Susan Shapiro recently published an op-ed in the New York Times that really hit home for me. In “College Advice I Wish I’d Taken,” Shapiro details what she was concerned about in college, and where she went wrong.
While reading the article, the way she described herself in college is very similar to me: interested in boys, social drama, and poetry (or in my case, journaling). What she didn’t realize, and neither did I, is that college is only four years. Her main lesson: there are only four years to take advantage of every opportunity, but nobody is going to make you take advantage of anything. College is up to you, and it’s your responsibility to make the most out of it.
Shapiro explains that she was an average student. She didn’t care that much about her grades, and now she sees how A’s offer advantages and opportunities.
“Recently I learned that my niece Dara, a sophomore at New York University with a 3.7 G.P.A. (and a boyfriend), was offered a week of travel in Buenos Aires as part of her honors seminar. I was retroactively envious to learn that a 3.5 G.P.A. or higher at many schools qualifies you for free trips, scholarships, grants, awards, private parties and top internships. At 20, I was too busy freaking out when said boyfriend disappeared (after sleeping with one of said friends),” writes Shapiro.
She reflects on putting her social life before her academic work, and she regrets it immensely. Shapiro also stresses the importance of going to big lectures — instead of skipping them to sleep in — and attending office hours. Her tip: get to know your professor because they could help you score a cool job in the future. Another tip: send professors who made an impact on you a thank you note at the end of the term. They will appreciate it, remember you, and maybe even help you out in the future.
Another piece of advice: alcohol and drugs are overrated. Although it seems like everyone in college is doing one or the other or both, it’s usually a waste of time. “Drinking and smoking eased my social anxiety and seemed like fun. Until I couldn’t stop… Instead of partying, I’d do movie nights, dancing, yoga, aerobics classes and readings with friends and dates. I was surprised to see that my work greatly improved, as did my relationships,” said Shapiro. Partying every night gets old, and that’s not what college is all about.