How to Succeed in College: Part 2

In my last post I wrote about three words—responsibility, authority, and accountability—that are crucial to success, according to Jeff Beals. In today’s post I will continue to present, and comment on, more advice from his article about how to succeed in college, this time writing about taking initiative.

This is a topic that cannot be emphasized enough because I’m starting to see a pattern where students do not feel the need to take initiative. Every semester I teach an undergraduate internship course, and I provide a great deal of help to students who want to participate: Before the semester starts I review their resumes and cover letters, I help them think about who to ask for recommendations, I ask them about their long-term career goals, and I make specific suggestions about organizations where they may want to consider interning and provide contacts at those organizations.

In the past, my system for working with interns has worked quite well, and most of the students—usually all of the students—have lined up a relevant position by the time the semester begins. This fall, for the first time ever, nearly 30% of the students had not found an internship by the first week of classes, and 15% of them still don’t have an internship as we enter our third week of classes. Some of those students have not, to the best of my knowledge, yet applied for any positions—although all of them have made some effort at inquiring about internships. Further, some of those students have known since April that they were going to be in this class and would need to secure an internship, which means they had four months to figure it out.

As Beals says, “Students must take the initiative to make things happen. Successful people live active rather than passive lives. To persist in college, you must deliberately make things happen.” The things you need to make happen include making sure you achieve the most you can, and especially that you focus on the three things that are always at your near the top of the National Association of Colleges and Employers list of criteria that employers are looking for in new college graduates: a good GPA, an internship, and involvement in extracurricular activities. Next time I will focus on why those extracurricular activities are important!