By John Paul Engel

I stood there with a knot in my stomach. It was a feeling I had never experienced before. For the first time in my life I was all alone. These were my first moments of college life. All day my mother had tried to delay their departure. We had gone shopping and bought the items she thought every dorm room should have. As they said “Good bye” I could see the tear roll down her cheek.  I felt the same way I just couldn’t show it.

It didn’t feel good to be alone so I proceeded to make the same mistake many college students make in their first semester. I went to every keg party, tailgate, and did everything I could to build my social circle. Making friends took priority over studying…then midterms came around and I had my reward….my grades were less than stellar…in fact, I was in danger of losing my scholarship. How would I explain it to my parents that I had failed?

Fortunately, I finally did a smart thing and went to one of the student advisers. I said, “I don’t understand how I can be getting these grades…I’m a good student.”

He turned to me with a smile and said “John, what have you been doing with your time?”

I replied sheepishly, “Uh…I’ve been studying?”

His smile broadened and with a knowing look he said, “YOU have to start studying on Friday night.”

“What are you crazy? NO ONE studies on Friday night.” I replied.

“John, if you want to be more than average – you have to do what the average won’t do.”

Believe it or not I took his advice and I started to study on Friday nights. I’m not going to lie it was hard to get into the habit at first but it was worth it in the end. Of course, that also meant that I studied on Thursday night and Friday, which for many college students is the start of the weekend. By studying on Friday night and planning my work ahead I eliminated the need to do all night cram sessions and I got a lot more out of my classes. I would study at least 3 hours for every hour of class time.

In the beginning of the semester I worked hard to get two weeks ahead in my readings because I knew there would be midterms and papers later in the semester that would take up my time. When the professor lectured I already had experience with the material so I could ask better questions.  I also knew what she talked about in class that was also in the book. (Hint: this will very likely be on the test and more importantly is probably something you should be sure to retain). I would make one page study sheets to help me prepare for tests and every time I did I would earn an “A” on the exam because at least 80% of what was on the test was on my sheet. The sheet also has the benefit of fitting in your pocket so you could study a little bit at a time while waiting in lunch line or taking a campus bus.

I also surrounded myself with some of the smartest people I could find as friends. Not only were they more interesting in college but they went on to do more interesting things in life. We pushed each other to be our bests. When you are willing to do more than average people recognize this fact and they want to help you. A person’s GPA is often within a few percentage points of their five closest friends.

In the end it all paid off. I earned the Collegiate Scholar Award which is the University’s highest honor, graduated in 4 years, and left school with no debt and without taking a penny from my parents. I also found plenty of time to go to parties, sporting events, and date – I just made sure I had my work done first.

My success in college enabled me to eventually secure my dream job. I went on to earn a graduate degree from one of the top five schools in the world in my major. I’ve had the opportunity to work all over the world with some of the smartest people in the world. I’ve lived in London, Tokyo, Manhattan, and I used to go to Paris all the time for business. I doubt many of the kids that were doing beer bongs on Thursdays and Friday nights had these kinds of opportunities.

If you want to be more than average in college (and in life) you have to do what the average won’t do.

For more advice from highly successful people from around the world including graduates of Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, Tokyo University, University of Chicago, and other accomplished graduates visit Now anyone anywhere in the world can get advice from some of the most successful people in the world for free!

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Kind regards,

John Paul Engel

Project Be The Change