The Transformation Of College

Your vocation may be to start a business, to work in health care, to parent or a mixture of such pursuits but working with victims of injustice in a life of love and service is the most profound vocation we have as human beings. May you be inspired to overcome any fears and engage our broken world.

Some of you are thinking of careers where you do not see others who are like you in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, social status, etc. Self-doubt may enter your mind. Tell yourself, “I am worthy.”

If you are the first person in your family to attend college, you may question if you can do it. If this sounds familiar, please tell yourself “I belong here.” Every time you walk onto campus, go into a classroom, open a textbook, say to yourself, “I belong here.”

College is a process of personal transformation requiring you to move beyond our transactional culture. The first area of transformation is, of course, the increase of external knowledge. That is knowledge in your classes and studies. Go the additional step by demanding your college education increase your internal knowledge. That is knowledge about yourself. You should ponder these and other related questions during your college career.           

• What is your reason for being in this world?

• What is your definition of success?

• What does a happy life look like to you?

• What words best describe your essential values?

• What are your strengths as a person? What are your weaknesses?

Communicate honestly with your heart. Get comfortable with silence, although there’s no established logical process. What is necessary is to keep searching. No human answer will ever be perfect. 

One of the greatest deficiencies of incoming college students is their lack of knowledge about studying. It is not surprising as their prior educational experiences never taught study skills or techniques—they assume students will figure it out. Neuroscientists now know what techniques work best for the human brain to learn. Students must utilize active study techniques that engage their brains. Examples of active study techniques include:

• Replace the reading and re-reading of your notes with the re-writing of class notes which is the best active studying technique. 

• As each class session builds upon the previous session, study your newly re-written notes for 20 minutes in preparation for the next class session. 

• Since most of your classes involve learning a new vocabulary, make flashcards.

• Put yourself in the role of the exam maker by writing practice questions two or three weeks before an exam.  

• You will never be a good writer until you read good writing. So become a daily reader of a newspaper written on a college level.  

Today, students are told instant growth through painless education is possible. However, education has painful moments because it is growth and real growth never happens easily. If everything were easy, we would be less human and more like our smartphones without worries, without hardships and without setbacks, but also without feelings, without compassion and without goals. Within every challenge, college-like life invites you to new wisdom with a deeper perspective and appreciation of living.  

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Robert Costello
Robert Costello serves as professor and chair of criminal justice at Nassau Community College. He welcomes feedback at

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