What does Beyoncé, Chicharito Alvarez and Barack Obama have in common? They all have a mentor/coach who tells them what their next move should be. I love to describe my job as an academic mentor who teaches GEAR UP students “How to College”. New decade, new goals but same dreams!

GEAR UP Scholars, what an amazing opportunity to start fresh and remember why you began this higher education journey. As your GEAR UP Ambassador at the University of Nevada, Reno I am extremely excited to work with you as you complete your first year in college by helping you learn the meaning of a higher education.

Thinking that every major, class, or assignment should connect to a specific job or professional skill distracts us from recognizing the primary purpose of education: to become a learner. As a result, we often overlook our most important and valuable learning experiences and fail to take full advantage of the opportunities a college education has to offer.

Every person experiences education differently. Your experiences, interest, preparation, abilities and opportunities vary so much that it’s impossible to tell anyone how to pursue a college education in every detail. Becoming aware of who you are becoming as a result of your education is very important as a college freshman. You will see results that are not always directly reflected in grades.

Your challenge and opportunity is to carefully consider the idea that the primary outcome of a college education is the person you become. You must figure out how this knowledge can improve your education and how you can adapt it to your own needs, circumstances, goals and field of study. To take full advantage of the opportunity of your education, you need to thoughtfully examine your assumptions about college and learning.

Please consider pondering or discussing the following questions with your GEAR UP Ambassador or Mentor:

  • Outside of professional job skills, what learning abilities do I want to develop during college? How will I go about learning them?
    • Will you join a new club this semester or apply for a summer internship perhaps?
  • In what ways will I take better advantage of general education classes, especially if I am not necessarily interested in the topic?
    • Develop new notetaking or studying habits.
  • What will I do when I find myself in a learning environment that I find difficult or challenging?
    • Attend office hours
    • Create a study group
  • How can I evaluate my success in ways other than my grades?
    • New skills learned
    • New habits get rid of old negative habits.
  • What is my plan to improve my work ethic and integrity during college?
    • Turn in all my assignments on time
    • Perfect attendance
  • How will I deal with failures, setbacks, and obstacles?
    • Learn from mistakes and re-evaluate plans of action

These are all ways to become an active learner and gain value in a higher education. Please share what you’ve learned with each other. Ask for feedback. Develop ideas and plans that will help you implement these principles in ways that best suit you. Think of college and life as a process of becoming and always remember that the primary purpose of college is to become a learner.

You control how you play.

Not whether you win.

You control how you play.

Not if people like you.

You control how you play.

Not if the crowd cheers you on.