The best academic experience I ever had was my eighth grade science class. It was better than any class I ever took in high school or college, and it was almost entirely due to the teacher, Mr. Schmidt. I’d never been a science guy, but I loved that he could make everything from introductory physics to aeronautics fascinating. I loved how he treated us like we were smart unless we made the mistake of proving otherwise. And I loved that on the very first day, when the resident class clown made one of his dopey comments, Mr. Schmidt told him, “You pick your ass up out of that chair and get out of my class. Now.”
I never worked harder to succeed or to earn a teacher’s approval then I did that year. I looked forward to third period science every single day. On the last day of class, I actually felt a little choked up when I walked out and said to him, “Keep teaching like you are, Mr. Schmidt.”
I never had another class like Mr. Schmidt’s. And that’s my fault. I could have had them, but I never sought out teachers or classes whose reputations sounded like they might duplicate that experience for me. I just assumed that how much you like a class or a teacher is all about the luck of the draw. What a mistake.
What has your best academic experience been, the one class that you actually looked forward to attending every single day. What made it so great? Was it because of the subject matter? Because the teacher was so great? Because you fed off the sense of competition, or the class discussion, or the opportunity to be pushed to work harder than you thought you could?
Maybe it was a combination of all of those things. But whatever it was, I encourage you to think about it, identify what made it special, and then make it your personal academic mission to duplicate it as many times as possible throughout high school and college.
It may not feel like it now, but you’re in charge of your academic experience. You can pursue subjects that interest you. You can seek out teachers with great reputations. You’ll get to choose your college and your classes and your major. When you do, think about your best academic experiences and whether or not these choices will create more of them.
Why not try to create academic experiences that you look forward to every day, every semester, and every year?