How to Succeed in University, College, and Beyond

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Your time spent in university or college is an amazing time to grow. Finding your way around campus, taking interesting classes, and meeting new friends along the way can help shape you into an incredible human being, but it’s also important to pay attention to the professional relationships you can create during your time in post-secondary. These types of connections can help you grow and understand what direction you want to go in after you graduate.

This is where Thomas Klassen comes in. He is a professor of Political Science at York University. Klassen is also the author of “How to Succeed at University (and Get a Great Job!): Mastering the Critical Skills You Need for School, Work, and Life.”

Classes sizes, especially in university, can be daunting! I remember when I walked into my first lecture. My immediate thought was PANIC and it took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that there was about 500 people in the room. But there is a way around this. Klassen says you can connect with a professor by seeing them after class or making an appointment with them during office hours. He says by taking some time to ask them a question about a past lecture or asking them for additional readings is a great way for the professor to remember you. However, if you’re only doing this to get quick brownie points… they know. Klassen says, “… professors always know if someone is “sucking up” and will remember as well! The key is to approach any interaction with a professor or a TA in a professional way.” A bad way to approach your professor would be sending an email like this:

“Hey, I need to change tutorials from Monday to Wednesday. Sam”

Instead, you should send:

“Dear Professor Martin: Due to a conflict with my Biology 101 lecture, which I am required to attend, I would like to transfer, if possible, from the Monday 2 to 3 p.m. tutorial in your Political Science 102 course to Wednesday 10 to 11 a.m. tutorial. Thank you for your considering this request. Do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. Sincerely, Samantha Burton (Student Number: 201789569).”

Klassen says the key is to place yourself in the professor’s shoes because he likely has other courses, with other tutorial groups, and possibly the same students in a few of them. He says “… get prepared. How will the problem or request you have be seen by the professor? What information should you provide? How can you make the interaction smooth and ensure the both parties are satisfied.” Another tip Klassen has that unless it’s urgent, “… don’t see your professor during the two weeks of classes, as this is when he or she is likely dealing with many student problems. Wait until a few weeks into the term to go visit during office hours.”

In addition, connecting with your professor will not only help you succeed in your classes, but it can also help you with things like internships and references. Klassen adds that “sometimes professors are looking for research assistants, volunteers, or other helpers. Sometimes professors know of employment opportunities on or off campus. More importantly, your professors may end up at some time writing letters of references for your jobs, further studies, or activities.”

But, you might be wondering, “what if I’m more on the quieter side?” That’s okay! I was quiet too and there is a way that you can still succeed and make those connections. Klassen says even if you don’t speak up a lot in class, there are still ways to show that you are a strong and engaged student. “Speaking one-on-one with professors or TAs… sending emails… doing presentations, which although still stressful, give you the opportunity to prepare and rehearse. And, of course, strong and interesting assignments and tests…”

Remember in the beginning when I talked about meeting people can help you grow? They can help you in your courses too! Klassen suggests you not look at other students as competitors, but as collaborators. “Study groups are a great way to learn, making the time go quickly and getting the perspectives of others.”

For more tips like these, more can be found by reading “How to Succeed at University (and Get a Great Job!): Mastering the Critical Skills You Need for School, Work, and Life.” And you can get a FREE download by clicking here.