Know the People That Affect You In College (i.e. the Accidental Good Idea)
When I was in college, I was the classic example of a smart kid who made bad decisions. If there were 2 ways to do something and one way could get me in trouble that was the way I invariably chose…and chose it often. It was so bad that it became pointless for me to try and avoid mistakes, and success became learning a lesson early enough to not make the same mistake more than twice. Some of these mistakes were small and some involved police being called, but any one of them could have been the thing that got me sent home.
There was exactly one reason I was able to be that donkey and still graduate (and it wasn’t because I had good grades or my almost unbelievable charm.) The simple truth is that I got to know everyone in a position of authority that I could. I knew not just the RAs on my floor, but I knew the ones from my building and when someone came around I didn’t know I introduced myself. I knew the hall director, the student government advisor, the judicial officer, and every one of my professors. I met some of them when things went wrong, but for the most part I knew them simply because they directly or indirectly had authority over my life. This was not an intentional strategy, but it turned out to be a good one.
When I started working in higher education I was reminded of my relationship building because a small percentage of students took the time to do the same with me. There are several reasons this is a good idea:
- Almost without exception the people working in student affairs and with students are good people with interesting stories. If you know that first hand it will improve your interactions down the road.
- People are more inclined to help when they know you. This is simple human nature. If you are “Jennifer” and you get caught smoking marijuana in the dorm, the first instinct will be to do more for you than if you’re “that girl in 205.”
- You get the chance to let someone know who you are so they don’t just judge you when they “have to.” This is similar to #2, but more positive. When I was in charge of judicial issues, if someone came up to me to change the way something was enforced I was a lot more open to it than if they tried to make the same argument because they were “caught.” The truth is that when a person in authority knows you he or she is much more inclined to trust the motives you present rather than make assumptions you may not like.
- There are numerous opportunities that get presented to these people, and the better they know you the more likely it is that you will be informed of them. This can be as simple as being on a committee or information about a paid internship.
If you are going to get to know someone, remember that they are busy as well. If the person is an administrator make (and keep!!!) an appointment. Go to programs, say hi, help out, and do other things that show you’re a good person before you need them to believe it. Besides being a good way to check out some other life options, it can also be fun.
Obligatory plug: Subscribe to this blog, check out our website, follow me on Twitter, or like us on Facebook (if people still do that.) Also check out our friends at The Greak Tweak if you’re in a fraternity, sorority, or just want some good advice.