The thing college fails at most, no matter where you are from, is its approach to team work.
Being academically successful in college depends on a single metric : not grades, but ranking.
If you are ranked well, you get access to the best programs by selection. It’s a twisted system clearly favoring competitivity over collaboration. And yet, we are expected to know how to “team work” when we enter the job market: how can we flip this?
First, team work is not just a nice-to-have. It’s the very fabric of any human endeavor: you make something with others, or you don’t. There is no self-made.
You can work by yourself and on your own projects, but it’s always with and/or for others. Developing a personal website? You have to think of your audience first. Getting a degree? It’s a piece of paper used to signal your expertise to potential employers.
What does a student do then? A student studies. Studying is not memorizing, it’s understanding. And understanding things is just a matter of perspective. If a student doesn’t understand a material, his best bet to unlock the hidden knowledge is to diversify his sources. You can learn anything, as long as you find the right teacher, be it a professor, a book, or an online tutorial.
It’s commonly assumed students receive their teachings from professors. This is called vertical education, a top-down approach to learning. We barely talk about horizontal education: students teaching each other. In this approach, the frontier between teacher and student becomes blurred: any student can alternatively give and receive.
Guess what though? The real world is just a bunch of students teaching each other what they think they know. That’s what team work is: people sharing their expertise to build things together. It’s not a race to the top in your own home-made vehicle, it’s carpooling.
Making the most out of college is not about being the best in class, it’s about being social. You become social when collaboration becomes an integral part of your work ethic: sharing notes, explaining concepts, exchanging points of view… Everyone has something valuable to teach, not just professors.
You can’t be forever the best at what you do, and you can’t work alone. You might as well accept it. The best way for everyone to pass a class is by lifting each other: create student-owned knowledge repositories, organize social events, and develop your own communication channels. Study, together!