How to succeed in school without really trying

Since I’ve been in school for, oh, forever, I thought I’d offer up some words of wisdom in honor of the beginning of the school year. I TA a freshman-level engineering class (hello, past and future students!) and over the last couple of years, there are a few trends I’ve noticed and have tried in my excruciatingly subtle way to bring to an end, to little avail. So now I’ve decided to lay it out there for the entire world to savor.

Don’t talk back to the instructional staff

There’s no faster way to cause your teacher to avoid helping you than talking back to him or her. Perhaps the other TAs and I are a bit passive-aggressive when it comes to this, but seriously, we won’t answer your questions if you’re going to act like an entitled, smart-mouthed brat. Chances are good that your classmates aren’t going to want to put up with your behavior either.

In other words, college is a great time to make friends. Don’t miss out.

Dress and groom appropriately

Ladies, don’t dress for class as if you’re going out clubbing. Especially if you’re giving a presentation in class, cover yourself up. Yes, people will remember you if you don’t cover up, but they will remember you for the wrong reason.

Gentlemen, please shower. Please, please, please. At least every other day, “whether you need it or not.” Don’t walk around the classroom in your bare feet, and please don’t rub your bare feet all over the chair, desk, computer, etc.

Girls and guys, if your pants don’t cover your underwear on their own, please invest in a belt. I don’t want to know everyone’s underwear preference before I know everyone’s name.

To extend this topic to internships, here are some words of advice from my co-op mentor from two summers ago: Dress not for the job you have, but for the job you want to have.

Take responsibility for your own education

Be proactive in class. Ask questions when you really don’t understand something or feel that you’re falling behind in class. Visit your professors in their office hours and come prepared with questions or comments for them regarding the class. I remember that at my freshman orientation session, the professor who spoke advised us not to discount the importance of visiting our professors in their office hours. That’s the primary way an instructor is able to associate your name with your face and the fact that you are intellectually curious (which is always a trait they like to see). Also, professors get lonely during their office hours when no one visits them. Go introduce yourself – and hope that they don’t already know your underwear preference.

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About Caitlin
I'm a senior Materials Science & Engineering student at The Ohio State University.

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