Embarking on a college or university journey can be likened to starting out on an adventurous trip , say, to a distant, unfamiliar land or to a park outside the city. For the adventurous trip – if you’ve gone on one before – you’d have to ask yourself several questions before you hit the road; questions such as – “Why is this trip important to me?”, “What exactly do I plan to do on this trip?”. “Who do I want to go on the journey?”, “What will I gain from this experience?”, and so forth. Once you’d convinced yourself of your response to those questions then you’d feel comfortable about the trip.
Likewise, when starting out on a college or university journey, there are about 5 questions which I believe students should answer for themselves to guarantee their success at school. I call these 5 questions – The Big 5s.
1. Why am I pursuing a post-secondary degree?
Before taking any action, it always helps to ask the question, “why?” In a student’s case, the question can be phrased as, “why am I going to college?” Or “why am I going to university?” The more sincerely and accurately students can answer this question, the more they’ll get out from their school experience. Some answers students usually give to this question include: “to acquire the knowledge and skills required to become a professional in my field of interest”, “to please my parents, “to make new friends”, “to develop a sense of independence and responsibility”, “to have fun”, and so on. Irrespective of the reasons other students may have presented, i believe each student should be truly convinced about the reasons he/she chooses. Those reasons will eventually become part of the building blocks of motivation for students as they advance on their school journey.
2. What kind of “school life” do I plan to adopt?
I’ve heard people say different things about college/ university. For example, “that is where you discover who you truly are” or “that is where you meet your greatest fears”. Irrespective of whether those are true or not, students should understand that they can choose what they want their school life to be. But then they can either live the school life they plan for themselves or they drift around living a life drafted by others and the end result isn’t favorable. There are tonnes of stories of students who upon enrolling into school, threw away their moral values and lived wanton, and it wasn’t long before they found themselves in terrible situations; in fact, in some cases, such students couldn’t even complete their school journey. This just shows how impactful the choices of students’ school life can be to their overall journey. So, it is advisable for students to determine a decent lifestyle to follow and to stick to it till the very end.
3. What kind of activities will I get involved in and which ones do I dare not do?
The activities students spend most of their time doing may determine how they are perceived by others and possibly what name they get dubbed. For example, if a student is found in just about every house party organized around campus, the person may be tagged a party-goer; if a student is in the library 24/7; that person will likely be nicknamed the librarian or an egghead. The calling of names here isn’t really the crux of this point at all. The main thing here is for students to ensure that the activities they mostly partake in are in alignment with their overall goals. In other words, they need to decide whether or not the results of an activity will move them towards achieving their goals or not. If it does, then, by all mean, they should go for it. And if it doesn’t, they may want to consider avoiding it. Once students have identified those activities that’ll move them towards their goals, they’re able to detect and keep away from those activities that won’t. This is very important and necessary for achieving all-round success at school.
4. What kind of friends will I associate with?
Chaplain Ronnie Melancon once remarked, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future”. I can’t overemphasize how true and real it is. There are numerous stories about good students, who upon enrolling in a college or university, got negatively influenced by some bad students and end up derailed. In most cases, the end never was happy especially for the used-to-be good students. On the other hand, there are many stories of good folks who met with other good folks and then merged forces to achieve a more fruitful experience. The school population consists of a very wide range of people and personalities: the good, the bad, the cool, the not-too-cool, and many more. It is students’ responsibility to choose their friends wisely because their friends can either propel them to achieve their end goals or impede them from getting there.
5. What kind of legacy do I plan to leave behind after I graduate?
Whether students are aware of it or not, they’ll be leaving a legacy behind upon their graduation from school. So, they’ll want to answer the question – “What do I want to be remembered for?” The beginning of the school journey is usually a good time to answer this question (any time after still works). Doing so will motivate them to begin the journey with its end in mind. Also, the legacy may either be good or bad. A student can choose to be known as that guy/girl who partied and gave himself/herself to drinking, or that girl who lived a loose and reckless life, or that fellow who always stole the show at awards ceremonies, or that dude who always argued and fought with everyone during lectures. I believe each student will feel fulfilled when, few years after graduation, he/she looks back and has no regrets about the legacy he/she had established at school.
By earnestly answering these questions (and other questions that may be triggered by these ones), I believe that students will be on the way to mapping out a solid school life plan to help them navigate their school journey.
To an awesome school journey!!
Here is a presentation on The Big 5s that I gave to some university students at Windsor.