Last updated on November 18th, 2022 at 06:29 pm
the truth about school
I'm going to share something with you that took me years to figure out: Getting the most out of your education will require you to develop yourself and your skills along the way.
That’s right, the key to a successful college education is self-development.
I was so shocked when I first realized this, because it isn't something that I learned in high school. To be honest, I didn't even learn it in college. I learned it by trial and error and through mentorship.
Your degree is a tool
I referenced this in my previous blog post, 5 Useful Tips For Succeeding In Graduate School, but having a degree is a tool. And with any tool, it requires the right mindset and skill level in order to properly engaged that tool.
You do not need starter blocks to run the 200-meter dash, but if you have them and know how to properly use them, then you definitely have the opportunity to run a better race.
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BE THE CHANGE
It is true that the traditional educational system may not serve the needs of all students. It’s a harsh reality, but I still have faith that that can change.
My work as a certified Academic Success Coach is rooted in sharing all the tools I didn’t learn from a college course. Most of the advice I will share with you isn’t actually my own. It is the advice I received from mentors, educators, and coaches that I connected with on my personal development journey.
From Public Housing to ivy league
I went from failing my first college course (CHEM I was a doozy! Haha), to becoming one of the top applicants in my doctoral program. What changed? I did.
You have that same power also! There is no shortcut to success. If someone offers you one, then please run away as fast as possible because IT IS A SCAM! However, the path doesn’t have to be daunting. You can get the MOST out of your education, work hard, and still maintain a sense of well-being.
it starts with self-awareness
There is no substitute for self-awareness
It's so easy to go through college listening to the opinions of the world and pursuing a degree that does not speak to your heart. Trust me. I have been there.
The only reason why I started off as a pre-med student was because I was searching for a degree that would allow me to make enough money to take care of myself and my family.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you come from a disadvantaged background, the only thing you can think about is setting yourself up for a better future. Becoming a doctor, lawyer, or engineer were my top choices.
To be honest, I only wanted to become a doctor because I had read Dr. Ben Carson’s book Gifted Hands in high school and saw how his career allowed him to become well-respected and take care of his family.
But I hate being in hospitals, so I am actually glad I failed that course and took the time to figure out what I actually loved doing.
The most important questions you will ask yourself as a college student are: Who am I, and what do I want to accomplish in life? Do it now if you haven’t already. And if your answer is, “I don’t know who I am or what I want,” then try out a bunch of things until you figure it out.
It is okay to fail. It is okay to explore, but it isn’t okay to remain in ignorance. The only path to clarity is through awareness. Knowing what you don’t want is just as valuable as knowing what you do want. Let that sink in.
I recommend checking out one of my favorite books for helping you on your journey of self-discovery, The Mastery of Self: A Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom by don Miguel Ruiz Jr.
Highlight your academic strengths
Discover your gifts
Your academic strengths are skills that you’re naturally good at or find easy to improve in. For example, I struggled with test anxiety since high school, and because of it, I could never score well on standardized or multiple-choice tests.
I could have a full conversation with you about the class material but when an exam was placed in front of me, my mind would blank. This wasn’t always true though. I constantly received high grades on written assignments and math tests that evaluated our knowledge of formulas. I was good at analyzing systems and communicating what I knew.
The only reason I feel I was able to make it this far in my academic journey is because I found out what I was good at, and I took advantage of opportunities that allowed me to showcase those strengths. Yale definitely wouldn’t have taken me if I had remained a chemistry major. To be honest, I probably would have flunked out before my junior year.
Develop your gifts
What are you good at? Are you a great writer or researcher? Do you pass biology exams with ease? Do complex systems make sense to you? All of this is important to know. Your gifts will make room for you in higher education, but first, you must know what they are.
Talk to people (NETWORK!!)
I cannot stress the importance of networking enough. Many people never get the most out of their education because no one knew about them or their goals.
Use your voice to talk with professors and other students. Let them know what you are struggling with or what brings you the most joy. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know”? Listen to me, YES! This is 100% true.
Having mentorship in college saved me on so many levels. But these mentors would not have been aware of me or my goals if I hadn’t gone to their office hours asking for help or written them a three—page letter about my life and why I needed the help (true story lol). I was terrified of being rejected, but I was more afraid of being lost than I was of being told “I can’t help you.”
Networking in general is a great skill to develop. You never know what someone can help you achieve if you are willing to put yourself out there.
ASK FOR HELP!
If I can do it as an extreme introvert (INFJ) and someone who got through most of her life suffering in silence and believing that not asking for help was a sign of strength, then so can you. You do not have to do this on your own. You can, but what fun is that?
take advantage of college resources
Your university is packed with resources to help you succeed!
When I was hired as an Academic Success Coach by the Office of Enrollment and Retention at GW, my main priority was to not tutor students, but to basically find out what their needs were and to connect them with resources around campus that could help them. Go to your school’s website or to the admissions office and ask them what resources are available to you as a student.
You have the writing center, career services, and LITERALLY PROFESSORS, just to name a few. It is their job to make sure you are successful.
Universities hate when students drop out of their institution because it decreases their graduation rate, which looks really bad to prospective students and donors.
They want you to graduate, so they hire people to make sure that happens. You just have to go to them most of the time, but they are there. Trust me.
live from the end
Always Have a plan!
The simple fact is that going to college is supposed to set you up for a better future. College isn’t the end but a means to an end. Always have a plan for how you will use your college degree to achieve your career goals and serve others.
The truth is, you do not have to be 100% with what you want to be when you grow up (no one really knows, even the grown-ups). Just have a target set so that you can establish an intention. It is likely that your goals will evolve as you do, but that is normal.
Living from the end allows you to imagine your ideal life and make the necessary sacrifices to manifest that dream. Often times, those sacrifices are giving up our limiting beliefs about what we are supposed to do with our life, or putting in the necessary hours of work instead of binge-watching another season of Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix (real moment here!).
visualize your success!
Most successful people are intentional about visualizing their ideal reality.
What does your ideal life look like? Take a moment to sit still and visualize it. Imagine every emotion you would feel if that vision were your current reality. Keep that vision close on days when you feel like giving up the most.
Believe In your own success
Remember: You got this! I believe in you, but most importantly, I need YOU to believe in you too.