You will most likely be introduced to several subjects in college that are brand new to you or are on a very advanced level. This requires you to really learn the material.
Learn how to listen (filter out all the unnecessary information) and take notes (not the ones where you scribble down every word the professor says); learn how to speed read through the books and comprehend them; learn how to identify the main points, concepts and the reasoning behind them.
If at any time you don’t understand something during the lecture or time with your TA, ASK. In all probability, 99% of the students are silently asking the same question but don’t have the nerve to ask. Most professors will be more than happy to make sure you understand. After all, evaluations come out at the end of the quarter/semester :) Then take what you learned and go a step further. Learn how to think critically. Based on what you learned, start expanding on the subject. Ask yourself “What if” questions. Try to look at what you learned from all angles, not just how it was presented to you by your professor and the textbook. Start drawing your own conclusions, make your own points, offer different ways of looking at things, but by all means, be able to back them up. By doing so, you’ll take your thinking to a whole new level and develop one of the most useful “real world” skills that you can learn in college.
You will find that critical thinking often manifests in discussions groups (classes held separate from lectures to talk about what was learned in class and in the readings). You will hear from a variety of people, varying viewpoints and conclusions with supporting evidence that you would have never dreamed of thinking before. This occurs despite the fact that everybody read the same material and listened to the same lecture.
Developing that type of critical thinking is an essential skill. It brings you up to a whole new level and allows you to look at things from several different angles, which might tangent off into several different outcomes, which is a skill that will serve you well later on in life.
2. Build Quality Relationships
I laugh at people who brag about how they have hundreds of “connections”. Here’s the thing. Will any of those people be willing to help you when the time comes, or will they be only willing to help you if they get something in return?
Spend the time to develop quality relationships at school. What do I mean by develop quality relationships?
Make quality friends.
Spend time and energy to develop these friendships. Don’t just say hi to them everyday while you walk to class and hope to have a quality relationship. Listen to them, really listen. Listen to their dreams, stories, and problems. Provide comfort and advice. Give freely to them without expecting anything in return. Let them borrow your notes, help them get a job, introduce them to your social circle You will find that by making these quality relationships, and by giving freely without expecting anything in return, you will be rewarded ten fold in the future.
3. Take Interesting Classes
You are not limited to taking classes associated with your major. You have an entire catalog of classes to choose from. That’s the beauty of college. It’s a central hub of experiences and learning possibilities that you can’t find anywhere else. Off the top of my head, I’ve taken classes such as the history of martial arts, life skills (yeah it sounds corny but that class did help a lot), oral communication, swing dancing, entrepreneurship, Russian history, etc that have really opened my mind and shown me things that I’ve never seen before. I also learned things about myself that I would never have known. Always expand your bubble of curiosity and you will be suprised to see what comes in.
Taking interesting classes reminded me of Steve Jobs talking about how he went to calligraphy class, which ended up influencing the typography for Apple. You