03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

10 Things I Wish I'd Known as a Student

Back to school season still makes me cringe. Like most I assume, it wasn't always easy for me. Now that I'm a young professional ... oye .. full fledged adult ... I have a whole new view on back to school season. In one word: Perspective.

So, for all of you loading up those new backpacks, sharpening your pristine yellow pencils, and scheming about how you're going to smuggle your cell, iPhone, iPod, Zune, video games or other banned technology into your classes, LISTEN UP. (Parents too!) I may be able to help you see this whole experience - that is, your life as a student - in a very different light that can almost guarantee your success in the long run, but way more importantly, your personal confidence and happiness.

Hopefully these can save you or your loved ones a little unnecessary stress in their remaining life as a student.

  1. The most popular and highest achieving kids in school are NOT always the most successful in the real world. Success in the academic bubble does not translate to success in work and real life. This is really important to note, whether you're living out what some will one day refer to as "your glory years" or you're struggling at the bottom of the social or academic heap.
  2. Everyone is cool and special and interesting in some unique way. Give people a chance. Don't be too quick to judge or disregard people because they fit in or don't. That's just immature and childish. Don't blow off anyone. Everyone has feelings, insecurities, ambitions and dreams of a brighter future. Be kind to people. That karma will stick with you for a lifetime.
  3. The nerds make all the money in the end. No joke. The least popular, most focused, often anti-social people are thinking day in and day out about the big things they're going to do with their life. And trust me, not all, but some will become the most influential and most successful people you know. Personally, I've grown to love and admire "nerdy" people. They're often the smartest, most interesting, and most creative of us all.
  4. Being different is actually good. There's so much pressure to fit in and be like everyone else in school. For some of us, the pressure is so stifling you start to lose sight of who you really are. And this is exactly the time you should be starting to discover yourself. You'll soon find that being just like everyone else is in direct conflict with what you really need to do to succeed in life - differentiate yourself and build your competitive advantage. What makes you different, if positioned the right way, really can be what makes you special. It's a paradigm shift for sure, but a valuable one to note as early on as you can adopt it.
  5. Pursue what you love regardless of what people say. The rules of what is cool and not in school are manufactured in a totally subjective bubble of people with painfully limited perspective on the world. Whatever it is that you're really into, that you want to stay up late reading about, that you're thinking about when you should be focusing on a lecture or studying.... may be the key to what you build your life and career around in some way. Don't ignore it.

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