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How to succeed in college

President Watkins asked the outgoing ASUU leaders to reflect on successes, challenges and advice on how to get the most out of college.

On the U Rising podcast, President Ruth Watkins asked the outgoing 2019-20 ASUU presidency to reflect on successes, challenges and advice on how to get the most out of your college experience. Here is the advice on succeeding in college offered by AnnaMarie Barnes, president, Gabe Martinez, vice president for student relations, and Latifa Yaqoobi, vice president for university relations. You can listen to the full episode here:


President Watkins: This is the time of year when we’re talking with a lot of prospective students. And many of those students and their parents will ask us, how can I make the most of my college experience? How can we be sure that we really get what we’re paying for and that we become engaged, and we’re part of the university, and we feel great about our experience? You’re seasoned veterans of the university. What advice would you give to incoming students about how to make the most of college?

Anna Barnes: I think the one thing that stands out to me that I learned during my first semester of college, I had a very, very hard experience. I was chronically ill a lot of that semester, and I was taking some very difficult classes. And I didn’t end up doing too well in them and I had a scholarship that I needed to maintain, and I was freaking out because I didn’t know how I was going to attend college without the scholarship. And my first semester grades were just not up to par with the standards that I needed to be meeting.

And that is when I learned it never hurts to ask. I think it’s a simple thing, but it is so intimidating as someone who didn’t know hardly anything about higher education, didn’t know really anything about academia. My older brother was the first of my siblings to graduate with a four-year degree, and he graduated a year before me, last year. And, so I didn’t really have a playbook for how to do these types of things, but I ended up reaching out to some of my professors and working with them on my grades, on extra assignments I could do.

I ended up reaching out to the scholarship committee and just saying, hey, I know I’m not going to meet the GPA requirement. Is there something we can do? And it ended up working out. I was able to keep a scholarship. They put me on probation for a semester, which was not great, but I did much better the next semester because I learned how I could support myself. But I also learned how I could ask for support, and that is something I think a lot of students don’t know how to do, unfortunately.

But I’ve had a lot of success just asking my academic advisor, can I switch out this class for this class? I’ve had a lot of success emailing my professors and explaining my situation. Some have been more receptive than others, but it never hurts to just ask. To just find ways that other people can support you because let me tell you, there are a lot of things I’ve learned in an academic advising meeting that I wasn’t going to find out online or in the course catalog. And having that in-person kind of question-answer session with anyone on campus, your professors, your academic advisors, administrators, other members of the faculty. I wish that I knew that and I would tell anyone and everyone who is entering college, just ask, just ask questions.

President Watkins: Great advice, great advice. How about you, Gabe?

Gabe Martinez: Yeah, so as an orientation leader, I’m used to students always asking me what should I do? What’s the best piece of advice you can give? I always gave a bunch of pieces of advice, but one thing that I always told everyone is you’re going to be asked a lot of questions as well. You’re going to be asking a lot of questions to yourself. Your professors will be sitting there in class and asking you questions.

But when you think about those questions, especially things pertaining to how do you get the most out of your experience, people always say, ask yourself why not? Why not do it? And I would always tell them, ask yourself why should you do it before you always ask yourself why shouldn’t you do it? Just because as you take those opportunities, you can grow from every single one in all these different ways.

I mean, people oftentimes think about the negatives before they think about the positives. So, I would just say, ask yourself why should you? Why should you do this thing? Why should I get involved? Why should I live on campus? Why should I live off-campus? Ask yourself those kinds of types of questions first and then those will kind of lead you on your way.

President Watkins: Wise guidance. Latifa to you.

Latifa Yaqoobi: I would advise students to get out of their comfort zones. Get out of your comfort zone by getting involved with student clubs and organizations. Take on leadership positions. Meet with your professors. Ask and answer questions in your classes. Initiate conversations with people you don’t know. I believe this is truly the best time for individuals to learn and grow and ultimately make mistakes. There is very little risk at this time, and there is a lot of support around you. If there’s ever a time to truly challenge yourself and allow yourself to be challenged, it would be here at the University of Utah.

President Watkins: I think you three are really quite amazing. There’s a study in a book published by a Harvard professor called “Making the Most of College” and you, in a nutshell, could have written his book because some of the advice that he discovered for students who are happy and satisfied with their college experience involve things like developing a close relationship with your academic advisor, asking for help, seeking assistance, using the resources, pushing yourself to say, I should be involved in this and how can I do it, and taking a growth mindset of yep, there’ll be some challenges and that’s where growth will come. You are three wise people!