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How can I distinguish myself?

honeypothoneypot Registered User Posts: 52 Junior Member
edited October 2006 in Parents Forum
I go to a large university and feel a small fish in a large pond. I was always known in HS and distinguished myself from others but now I feel like I am a situation in which I am just one among the crowd. So I was wondering, how can I intellectually distinguish myself from my peers? (In ways, other than just earning a high GPA.)

Post edited by honeypot on

Replies to: How can I distinguish myself?

  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,432 Super Moderator
    -Read the material ahead of time to be prepared to answer questions in class
    -Speak up in class
    -Visit professors during office hours
    -Make an effort to get to know your advisor, professors, dean, and department heads
    -Join extracurricular activities
    -Peer tutor
    -Run for Student Government
    -Write/photograph for the newspaper
    -Take small classes or seminars when possible
    -Attend lectures, coffee hours, etc. outside of class
    -Take advantage of independent study or research opportunities
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 12,383 Senior Member
    I just erased a mega post and will attempt to answer your question again.

    There is a paradigm switch from HS to college, including figuring out how to be considered a success. In HS you had to compete, find a way to distinguish yourself from the others, to get accepted to the college you now attend. Relax, you made it and the university expects you and the other thousands to succeed. A large university is composed of many smaller worlds, such as the many schools or colleges, the many dorms and the many activities. You will distinguish yourself in one (or more) of these smaller areas, no one attains recognition by everyone. The nice thing about a large school is the diversity, you don't have to fit into any one mold, you can express many facets of yourself. The hard part is the many choices and no simple formula as there was in high school.

    Begin by having a major, a field you actively like, becoming involved in classes and activities related to this will give you a more manageable pond to swim in. You can always change your major but having no major keeps you in the university-wide pool. Assuming you qualify, join the honors program and take as many honors courses as you can; you will get to know professsors, have smaller classes, get to do research and be a part of a smaller world.

    The gateway to grad and professional schools is academic achievement, unrelated extracurricular activies should be for your enjoyment. The workplace and postgrad schools want someone competent and interested in their field, so immerse yourself in the area that most interests you and your future will unfold. Opportunities will present themselves based on your specific course of study; without knowing more specifically what area you choose it is hard to give specific suggestions.

    It can be easy to feel like a nobody in a big school, the key is to find your niche. Narrowing your courses to those that fit a major still allows room for that unusual course only big schools can offer, and you will find no two people in your major will have exactly the same courses, regardless of how many share your major. Don't feel overwhelmed by the size of the school and the large numbers of academic peers, you do not need to be better than everyone else to meet your goals, there is room for everyone who does the work to succeed. Etc.,etc.,etc.
  • originaloogoriginaloog Registered User Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    I went to Ohio State many years ago so I know something about BIG univeristies. What you will eventually realize is that they are not nearly as big as they seem at first. Because they are made up of so many colleges and literally hundreds of departments, students can find an academically intimate environment as they progress in their academic program.

    At OSU the College of Engineering enrolled about 5,000 students, about the same number as fine private universities like Case, RPI, and URochester or W&M. Still larger than a typical LAC, but not humongously large. In my particular department, Civil Engineering, there were less than 40 in my graduating class, very comparable to many LAC departments and downright intimate. All the faculty knew us on a first name basis and we were able to interact with them on a very personal level-faculty/student basketball games, ASCE field trips, pre-game picnics on the Hitchcock "patio, which was two blocks from the famed "Shoe" and bag lunches with them in the student lounge.

    In this type of atmosphere it was easy for us undergrad to distinguish ourselves or NOT. And for the NOT's, most faculty were more than willing to help them in whatever way possible. In fact the College of Engineering Chair, Bud Blaeslack lending a student his shoes for a job interview. Not easy to get more intimate than that! Read it in the link. It is a really heartwarming story! (see page 4)

    On the other hand, at universities like OSU there are department which are quite a bit larger and where more of an effort is necessary for a student to stand out. All faculty at OSU are available to mentor an undergraduate student wishing to pursue independent study coursework. Most departments also have academically oriented honoraries, clubs, etc which involve faculty interaction.

    Now in those big frosh lecture courses, my suggestion is to just get them out of the was ASAP. The prof lecturers cannot give many students personal attention-that is left up to the recitation TA's. However I was involved in one neat episode in my Physics 2 course. I was involved in a study group which hung around after some lectures to quiz the prof about question which arose about recent work. On the last day of class we snuck a six pack of 3.2 beer into the lecture hall and shared a brew with the prof after class, which he was more than happy to do. BTW, 3.2 beer was legal for those 18 yrs old. If you choose your courses carefully you can get away with no more than 4 or 5 large lecture classes in most cases.

    So my advice is to look at the large university as consisting of many smaller colleges and smaller departments. This will allow you to leave your mark and be that big fish in the smaller pond.
  • honeypothoneypot Registered User Posts: 52 Junior Member
    Thanks everyone. I have decided that I am going to be an English major. So I should pursue extracurricular activities and research related to my major? I am also premed.

  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 11,219 Senior Member
    honeypot (great nic) I was an english major in a huge department of a huge school and what I found was -- that professors REALLY appreciated a student approaching them outside of class. Most of them enjoyed talking one-on-one to a student, especially in those big schools, where many kids are too intimidated to make the effort. Often, I'd just drop by their office for a short chat -- making sure first it was OK -- and talk about all kinds of things, not necessarily connected with class or even school. The result was that, even in that huge department, most professors and TAs knew me. It didn't take much to 'distinguish' myself -- just a polite knock on their office door.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 12,383 Senior Member
    Bravo for being both an English major and premed, as long as you do well in the required sciences there is no disadvantage to getting into medical school. Do not think of getting into medical school like you did college, whole different game, and different than in my day (when women were a small but rapidly increasing percentage each year). By all means use your undergraduate experience to take courses and do things you won't have time for later. Remember to emphasize your passion for English and not your medical school intentions with your English professors, you never should hide who you are, but reveal the facet of yourself that fits the situation.
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