wisely. You may learn more of value outside the classroom than in. Particularly potent: Join and maybe eventually start a club, produce and/or host a program on the campus radio or TV station, join student government, be an activist, organize a road trip, join a sports team, attend a club meeting with a political perspective different from yours. Are you liberal? Attend a Libertarian meeting. Conservative? Try a socialist one. Truly, wisdom resides across the political spectrum although in too many of today's college classes, celebration of ideological diversity stops as soon as you dare veer right of center.

Pick friends carefully. Please don’t abuse your freedom from parents’ watchful eye. Make friends with, yes, nice people: kind, interesting, smart students, faculty, and administrators.

Avoid drugs, please. I know this sounds like a stodgy parent but, for example, marijuana is more dangerous to your physical and mental health than you may have been led to believe by Big Tobacco and other special interests trying to manipulate you into using pot.

Seek out career-related fieldwork and internships. Don’t like your supervisor? That’s key to your career success, so be brave enough to request a different supervisor.

Be appreciative. When you’re a student, you’re mainly on the taking end: Courses and extracurriculars give you knowledge and pleasure. You’re asked only to learn and to be a decent student-citizen. When you’re out in the real world, much more will be demanded of you. Savor the moment. And if your parents are paying, thank them big-time: They may well be sacrificing their financial security so you can enjoy what some have called The Six-Year Summer Camp. (Yes, only 59% of freshmen at so-called four-year colleges graduate even if given six years.)

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at

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