Student to student: Life skills every college student ought to learn

By Antonio Ramirez
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, August 8, 2013

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C ollege is about balance, not just the grades on a transcript.

It's about developing social intelligence, emotional intelligence, logical intelligence, verbal intelligence, and so much more. It's about taking risk and mastering the weaknesses that once held you back. It's about speaking with purpose, clarity and confidence so that when you talk, people listen.

There are bits of advice instructing students to focus and stay on top of their grades, but anyone who's been to college knows it's not that easy. We are not machines with a magic switch to be flipped on and off. College, as demanding as it may be, is full of distractions - wonderful, wonderful distractions.

Maintaining focus is hard. After all, who wants to read Locke's "Two Treatises of Government" when the dream girl is challenging you to a pickup game or the best friends want you to come to their kickback?

Take it, leave it, the following advice is based on experience and encourages everyone to develop the skills necessary to live a balanced lifestyle.

Organize your life

Way back in grade school when told to clean and organize backpacks and binders, there was a reason. As pointless as it may seem, staying organized helps us manage our time and differentiate between important and unimportant.

Whatever task needs to be completed first, should be completed first. Disorganization opens gaps in our schedules. It allows for the occurrence of those unnecessary patrols through Facebook or Twitter that can easily turn into hours of procrastination.

Learn how to pursue relationships with a purpose and recognize those without. Know that the people around you largely shape who you become. Don't waste time doing nothing with a friend. Find people who challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone. That's how you grow as a person.

If you have friends who refuse to take chances spend less time with them, and spend time with other people. College has many opportunities to meet people; take advantage of the opportunity.

Even if you have friends who challenge you, continue to try to meet new people. The next person you meet could change your life significantly for the better, offer a new perspective you've never heard before, or understand you in ways you can't grasp now.

Stay active

The easiest way to maintain a schedule with enough exercise is to join a sports club. Exercising throughout life is pivotal for success. Especially in college, because it affords you the energy needed to get through the day. It boosts your confidence, and it makes you healthier. Plus, being active can help you meet other people with common interests.

Learn to read

Seriously, reading should be hard, and if it isn't then you need to pick up more challenging books. By the end of a chapter you should be questioning what was said and actively seeking answers. Train yourself to read thoroughly, not just faster. Learn to skim the book once and then make an outline of the book, chapter, or section. Highlight words you don' t understand, but don't sit with a dictionary next to you. Look up the words after you've skimmed through. When you read it again you should have a better understanding of the concepts the author was trying to communicate.

Truly try to grapple with the concepts an author is trying to convey. Agree or disagree, just figure out what is said and have an opinion. Use reference books, teachers' assistants, friends and professors; but use them carefully, not as a crutch, and only after you have put forth as much effort into reading as possible and have specific questions to ask.

Watch TedTalks

Right now go to Google and type "Ted" and "Ben Dunlap." Watch that video. Then, after you understand it, find the talks by Sarah Kay and Benjamin Zander. If you have trouble understanding what they are saying, pause the video, rewind and listen again. This is a great way to develop stronger listening skills and engage with the ideas of some of the smartest minds in the world.

(Editor's note: Navajo Times intern Antonio Ramirez is a student at Stanford University.)

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