Treat College Like a Job

aim high writing


Submitted by Jessica Peyton Roberts for Aim High Writing

aim high writingWould you wear pajama pants to your job? Date your boss? Voluntarily work ahead at 2 am because you’re up? College is society’s permission to take four years (on average) to be a little selfish, so that you can figure out what you want to do afterwards. But it’s not all frisbee-on-the-quad and rainbows, even while in school. I suggest approaching your time in school like it’s a job, where you are self-motivated, look for opportunities for advancement, and dress the part.

By treating college like a job, you maintain a healthy separation between your work and personal life, while taking care to approach the time and money you invest in a college education with a certain professionalism.


I’ve discussed this. The number one way to make your professor like you is to show up, on time, with homework completed, and prepared to participate. This is similar to the way you need to be ready to contribute in the workplace.

The classroom environment is, like most offices, way more team-oriented, than it seems at first glance. Instructors depend on the students to get their work done, so that they can move through the curriculum at a reasonable pace. When students skip doing the reading for class or “forget” to do their homework, they slow the entire class’s progress.


Now, I’m not asking you to put on a tux for Intro to Psychology. But I am imploring you to take five seconds to change out of the pants you slept in favor of jeans. Dresses are excellent options as well – it’s a complete outfit to just throw on and go.

I don’t care if everyone else is walking around in their pajama bottoms and a messy side-ponytail. I don’t care if you want to be “comfortable.” As a sign of respect for your instructor, put on non-elastic waist pants, run a brush (or at least your fingers) through your hair, and leave your slippers at home.

I realize there are some professors who dress like slobs. They are the exception. Most wear tailored blazers, trousers, and dresses because they are at work. And when you’re in the classroom, you’re at work too. So dress accordingly.


It goes without saying (gosh, I hope it goes without saying) – DO NOT DATE YOUR PROFESSOR. Do not attempt to date your professor. Do not ask your professor out. Do not respond to your professor’s romantic overtures (that’s called harassment, not romance, and needs to be reported).

Same goes for T.A.’s. Off limits, people.

Now, here’s a trickier question: should you date classmates? It’s natural that you will meet and want to date other students, but think carefully before you jump into something with that guy who, like you, is also the rare combination of an Engineering major and Japanese minor. You’re going to be seeing him in every class from now until graduation, so make sure that’s something you can handle if the relationship sours.


I’m telling you right now: not only do you deserve to have a clear separation between your school work and your personal life – it’s essential that you do so.

Here are two maxims I belatedly implemented:

1. Minimum Effort for Maximum Output

If the class is an easy A, don’t do anymore than you have to. This way you conserve your energy for your more challenging classes, and free up time to do other things outside of school work.

2. Perfectionism is the Enemy of Getting Stuff Done

My undergrad advisor saw me struggling to write the Most Perfect Undergraduate History Thesis Ever and noted, “Sometimes something needs to be just good enough in order to be done.”

Wise words. Also, apparently he wrote his books according to this philosophy, so it works.


If your handwriting is so amazing people think it should be its own font, raise your hand when the professor asks for a volunteer to write discussion points on the board.

If you have a booming voice, be the person who gets everyone’s attention when your mouse-voiced instructor is failing to so.

It you know everything there is to know about computers, help your classmates get their PowerPoint presentations set up prior to class.

Same as any environment, you want to distinguish yourself as a valuable member of the group, both to your professor (boss) and fellow classmates (co-workers).


Whether you are currently in college or out in the working world, know that you are more than your professional identity. You deserve to have a social life outside of and apart from your work life. And – most importantly – you have to define those boundaries for yourself; you are the only person who knows how much work needs to come before play.

Treat college like a job to keep yourself invested in your academic success, without confusing your professional objectives with your life’s purpose.


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