Summer is waning, and college students across America are gearing up for the new semester. While many will stress over course schedules, dorm arrangements and textbook costs, it’s worthwhile to take a breather and remind yourself of some of your big picture goals as a college student. Here’s a to-do list for those who want to make the most of the coming semester:
1) Open Your Mind.
This is easier said than done in today’s world. In the internet age, we tend to consume news from sources that make us comfortable and espouse our own world views, shutting out the perspective of those we deem to be faulty in their logic or beliefs. On the college campus, you ought to have the opportunity to hear from many with a wide variety of backgrounds and views. Instead of sticking with your own, resolve to seek out others whose life experience is completely different. Be truly open to listening to their thoughts and opinions. You may not change your mind on key issues, but you’ll be a more well-rounded person who can understand and even explain the reasoning behind others’ views. Those qualities are valued by employers in every field so you’ll be well-prepared for your future. They have also always been an important feature of American democracy.
2) Make Connections and Find a Mentor.
You have a chance to seek out new people with wide-ranging expertise at school. Professors who mentor you in particular fields can expand your academic range and share real world workplace experience. You may be surprised at the interests you are developing and skills you are discovering as your professors help show you new worlds, challenge preconceived ideas about certain careers and push you past your own limits. These connections can be invaluable in helping you chart your academic path, while in school, and your professional track, once you graduate. Having someone you trust to bounce ideas off of as you consider graduate school and enter the workplace will help you make sound decisions and move ahead with confidence. Making the effort to forge connections with fellow students is also critical as your college peers may well be your professional network in the future, in addition to your closest allies.
3) Find Community Service Opportunities.
College is primarily about academics, but it is also a time for personal growth and giving back is where you’ll experience that. Volunteer opportunities abound in any community. Find something about which you feel passionate –the homeless, medically underserved, children in low income schools—and seek out ways to give your time and talent. You’ll find that you will gain nearly as much as you give and you may discover a cause where you can make long term and meaningful contributions over the course of your academic and professional career.
4) Go On a Digital Diet.
Technology has become essential and enormously useful. It has been estimated that millennials check their phones upwards of 150 times daily. Resolve to fight that instinct and go back to the way things used to be before digital stimuli took over interpersonal communications. The learning process happens when we take the time to read, listen, and focus on the environment around us. Even taking notes by hand, rather than typing them into your laptop, will help you commit the material to memory better. So study, read, and put away the phone. If you concentrate on living the moments, instead of capturing them to broadcast to hundreds on Snapchat or Instagram, you will gain so much more from your college experience.
5) Develop Resilience.
Life is messy. Not all experiences can be planned or scripted. Do not ignore intolerance, racism, or religious discrimination. Stand up for equality and sensitivity in interactions with others. But do not view every challenging text, difficult situation or perceived slur (be it inadvertent or purposeful) as a cause for a major crisis. You will have to interact with thoughtless people or those who do not fully understand your point of view throughout your life. Do not excuse them, but do not let your college experience be consumed by them either.
Alan Kadish, M.D. is President of the Touro College and University System, the largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution in the United States. The system encompasses approximately 18,000 students across 30 campuses and locations in four countries. Under his leadership, Touro provides educational opportunities and career paths ranging from liberal arts to law, medicine, dentistry and health sciences to technology, business, Jewish studies, education and more. Follow Dr. Kadish at https://twitter.com/DrKadish