Nav­i­gating col­lege life can be a tricky endeavor for stu­dents as they try to bal­ance class­work with a social life, the job search, and much more. For this reason, Greg Goodale, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies in the Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design and the 2011 winner of North­eastern University’s Excellence-​​in-​​Teaching Award, is ready to help. Here, he offers five pieces of advice for under­grad­uate stu­dents from his new book, A Professor’s Advice to his Stu­dents.

Be mem­o­rable

Be mem­o­rable as a stu­dent, as an employee, and as a vol­un­teer. Politi­cians know the maxim that bad press is better than no press at all, which means that being infa­mous may be prefer­able to being for­gotten. After all, we still talk about Sen. Joe McCarthy. Who remem­bers Karl Mundt, the sen­ator who chaired the con­gres­sional hear­ings that ended McCarthy’s career? Not that I’m saying, “be a jerk.” There are, after all, much better ways to be memorable.

We can be mem­o­rable by over­coming deficits as public speakers or on-​​our-​​feet thinkers. We can be mem­o­rable by showing courage in chal­lenging willing pro­fes­sors and bosses to a debate (plenty of pro­fes­sors and bosses don’t like to debate, so be careful here). We can be mem­o­rable by men­toring strug­gling class­mates or col­leagues. We can be mem­o­rable by coming up with bril­liant and inno­v­a­tive ideas.

Present papers as if they rep­re­sent you

If you care about how you present your­self at night­clubs or in job inter­views, then why not put the same effort into how you present your­self in the papers you submit for your classes? Per­haps, the failure of teachers to be more direct in the feed­back we pro­vide to stu­dents leaves many young people with the impres­sion that after grad­u­a­tion, they can con­tinue to turn in poorly written reports. Yet studies about what employers find most frus­trating in new grad­u­ates con­sis­tently point to poor written com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. Employees who com­mu­ni­cate well and per­sua­sively will rise quickly through the ranks because they rep­re­sent them­selves as pro­fes­sional through all of their work. Employees who rep­re­sent them­selves as typos and gram­mat­ical errors will find their paths to pro­mo­tion blocked.

Think for yourself

North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun some­times tells freshmen during his annual Con­vo­ca­tion address that many of the facts they learn during col­lege will be obso­lete not long after they grad­uate. He then explains that the most impor­tant thing all of us should be learning is some­thing North­eastern is par­tic­u­larly good at: teaching stu­dents how to learn. Most of us have had our “hands held” or been “spoon-​​fed” by teachers. That these are common expres­sions is a reminder of how often stu­dents are “helped” in a way that doesn’t help at all, like when a teacher instructs which facts to mem­o­rize for a test. Of the few facts we actu­ally remember from high school and col­lege, many will soon be wrong. Humanity is acquiring so much knowl­edge so quickly that even in the hard sci­ences half of all facts will not be true within 40 years. If we learn to think for our­selves, we’ll be able to resolve prob­lems in the future that teachers cannot even dream of today.

Get out of your way

Over the course of your life, many people will get in your way for short periods of time. But one person will get in your way throughout your life: you. If you get in your way by pro­cras­ti­nating, or hanging out with neg­a­tive people, or lacking con­fi­dence, or being lazy, or being a coward, find a way to over­come it so that these issues don’t get in your way. You will always be your own biggest road­block. Only when you rec­og­nize this will you have a chance to get out of your way.

Look to the horizon

Learning to live is like learning to drive. When we first drive a car on a highway, we weave back and forth across our lane because we focus on the road imme­di­ately in front of us. That imme­diate focus is what pro­pels us to swerve and makes for an unpleasant ride. Life is like that too. When we are young we tend to focus on the imme­diate future. We see each bump in the road, for example, as if it is the worst crisis ever. As a result, our mood swerves back and forth from furious to morose to ecstatic in rapid suc­ces­sion. Look to the horizon. Think about the dis­tant road rather than the imme­diate road ahead. You’ll find that the ride evens out. Over the long run, most people who go to col­lege have pleasant lives.