Revisiting Classic Advice: How to Make the Most of College

The end of the school year always strikes me as a good time to reflect. As someone who never understood the point of making resolutions in January (because the year starts with school in September, obviously), the close of the school year is when I’m my most pensive.

As my current crop of seniors roll into college, I find myself thinking about the students I worked with in previous years. Where are they now? How are they doing in college? While I get updates from some, others vanish after senior year.

You can be as happy as these models, just listen to Dr. Light!

You can be as happy as these models, just listen to Dr. Light!


One of my favorite studies ever details some of the things students can do to make their college experience better. I’ve noticed that many of my happiest students seem to do at least some of these things naturally. You can read about the study in this New York Times article. Or, you can check out the original source “Making the Most of College” by Richard J. Light. Light’s book was born out of a study at Harvard that examines why some students have positive college outcomes while others report just ho-hum feelings about their undergraduate experience.

The advice?

Pretty basic. Students should do things like meet and interact with professors, take a mix of courses, study in groups, write as much as they can, and find a support system. Don’t just focus on your grades, carve out a life at college.

This might not be place you learn the most while in college.

This might not be place you learn the most while in college.


As Light explains, ''Very often an experience outside of class can have a profound effect on the courses students choose and even what they want to do with their lives.''

If we learn anything from this research it is that students should be deliberate and thoughtful with their college involvement. Setting small goals of “I’ll go to office hours two times per month to see Dr. Jones” or “I’ll join the lyrical dance club” are achievable objectives that lay the foundation for a more fulfilling and productive way to spend time in college.  

The best part of all this?

Experiences are equal opportunity! You can have fabulous college experiences anywhere. Nothing Light talks about is exclusive to Harvard or highly selective schools. If you’re thinking about college and the potential return on investment, this is certainly something to consider. When choosing a college, think about the campuses where you’d be able to implement Light’s suggestions and really make the most of your four years.

Want to learn more about considering all of your college options?

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Monica Gallego Rude