Pick college classes for impact

students at desksCollege students: questioning if you are in the right classes?

Parents: wondering how your student can best grow from the college experience?

Use this guidance based on Tracy Mumford’s 6 Tips for College Success to choose classes that will garner the greatest impact in the long run.

1) Focus on learning, not your grades

Once you are out of college, your GPA quickly fades in importance, while the skills and knowledge you’ve developed in school rise in value. Most employers don’t care what your GPA was; they will be interested in your skills and how you approach problems in the workplace. Taking risks by enrolling in challenging classes rather than playing it safe for good grades will better prepare you for meeting difficulties after college. You may learn more from a subject in which you earn a lower grade than you might from one that comes easy to you.

2) Use college to catapult you to your long-term goals

If you turn down classes that require extra effort, you could miss out on some life-changing subjects. Classes that require internships, lab and field work, lots of analysis, papers or group projects might look intimidating in the short term, but probably offer greater learning and growth long-term.

Where do you want your college experience to take you? What do you hope to do in your career? If you find a class that will serve your long term goals, don’t let fear of the workload or schedule stop you.

3) Find great teachers to inspire you

Some students learn this lesson even in high school. The really good teachers are so effective at teaching their subject they could interest anyone in it. Wherever possible, learn which faculty engage students, challenge them, and provide a positive learning environment. Those terrific professors may later also offer academic or career mentorship, and eventually, provide recommendations needed for scholarships, jobs, or graduate school.

4) Build your communication skills

Take classes that require presentations; many people are held back in their careers by a terror of public speaking. Use the supportive college environment to grow your ability to effectively communicate your thoughts to others.

Many colleges require participation in writing-intensive courses for good reason. If yours doesn’t require it, choose to take writing intensive classes anyway. Good writing requires clear, independent thinking, a strong vocabulary, and knowledge of grammar, all of which will be invaluable throughout your lifespan.

5) Surprise yourself and stretch

Try something that appeals to you, but doesn’t necessarily fit your degree program or serve any purpose other than to intrigue you. College offers a wide range of classes and activities that will stretch your perception of life and the world. Take a class outside of your experience and you may find a new career direction, a lifelong hobby, or at least a new way of seeing.

6) What if college isn’t your best fit?

Some families and teachers still consider a four-year degree to be the only worthwhile option after high school. But many students have talents and interests that lie elsewhere. If you prefer to learn from experience, enjoy hands-on work, or need to earn money while you learn, an apprenticeship may be a good option.

Trade school, a two-year degree or earning a certificate award, are all options that prepare students for challenging professions, with less investment of time and money than a four-year degree. And the opportunity to obtain a four-year degree will still be available if you later choose that option.

See CareerOneStop’s Credentials Center to learn more about training options, paying for college or tips on choosing a credential that’s right for you.

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