7 lessons I wish I'd known before I started college

Susan Shapiro has an embarrassing secret: "I was the type of mediocre student I now disdain."

Shapiro, an author and writing professor at The New School, reflected on what she's learned now that she's on the other side of the podium in a recent article for the New York Times. She identified seven lessons that would have been helpful for her as a student:

1: A's bring surprising benefits. Students may not understand just how many perks come with good grades. Shapiro writes that, when she was in college, she didn't realize that students with high GPAs can also qualify for special travel funding, awards, events, and internships.

2: Participation matters. Though she admits she skipped class occasionally as a student, Shapiro writes that she now sees that attendance helps students earn higher grades and build better relationships with professors.

3: Professors can jumpstart careers. A strong relationship with a professor can open many doors, but students may not realize how important this can be. For example, Shapiro shares that one of her professors recommended her for to the job that launched her writing career.

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4: Faculty have hearts, too. "In retrospect, I should have been more open with the instructors I admired," Shapiro writes. She shares that she's kept many of the letters, cards, and poems she's received from her students.

5: Social media can be a tool. Students probably don't expect to use social media for school, but many faculty and administrators are active on Twitter, Facebook, and other channels. Shapiro shares that she responds to students who follow her social media accounts and uses the platforms to announce career development and job opportunities.

6: Life is better sober. After dropping the typical college student's drinking and smoking habits, Shapiro was "surprised" by how much her life improved, she writes. She shares that she not only picked up new hobbies, but also built stronger relationships and did better work.

7: Ask for help. There's nothing wrong with asking for emotional support, Shapiro writes. She shares that her own experience with therapy was a positive one. In addition, she offers comfort to students who think they might be at the wrong institution, noting that transferring colleges is an option and is far from abnormal (Shapiro, New York Times, 10/17).  

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