In the days before moving into a college dormitory, many soon-to-be freshmen go on a shopping spree, buying necessities for life at college, such as a textbooks, a computer, a backpack, and enough coffee to make it through the first semester.
Although these are—to a greater or lesser degree—important things to bring to college, other non-tangible things are even more important.
When you come to college, you should add to what you unload from your trunk a tenacious attitude, a thirst for knowledge, a teachable spirit, time management skills, and study skills. Let’s examine these in reverse order.
Study skills and time management
Before college you’ve developed study habits—patterns of behavior you typically follow when you have reading, writing, or study assignments. Unless you make an effort to change, you will likely bring those study habits with you, whether they are good or bad.
The transition to college, though, presents a good opportunity to develop stronger study skills if you choose to improve. Because of this, you should intentionally seek to establish and perfect good study habits and time management skills from orientation week onward. How? Put these into practice:
- pay attention during freshmen orientation—you may pick up tips that will help you succeed
- take advantage of your college’s resource center—where you’ll find coaching on a variety of topics
- be aware of your own habits—a make intentional choices to sharpen your skills
- surround yourself with good students—they can help hold you accountable
- set aside sufficient time to study on a regular basis—and do your best to stick to this schedule
If you put these into practice, you’ll be on the path to sharpening the study skills you brought with you to college.
Teachable spirit and thirst for knowledge
In addition to study habits and time management skills, two of the most useful things to bring with you to college are a teachable spirit and a thirst for knowledge. If you’re entering college with a know-it-all-already attitude, why would you come? Such an approach will likely irritate your classmates, frustrate your teachers, and delay your own learning. Plus, it’s just going to be a matter of time before you realize that you really don’t know as much as you thought.
As you are exposed to new realms of knowledge, you’ll soon realize that you still have much to learn. That being said, how do you move from a know-it-all attitude to a thirst for knowledge? I would suggest several steps:
- Accept the truth that you have much to learn.
- Seek out others who’ll be willing to help you learn more.
- Dig deeply into challenging subjects that stretch your knowledge.
- Explore new territory that will expand your understanding.
- Seek experiences (internships, fellowships) that allow for hands-on learning.
These steps will lead you toward two very useful attitudes to pack when you go to college–a teachable spirit and a thirst for knowledge.
Finally, every student should take with them something that will almost guarantee success in college–a tenacious done attitude.
Because college success depends so much on meeting expectations–doing homework, writing papers, preparing presentations, and studying for tests–any student with a git’er done attitude will have an advantage over those who want to simply get by.
Although there may be a few exceptions, most courses in college are structured so that if you do the work, you’ll pass the class. Even in courses where the grade is heavily dependent on test results, doing the required reading, taking notes, and studying for exams will almost guarantee a passing score. If you use your time well in college to do what needs to be done, you’ll almost always succeed.
So what should you bring to college? The important things to bring are well-honed study and time management skills, a teachable spirit coupled with a thirst for knowledge, and the grit to finish.
With these skills and aptitudes packed in your bags, the other things you bring won’t matter much.
Having been born abroad and raised in different cultures, Lyle Witt has enjoyed spending much of his career supporting international students. After earning a M.A. in Education from a state university, Lyle taught international students in college prep programs at a community college and university before joining the faculty at a regionally accredited college, where he serves as a division chair and assistant professor.
When he can, Lyle spends time reading, gardening, and disc golfing. He also enjoys camping, hiking, and mountain biking. While not teaching, he finds it a refreshing change to work with his hands, building decks, repairing houses, and fixing things.
Lyle is blessed to be a husband, father of two sons and two daughters, and a follower of Christ.