Being a student can be difficult at times. Through no fault of our own we stumble. Many times though, our shortcomings are our fault or we perceive things in ways that aren’t really so. Not knowing what to expect from a test, feeling misled by a professor occasionally, misreading instructions, having to work in a group with that one member who didn’t lift a finger, you know the rest.

Being a student is not a status, it is a mindset. That might be “I have to earn this degree” for some, but it is best taken up as “I want to learn”.

As much as we love education and learning, we can do even more in our classroom, online or not, by going an extra step in courtesy, thoughtfulness, and discipline. I have had the college discussion with friends, family, and strangers. Some people value the higher educational experience, and others think it worthless. Those who fall into the latter, who think it is worthless, reason that they can “make it” without a degree, or that they can learn everything without having to pay the costs of going to college.

There is a fallacy in that reasoning because they are seeing school purely as the completion of an academic learning experience. But college was never just meant to be a classroom thing. Just like basic training was never mean to be several weeks of learning to fold clothes and shoot a weapon. College shapes a person, when they let it. There are several benefits to college that aren’t found on a diploma or a transcript. Being on time, working under pressure, being organized, following instructions, knowing your own limits, building a professional acumen into your personality, and of course – learning your trade.

These are things that cannot be taught from a textbook. In order to be the best student possible it all goes back to that mindset, “I want to learn.” In order to enhance that mindset inside you, here are my suggestions:

Have a Level Attitude

My dad always told me “Attitude is everything”. That happened to become especially true in my undergraduate experience, where I earned a degree in aeronautics. In aeronautics, your attitude is your relative flight position to the ground. Your attitude can be nose up, nose down, inverted, diving, climbing, or you can lose control. So long as you are generating air speed, you attitude is what will keep you level, sustained, efficient. I think the analogy is easy enough to understand – keep you personal attitude level.  

Never Think You Are Smarter Than Your Professor

Chances are slim that your professor is actually working against you. You have to have the attitude of a conspiracy theorist to think that a professor enjoys failing students. If you begin to wonder why your professor is not grading your assignment the way you would like them to, connect with them. That is, ask them exactly what you are doing wrong. Do not wait until it is too late to steer your ship away from the rocks. Find out within your first few weeks exactly where you are “missing something” and double-check your instructions. If it is not clear after that, contact your professor. The last thing you want to do is break out that Godzilla sized ego and think you are smarter than you professor – it NEVER ends well.  

Treat Everybody as if THEY Were the Professor

You want your professor to like you, that’s no secret. If they need something from you and it is within your power, you will do it. But what about the people in your class who are falling behind and ask you for help? Do you throw them a rope when their boat has a hole in it and they are sinking or do you let them drown? What if that affected your grade? What if they were in your group and you had to carry their load? This might be a cross you have to bear but this is another character shaping moment. Treat everyone like they matter to you, like their success is more important than your own. Don’t just stop there, but persist with this attitude in life. Treat your co-workers like they are the boss. Jesus said “If you love only those who love you, what honor is there in that?”

Complete Assignments as if They Are Going on Your Resume

You are going to school to learn a specific subject, to master it. If you want to become the best you can be, a master of your trade, art, or academic subject, practice! In college, that takes form in papers, presentations, tests. Complete these assignment as if they are entrance exams to your dream job. Those who take practice seriously, perform seriously. When under pressure, they outlast, outshine, outplay their peers. There is nothing wrong with a healthy, competitive attitude. Once you employ this attitude and approach, you are unstoppable!


The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.