I’ve been an educator for forty years now, and for many of those years I’ve taught high school seniors, most of them bound for some sort of post-secondary education – community colleges, four year colleges and universities, technical training, and specialized career opportunities. Now I write a blog for students and parents, www.DrRickBlog.com.
On the last day of class before graduation, I’d give my seniors a little heartfelt talk, my well-honed last ditch attempt to send them out in the world with confidence, good sense, and purpose. They were always eager to hear what I had to say. They seemed to want direction at a scary time. It was my way of saying, “Godspeed.”
Here, then, taken from some of my just-before-graduation-talks, are, first, some study skills and, next, some personal attributes that can’t hurt in post-secondary learning. And beyond, actually.
- Organize yourself. Adults have been telling you this for years, and now you’re on your own. Make sure you organize your schedule, providing ample time for studying, doing assignments, recreation, and personal time. Keep a planner – either an electronic one or a written one – and make sure you keep to your own schedule. Set up routines that provide you with the structure you’ll need.
- Set goals. Know what you’re aiming for. Make some goals that stretch your capabilities, force you to improve skills and add to your knowledge. Goals could be academic (learning a new field of study), social (improving the circle or quality of your friends), or personal (relationships).
- Be responsible. You’ve heard these suggestions before, but they’re even more important now that you’re on your own. When you organize yourself and set goals, make sure you keep to the plan. Hang out with friends who have your well-being in mind. It’s not always easy suddenly to have lots of freedom, without parents and teachers setting restrictions and rules for you. Now, it’s up to you. Go to class. Take good notes. Review them. Give yourself plenty of time to study for tests. Concentrate. Don’t try to multi-task when you’re studying something difficult. It won’t work.
- Get help when you need it. Everyone needs a little help now and then. As soon as you suspect you’re having trouble in class, ask for help. Ask your professor or teaching assistant. Get a tutor. Ask a friend who’s talented in the field of study. Just get help. The longer you put it off, the worse it will be.
- Be positive. These are good years, so enjoy them. Just as you’ve planned and organized yourself for study, give yourself plenty of time for socializing and friendships. Some of the friendships you make in college will be lifelong, one of life’s true blessings. Select wisely, enjoy them now, and treasure them later. Be respectful. Be a good friend. Listen.
- Take advantage of what we know about your age group. No offense, but you’re not finished growing up. Brain research tells us that adolescence can extend well into the twenties. Making the switch from home to college can be difficult, so take advantage of any help that’s available to you. Now’s the time to select a mentor, for example, a trusted, admired adult whose skills and talents you’d like to emulate. Have someone you can talk to, study with, and learn from.
- Volunteer. Nothing helps you to learn new skills, to make you competent, and to increase your confidence more than teaching. Volunteer to teach young kids, for example, to play softball or soccer, to sing or play guitar, to act in a play, to swim at the neighborhood pool, to improve their math or reading during the summer. You’ll be the grown up and testing the waters while you’re still young.
- Stay open to new and old experiences. Your own personality is still developing. Learn new skills, join interesting extracurricular groups, stretch your mind, your abilities, and your soul. If you haven’t gone to church or temple for a while, go with some friends and see how the experience changes now that you’re on your own.
- Stay grounded. You’ve learned good values and attitudes from your parents, teachers, and other trusted adults. Live up to those values while you’re searching for your own special relationship to them.
- Read. Never stop reading. Read for information to stay tuned to the world and your place in it. Read others’ opinions and develop your own. Read just for the pure literary pleasure. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book or a Kindle, just read. Your mind wants to keep growing. Indulge it.