What would I tell university freshmen starting their studies? What's the best way to get through college?
I just gave the Convocation address to our freshmen at Fordham College at Rose Hill, in New York, where I teach. Here's a small part of what I said... words of wisdom that I hope will be useful to all Huffington Post readers who are just starting their college careers:
I know that some new college students look at us professors and get a little intimidated. Others think that we're a bunch of out-of-touch dinosaurs from the 20th century. But in fact, we're actually quite accessible, helpful and even normal. Most of us still listen to rock and roll, most waste as much time as our students do on Facebook, and some of us are even...Gleeks.
And we professors all remember what it's like to be a college student. You will find that we can relate to you students and the experiences you're facing. In fact, most of us would love to change places with you, to get to soak up knowledge full time for four years.
No matter where you are beginning your studies, there are definitely some things that you can do to make your college experience all it can be.
It all boils down to one, simple idea: take responsibility.
Take responsibility for your own education. High school is over. Now, your education is up to you. Make the most of your time at college; don't just float from course to course. There are so very many great things to study that it's hard to decide, so choose wisely. Taking a course because you're interested in the subject is good. Taking a course because that cute neighbor from downstairs is taking it is not. Use your time to find subjects that you are passionate about, and once you do, get into them. Find your bliss.
Take responsibility for being a good student. Work hard. Secret: we professors hate it when students don't take their studies here seriously, because that's the core of what you're at college to do. And don't blow off classes. You're paying too much, and this time in your life is far too precious to waste.
Take responsibility for making the most of the city where your college is located. Campus may be beautiful, but get off it from time to time, especially if you're in a big city.
Be responsible to your friends and classmates. Many of the people in your class will be your friends for life. Social networking means that you will be interconnected forever, for better and for worse. So ask yourself what you want to be known for...then be it. I'd suggest that you be known for intelligence, diligence, sincerity and compassion rather than for getting drunk or flunking out.
And, this is important...be responsible for your friends and classmates. You need to watch out for each other. College can be a very difficult time, and it's a lot easier to get through when someone has your back. So if you see someone who's not quite themselves, reach out to them. And if that's not working, or you're feeling down, then reach out to a Resident Assistant or a professor or a member of your college's staff. As the slogan goes, "If you see something, say something."
Remember that professors are part of your community, too. Don't leave college without having established meaningful relationships with at least one or two of us. Take the initiative and come to office hours. We don't bite.
Lastly, take responsibility for your spiritual life. Don't shy way from using your college years to consider why we are here on earth and what you're meant to do. I personally believe that we're all here to make the world a better place in whatever way we can. College is a deeply appropriate time to start asking the big questions about life.
I can honestly say that I love the university where I teach. I love that we give our students a great education. I love it that people are proud to say they went there. And most of all, I love that we teach our students to be bothered... to care about the problems and injustice in the world, and determined to be part of the solution.
And that's what college is really all about.
Beth Knobel is co-author with her CBS News colleague Mike Wallace of Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists, a guidebook for aspiring reporters.
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