1. It’s more important to challenge ideas than it is to be nice
The university system is predicated on the notion that students should pursue conformity, like sheep who only know how to follow the herd. The price you pay to learn is not simply a matter of listening to what the Professor tells you, it’s about learning to think – which is a consequence of opposing ideas and possibly offending people. And that’s perfectly fine because that’s what builds intellect. That’s what builds students who can speak truthfully without the fear of punishment. We need more students who can do that. We predominantly have students who are scared to raise objections in class because they have been taught that arguing is disrespectful. Arguing intelligently is not disrespectful, for the purpose of debate is to uncover the truth. Go out there and put them on notice that you’re not going to be an easy one!
2. Prove competence wherever you go
You need to show your peers and Professors that you have value, that you’re not a person who can be pushed around so easily. To show value requires proving competence and to prove competence requires being competitive. If you are having a discussion at the library with your peers about the upcoming election, engage in the discussion and speak intelligently instead of playing on your phone. If your peers reduce your intellectual potential by dominating a group assignment, you be the leader and tell them what to do. Universities want to produce the best students, teachers, lawyers and so on. That is what we call the hierarchy of competence. Your goal as a student should be to reach the top of that hierarchy so you can get rewarded properly. Moreover, so that you can be identified as a great student which motivates you to continue being great. Go out there and prove it to people that you are a competent student who wants to be great, because good is no longer noticed in our hypercompetitive world.
3. Don’t write your paper to impress the Professor
We live in a university culture dominated by political correctness. Often time’s students write a paper that fits the safety net, for if they go against what the Professor believes it will result in a low mark. This is the ideology that limits intellectual freedom. As students, we should write about things which we feel strongly about and what interests us. If that calls for controversy or offending the Professor, let it be. You rather risk getting a low mark than being robbed of your freedom of speech. In my estimation, if you can organize your thoughts intelligently, communicate effectively and back up what you say confidently, you become unstoppable. Go out there and be fearless!
By Vinu Selvaratnam
The views expressed in this article are my own and do not represent any institution.