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Smart’s a Start

By Claire Salinas @claire_ify_

“In high school you may have avoided nerds, but now they are one of your greatest resources. Buy them a cup of coffee and make friends with them, because they are going to be a lot easier to understand than a YouTube tutorial at midnight.”

Many freshmen enter college thinking they’re set. They made all A’s – or pretty close to it in high school – and they have been told their whole lives they’re one of the smartest crayons in the box.

It doesn’t take most people long to figure out that being smart is only half the battle in college.

The other half of the equation comes from good communication, utilization of resources, and mostly sheer grit.

 Learn to communicate with professors

You don’t need to become a psychic, but if you can figure out how your professor thinks and get on their level — no matter how opposite you are from each other — you’re going to have a much easier time meeting their expectations.

The moment I realized my teacher was looking for a sentence count more than beautifully worded sentences, I was able to let go of the perfectionist in me and give him the facts using at least five sentences per response.

Assuming that teachers owe you something because you are paying their salary is an attitude that is sure to lead to pain for both of you.

For instance, yes they have office hours, but it’s still courteous to let them know you plan on dropping by. This gives them time to prepare for your visit and gather any materials they may want to use to help answer your question.

Utilize campus resources

You pay for the tutoring center on campus. It’s free. Use it.

The Center for Academic Success exists to give you access to free tutoring. If there are no tutors who assist with your subject, you can request one and the center will attempt to hire someone. Don’t be dismayed that the only Spanish you know comes from the lyrics of that Spanglish song that always pops up on your Pandora – use the center.

Better than that, do you see the person raising their hand and getting all the right answers? In high school you may have avoided nerds, but now they are one of your greatest resources. Buy them a cup of coffee and make friends with them, because they are going to be a lot easier to understand than a YouTube tutorial at midnight.

Time management

Some of the most intelligent people are huge procrastinators. Whether your reasons for doing so are because you were at a kegger the night before or because a night of research for the perfect paper topic left you with nothing but scribbled musings on the meaning of life, all types of procrastination lead to work not being completed.

In college you have to make a conscious decision to spend that extra hour between classes working on your essay if you want to have a guilt-free night of fun with your friends, even though you would much rather be lounging in CC’s.

 Learn how to speak off the cuff

You may have read the entire chapter word for word, but if you are unable to talk about what you read in a coherent manner when you’re called on in class, you’re screwed.

Learn to get a basic understanding of the material and add to your knowledge of the topic with outside resources so you are as comfortable speaking about it as you are with giving your coffee order.

People are always impressed with statistics and percentages, so if you can find a way to work that in to your response you’ll seem even more knowledgeable.

Professors often feel they are responsible for training you for the real world. Recognizing what they are trying to accomplish through each course will help you to loathe them just a little bit less for assigning weekend homework, and hopefully will get you some brownie points if you can articulate it back to them.

Being smart can get you pretty far in college, but after that it can have a lot to do with forming good relationships with your classmates and professors, and learning how to roll with the punches.

Despite what you have been told, intellectuals locked in ivory towers doing research is not the norm in most areas of higher education, so go ahead and avoid midnight panic attacks by taking it upon yourself to develop the skills necessary to succeed in college. If all else fails, there’s always NoteSwap.

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