I’m in my last semester of school ever, and it’s been making me quite reflective. Here are my best tips from nearly nineteen years of classes and procrastination to help you do good in school.
But wait, Kim…
I know, but I do mean how to do good in school. Because even though striving for that A is great, it shouldn’t overtake your sense of integrity.
Which segues nicely into my first piece of advice:
School isn’t a competition.
Even if the grading curves and prestigious internships create a Hunger-Games-esque value system, there’s no real benefit from treating the social scene like there can only be one victor. Some people might try to steamroll others to get what they want, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
I’ve gotten pretty much everything I wanted out of my education, and every single good thing can be traced back to my friendships with other people. Share your notes freely, help someone with a difficult concept, sincerely congratulate a friend who gets something you wanted. In the end, you’ll be happier and more successful for it.
There’s no such thing as a dumb question, but be cool.
Remember: Professors. Have. Office. Hours. They also have email addresses and, usually, time spent meandering around before and after classes. Sometimes they even have teaching assistants!
I’m not suggesting you don’t ask questions or participate. Just keep in mind that you’re using the time of every person in the room. Leading a professor on a deep tangent to show off that one cool thing you know or asking a question right before class ends really isn’t cute. However…
Participate. Please, for the love of god, participate.
My biggest regret from school is all the answers I was too scared to say out loud – the thoughts I nervously drafted and redrafted in my head until the moment to offer them passed or, worse, I heard some version of them from the guy who always has something to say.
This is different from going on a tangent with a question or an irrelevant argument. When a professor creates space for thought and comments, it’s okay to take up your space, especially if you’re not the type that normally participates. You aren’t the only one who will benefit from it – your classmates will too.
Detach your self-worth from your grades.
I’m still working on this one myself. A good grade or positive feedback gives me a fleeting jolt of happiness (emphasis on fleeting; it rarely lasts) but the self-doubt from a mediocre grade or criticism can lead to lasting self-doubt. I needed a good cry and an adult coloring book after I got feedback on my first major piece of legal writing.
But you’re worth more than a series of letter on your computer screen or the sum of your resume. I have friends who don’t look at their grades at all, and they’re probably happier for it. The sooner you learn to value yourself beyond your academic performance, the sooner you can stop buying adult coloring books.
Take care of yourself.
School is a great place to develop good habits for dealing with “real world” stress, yet healthy habits too frequently get put on the back-burner. Prioritize developing these good habits. Avoid all-nighters, eat a vegetable, try to exercise because exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and…
Watch Legally Blonde for inspiration.
Even if you’re not in law school. Elle Woods is the epitome of succeeding by knowing what’s right for you and succeeding with kindness. We all need a good movie for when school’s getting too stressful, and Legally Blonde is, in my opinion, a perfect inspirational watch.
Bonus points for listening to the soundtrack to the musical. Chip on My Shoulder motivated me through my first law school finals.
Regardless of whether you’re in school or out of it, what are your best survival tips? Because I’m not out of the woods yet.
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