Tuesday, October 14, 2014

College Students: It's not Just about Grades

Making the transition from high school to college can seem intimidating. Colleges in Toronto can be similar to high school in some ways, but very different in other, more important ways. Perhaps the largest immediate change a college student will face is the fact that your instructors don't monitor you anymore, no longer taking attendance or measuring tardiness. You have more independence, and more options for where and how you get your work done, because you're now expected to monitor your own life. But there's one more shift in behaviour you need to keep in mind, and that's the fact that your education is no longer solely about grades.

Make no mistake, grades are important, and you still need to make them to pass your courses, and get your credits and diploma. But don't get hung up on them, or on the difference between a 79 and an 80. Instead, focus on the learning experience itself, and what you can get out of it.

Think about it for a moment. Why do you go to college? The idea behind college is to make its students employable, to help them launch their careers by providing them with useful, practical, industry-relevant job skills. Getting a solid GPA isn't a guarantee of a career, and an employer will never ask you during a job interview what your final grades in school were. It's less about what you know, and more about what you know how to do. Your skills are what will get you the job and launch your career.

Centennial College understands that it's no longer about memorizing the multiplication tables, or analyzing Mark Twain. It's about showing you how to do things and giving you job skills. When you're done your education, you'll be entering the working world, starting a career, earning money and becoming an independent human being. College is about preparing you for that, making sure you have those job skills.

So when you study, don't simply do it to pass the test, to generate the correct answer on command, to earn the A+. Instead of focusing on passing the test, focus on learning. What are you getting out of this course? What will you need to know when you enter the working world? Pick up the skills first, and pass the test second, and understand that the school is there to provide you with a service, and not the other way around. You're not there to make a professor happy, or to serve the school. Rather, the school is there there to provide you with something valuable, and that's job and life skills.

Don't be afraid to venture outside the classroom, too. You're in your program because you're passionate about something, meaning you're surrounded by others who are also passionate. If you have an interest, there's a club or organization on campus for you. And while you're doing that, get to know your instructors. In college, they'll be industry professionals with real-life experience, and more importantly, connections. You can network with them, and get a leg up in your chosen industry. Similarly, get to know your classmates. They're looking to become the next generation of industry professionals, after all, and can form the foundation of your own professional network of contacts.

College doesn't have to be intimidating. You're on your own, with unprecedented independence, and the freedom to learn at your own place. The structure of high school is gone, and with it, the need to focus solely on grades. Think differently about how and why you're learning, and you'll leave college with the tools and experience you need to enter the next chapter of your life.

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