Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your college experience here at Temple’s College of Liberal Arts.
1. Enter the College of Liberal Arts with questions, not answers.
Don’t tie yourself to what you thought you’d be coming into college. Come here asking questions and you’ll find your answers.
You have to keep an open mind and be honest with yourself. You might be sitting in an intro class for a major you always knew deep down you wanted to study, from high school back to middle school and even elementary school. And you might think to yourself: “I am not enjoying this at all.” If you’re not finding it interesting, I say this: follow your heart. Respect that feeling.
The world is a better and richer place for having storytellers, globetrotters, data analysts and world changers. That’s who we are. You’re setting yourself up for a rich life if you can learn to find and follow that feeling.
2. Worry more about what you learn and less about the grades you earn.
Students are too interested in A's. I know I was when I was a student. I always admired the student who got a B, but who was the smartest kid in the class. Because you knew she was smart and she got the most out of the class. She had the most fun. I’m not saying getting A's is bad. I’m just saying that if you do it for the grade, you might miss out on the fun. So, learn! Follow your interests. The grades will follow.
For the record, though, our students get A's in spades. Our incoming freshmen and transfer students are among the most academically qualified students Temple as ever had the pleasure of educating.
3. Read your syllabi carefully. Develop a time management strategy and stick to it.
This is the number one trap I see with freshmen and transfer students. You have to pore over your syllabi when you get them and adapt to them. Don’t try to make them adapt to you.
The part you should go to first? The section that talks about percentages. Where are the biggest percentages of my grade coming from? When are those dates? How much time do I need to prepare myself?
Plan accordingly. You’ll thank yourself later.
4. If you don’t know who to ask for help, ask your academic advisor.
Ask for help when you need it. Don’t wait. We’re your concierge. We can refer you to Disability Resources and Services, Tuttleman Counseling Services, the Wellness Resource Center and other support networks. Sometimes you just need someone who can make a phone call on your behalf. That’s why we’re here.
5. Speak with your professors outside of class. They will love it.
Don’t just ask them how to get a better grade. Connect with them. Make them part of your network.
Here’s a secret: Our faculty are often lonely during office hours. Think about it: these brilliant professors truly teach what they love. No one has more passion. They’d love nothing more than to talk to you about their passion — especially if you share it.
6. Get to know an upperclassman in your major.
This whole experience is about building social capital. Anyone could be the person who gets you your first internship, or refers you for your first job. Or even someone who might end up being your business partner for a venture you could never have envisioned undertaking.
7. Step outside of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to do something new every week.
Here’s a story for you that’s super embarrassing. When I was an undergrad, I loved theater. A friend of mine was in a theater class and she had to direct a one-act. So I got cast as Jim, the Gentleman Caller, in The Glass Menagerie.
I was awful. It was disastrous. She regretted the whole time having asked me to do it. But I never would have had a chance to do that in another venue. I gave it the college try (see, that is a saying for a reason). And I know I am horrible at it. I was truly dreadful. I should not (and won’t) ever act again.
8. Think about what success means to you and engage in a planning session with your academic advisor right away.
See how I’m following my failure as an actor with a tip about success? It’s because they’re connected, and you can learn from them equally. Our advisors might tell you something like this: If you worry more about skills and experiences and personal growth than credentials, you will be fine. We can help with this. We even have an office of professional development that can help you apply your passions and skills to internships and job preparation.
Here’s another personal story: When I went to college, my parents told me to try to get a 3.0 during my first semester. And I took that as an insult. I made sure I got a 4.0. But during my second semester, I got my first B and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Why? I was no longer securing perfection. I was, for the first time, struggling. That B made my next three years better. Because I wasn’t just protecting a GPA.
There is a safe way to go through college and get a 4.0 without ever truly engaging. But where are you at the end of that experience? You have a fine-looking GPA and little else. I’d rather see someone fall down for a little bit and experience college. That’s called character.
9. Expand your classroom. Become friends with Philadelphia.
Go exploring, because this city is incredible.
Here are three of my favorite things to do that don’t cost much at all:
1) On a Sunday morning, gather up some friends and go to Dizengoff(link is external) (an Israeli hummusiya located at 1625 Samsom St.) for the Shakshuka. It’s only made on Sundays and it’s $11. It’s an egg dish that will blow your mind.
2) Take a journey down the Forbidden Drive trail that meanders along the the Wissahickon Creek in Wissahickon Valley Park(link is external). There are almost 60 miles of trails for you to follow. You’ll still be in the City of Philadelphia, but you’d never know it. I take my kids to the waterfall all the time. It’s gorgeous and it’s a great place to recharge.
3) Go to the Philly Fringe Festival(link is external). It’s such an amazing place to see art and music and theater. It will be going on during the first couple of weeks of the fall semester, too. I can’t think of a better way to get to know the City of Brotherly Love.
10. Go. To. Class.
Here’s some advice: If you go to class, you are going to get good grades. If you actually do the work and go to class, then you’re onto something.
Chris Wolfgang is the Senior Director of the Center for Academic Advising and Professional Development. He hails from the same sleepy little town as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Conrad Richter and managed to visit 49 states before he turned 30. He still has Hawaii on his bucket list, but he spends most of his free time these days hanging out in Philly with his wife and two young daughters.