Want To Stand Out At College? Think Like An Innovator
by Dr. Trama - Thursday, April 26th, 2012 Collegiate Success, In The News

As we enter the final days before the May 1 enrollment deadline, I imagine that many families are anxious to put their deposits anywhere. For most American families, college is their biggest expense after a home, and, if you listen to the news, a college degree may not guarantee a job that it once did.

Students can still find jobs, as this report demonstrates. The difference is that those jobs exist in sectors unfamiliar even two generations ago. Most of those sectors, such as technology or biomedical sciences, require highly educated employees who can do more than just complete a task. These students can think like innovators.

Thinking like an innovator, as we train our students to do, does not require extra work. What it does require is a shift in thinking, one that most schools currently do not teach you. To fill in that gap, Sarphatie Education trains our students to think proactively about problems, as well as to work and think collaboratively.

As you enter college, you have a wonderful opportunity to work and think like an innovator. Here are a few ideas we have for you to train yourself to think like an innovator.

Know your instructor: Most college instructors are real-life problem solvers. Either they are professors with years of research experience, or they are adjuncts drawn from the community. Either way, developing a relationship with them is a great way to pick their brains on issues, be it in class or how they see world events unfolding. My experience is that most instructors are happy to speak with you. In fact, they wish they had more time to do it.

See if you can take a course pass/fail: A pass/fail course is a great way to reduce the cost of experimentation in a particular class, as the grade from this course does not factor into your GPA. It’s a great way to take courses you want a high margin of error for. For instance, if you are taking a calculus course and you do not feel great at math, you may want to take it pass/fail to just gain the knowledge from that course, and still receive credit towards graduation.

When the class is over, reflect on what was taught: Reflections helps to both increase retention and truly aids in the education process. In the past, some of my students have tried thinking about what the instructor wanted to teach, and then rewriting the syllabus to see how they would teach it. It’s amazing how much you can learn from teaching, even if it is only pretend teaching.

Stay hungry, stay foolish: Recognize that quote? If I were queen of the world, I’d have everyone view this Steve Jobs speech, as it has great lessons. This idea is the most important one, as it emphasizes the impact random connections have on shaping one’s life. Foster those random connections yourself. Perhaps you can take a course that has nothing to do with what you are interested in, and see if you like it. Perhaps you could also take extra credit assignments freely – professors often use extra-credit assignments for projects they are personally interested in. No matter what you do, make sure that you cultivate those connections.

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