9 ~ to ~ 5
By treating college like a job, you an maintain a healthy separation between your work and personal life, while taking care to approach the time and money you invest in a college education with a certain professionalism.
“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Show Up Prepared
The classroom environment is way more team-oriented, like most offices, than it seems at first glance. Instructors depend on the students to get their work done, so that they can move through the curriculum at a reasonable pace. When students skip doing the reading for class or "forget" to do their homework, they slow the entire class's progress.
Dress The Part
I don't care if everyone else is walking around in their pajama bottoms and a messy side-ponytail. I don't care if you want to be "comfortable." As a sign of respect for your instructor, put on non-elastic waist pants, run a brush (or at least your fingers) through your hair, and leave your slippers at home.
I realize there are some professors who dress like slobs. They are the exception. Most wear tailored blazers, trousers, and dresses because they are at work. And when you're in the classroom, you're at work too. So dress accordingly.
Be Careful Who You Date
Same goes for T.A.'s. Off limits, people.
Now, here's a trickier question: should you date classmates? It's natural that you will meet and want to date other students, but think carefully before you jump into something with that guy who, like you, is also the rare combination of an Engineering major and Japanese minor. You're going to be seeing him in every class from now until graduation, so make sure that's something you can handle if the relationship sours.
Personally, I resolved to never date someone while taking the same class. I broke my rule ONE TIME because the guy insisted we were meant to be more than friends. He was wrong (very wrong). I was sick of him after, like, 10 days, and still had a semester to go of being forced to share a room with him for 2 hours twice a week.
I didn't date any more classmates after that.
Establish Work Hours
Wrong. (Wrong, Wrong, WRONG.)
I wasn't sleeping at night because I was overworked. So working when I couldn't sleep was only making it worse. There was plenty to do on weekends; I just failed to prioritize socializing. There was no reason for me to camp out in the library for hours after finishing a day's worth of classes.
I'm telling you right now: not only do you deserve to have a clear separation between your school work and your personal life - it's essential that you do so.
Here are two maxims I belatedly implemented:
1. Minimum Effort for Maximum Output
- If the class is an easy A, don't do anymore than you have to. This way you conserve your energy for your more challenging classes, and free up time to do other things outside of school work.
2. Perfectionism is the Enemy of Getting Stuff Done
- My undergrad advisor saw me struggling to write the Most Perfect Undergraduate History Thesis Ever and noted, "Sometimes something needs to be just good enough in order to be done.
Wise words. Also, apparently he wrote his books according to this philosophy, so it works.
Know Your Strengths
If you have a booming voice, be the person who gets everyone's attention when your mouse-voiced instructor is failing to so.
It you know everything there is to know about computers, help your classmates get their PowerPoint presentations set up prior to class.
Same as any environment, you want to distinguish yourself as a valuable member of the group, both to your professor (boss) and fellow classmates (co-workers).
Own Your Weaknesses
If you know that philosophy or Greek mythology or Advanced Spanish is your academic Achilles heel, seek out help. If it's more of a skill - public speaking, writing, or leading your peers - look for assistance through on-campus clubs and organizations where you can practice strengthening your weak spots.
Remember You Are More Than The Job
Treat college like a job to keep yourself invested in your academic success, without confusing your professional objectives with your life's purpose.