Confessions of an Entrepreneur: 13 Things You Can Do to Get the Most from Your College Experience
January 12, 2021 | By Mark Zweig
College is a slice of life. And just like life, you get out of it what you put into it.
We all make choices. We can do the least we are required to do to just get by, or we can put in extra effort and really excel.
Each semester, there are a handful of students who really “get it.” These people fully engage and are going to get the most they can from their college experience. The standouts are especially noticeable now during COVID-19.
It’s not just that they make better grades than their peers (which they generally do, by the way) — it’s that they actually change the trajectory of their lives such that they broaden their sense of possibilities, gain experience and perspective, and develop relationships that help them become more successful in the long term.
That’s what we are about here at the Walton College — student success.
As a teacher with no academic research responsibilities, that is my singular goal — to help make my students more successful. I’m lucky I can devote my energies to such a simple and worthwhile goal. It’s very gratifying when you see your students being successful at work and life — five, 10 or even 15 or more years after you came to know them.
For those of you willing to listen, here are my observations on how you can get the most out of your business school experience and greatly increase your probabilities of success in all endeavors:
- Introduce yourself to your teachers and establish a relationship with them.
- Go to every class.
- Rewrite your notes after class.
- Do the reading.
- Start your projects early.
- If you are in a group project, take the lead for organizing it.
- Do all extra credit assignments.
- Join a student organization or club.
- Use the resources of the career center.
- Take advantage of the programs put on by the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub and McMillon Innovation Studio.
- Get an internship.
- Make friends with other good students.
- Write about what you are learning and thinking.
You want to be noticed and be known. If you establish a relationship with your teachers you will be more likely to get their attention and help when you need it. Your professors are people, too. Odds are, they have a lot of students and can’t possibly remember them all.
Make the effort to be known!
This is probably the most critical thing you can do. Good students go to class. Don’t miss it — ever. Even if you are sick you can get in via Zoom and participate remotely.
When you don’t go to class, you miss out. You can’t participate and you can’t ask questions. Any reading or reviewing of presentations will be less relevant.
I learned this early on in my college career, thanks to my then-girlfriend who did poorly in high school but was very determined to do well in college. She eventually got three degrees in seven years and became a licensed psychologist. After each class, she came home and rewrote her notes by hand in a tiny script. She said it helped her remember what she heard and saw in class.
I started doing the same thing but typed my notes on a typewriter. Everyone wanted my notes come test preparation time. And I never had to cram for a test.
Again — this is so critical! Do the reading before class. Does your teacher always know if you did the reading? No. But will the lectures have more relevance to you if you do? Yes.
While you are at it, do more research and reading on your own related to whatever you are doing in class. Then you will really have something to talk about in class.
I advise my students to do this every semester, yet inevitably, many don’t start their projects soon enough and as a result run into problems. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to devote the time it takes to do a good job, get the help you need along the way and finish the project on time.
You will be less stressed and get more out of it that way!
Most students inevitably end up on a team and have to do a group project at some point during their college careers. And the fact is you won’t always get on a team with teammates who are all good students and who work well with each other.
While this experience portends what you will likely experience in your working life (you don’t always get to pick your team, nor have the ability to change team members), you can make it work by taking the lead for organizing the group and figuring out a plan for how to complete the assignment.
Take that lead. And if your teammates procrastinate and either don’t participate or fail to meet their responsibilities, you need to do their parts. Is that fair? No. But who is going to get the most out of the experience? You.
Take every opportunity you can to get extra credit. You don’t know if you are going to need it or not, but you will learn something and increase your shot at earning a good grade. And like it or not, good grades will open more doors for you.
Meet other motivated people who are interested in what you are interested in. Learn to work with them to accomplish something worth doing. Take advantage of the opportunity that you may not have once you aren’t a student.
Our career center does so much for our students. They critique resumes and you should have them review yours. They have a “career closet” for those who need something decent to wear to an interview. They bring in an incredible number of potential employers who are actively recruiting students.
Meet as many of these employers as you can and learn about their industry, business and job opportunities.
The career center also has internship opportunities. We are lucky to have a dedicated and highly-effective career center here unique to the Walton College. Take advantage of it!
These centers are a great resource for our students. They have pitch competitions. They bring in guest speakers, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs and business leaders or discipline experts in their fields. They have projects you can get involved with. They have space you can use for meetings. And the other people you can meet could be people you will want to work with someday.
Besides those companies coming through our career center with some of the largest and most successful organizations in their fields, the Brewer Hub has a Venture Intern program where they place students in paying internships with start-ups and other high-growth enterprises. What a fantastic opportunity! I can’t believe every student wouldn’t try to get one of these internships to learn more about how things are done in the real world.
We had nothing like this when I was in undergrad or graduate school but if we did I surely would have taken advantage of it!
The people you hang out with will have a huge impact on your mental state and either inspire you and elevate your thinking or drag you down with their apathy, negativity and excuses for failure. I‘m 62 but still have friends that I made in college and grad school. Many of those people have their own businesses or were extremely successful in their careers. Some of them I eventually did business with in my professional career.
Keep a journal. Write a blog. Do a podcast. One of the best aspects of doing so is you organize your thinking and remember things better if you do. But if you share your thinking with others, maybe you will even inspire or help someone else. Generating that kind of goodwill can’t help but benefit you.
So there you have it. If you haven’t followed my formula laid out above so far, it’s never too late to start. We have a new semester starting. Even if this one is your last — get the most you can out of it by starting now!