So You're in College: Five Tips for Success While You're in Boston

boston universityBoston University photo by lumierefl on Flickr

Welcome to Boston, new college students! You’ll find yourself pulled in a million different directions over the coming weeks and months. I’ve been there before and what follows are a few of my modest suggestions for enhancing for experience inside and outside of the classroom, dorm, etc.:

1. Ask questions all the time: A few questions in college have straight-forward answers (i.e. What time does my class on post-modern Finnish cinematic traditions meet?), but most of them do not (i.e. What am I doing in college?) The important thing about college is to ask questions of just about everyone you meet: professors, classmates, deans, etc. Life is inherently a mystery, so why not try to figure out some of it by asking as many questions as you can? No one will fault you for asking, and if they do, they are simply not worth your time.

2. Pay attention to deadlines: Deadlines are important, and the sooner you are able to honor and respect them, the better off you’ll be. When things get completely backed up near the end of the semester and you find yourself with a mountain of work that cannot be conquered, you’ll understand this more fully. Most professors and other people you will encounter will be accommodating, but you only have so many grandparents. Make sure they don’t keep on “dying” throughout the semester to get extensions on papers and so on. Besides, it’s bad karma.

3. Explore Boston: Boston, in case you hadn’t noticed, is expensive. You are paying a premium to live in this very pricey enclave. So why not get out and about and explore the city and its many free attractions? It’s easy to get stuck in a routine by going to class, heading out to the gym, parties in Allston/Mission Hill/Fenway, and there is much more to the city. Why not take the Blue Line over to the lovely Piers Park in East Boston? Or drop on by the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation in Beacon Hill? Make an event out of it and take some friends.

4. Take a class at another school: Spoiler alert: There are many, many colleges in the Boston area. This probably hasn’t escaped your attention, but once again, people get stuck in a routine (see Tip #3 above). Take the initiative to take a class at one of the other schools in the area. This is easy to do, especially if your school is part of the Colleges of the Fenway or the Professional Arts Consortium, which includes Emerson College, The Boston Conservatory, and the Boston Architectural College. It’s a great way to meet other people, and you might gain a new interest.

5. Be curious: This is the most difficult suggestion on this list, and after 10 years of teaching college, I don’t think this is a skill or characteristic that can be taught. If you’re curious about the world, life will be a whole hell of a lot interesting, I guarantee. Part of being curious involves asking questions, but it also involves preparing for Life After College. College itself can not make you “be curious,” but it certainly provides the right environment for getting people on that long and wonderful road to life-long curiosity.