Hanging with people from the same background may be comforting, Writes Bruni. But it’s a “wasted opportunity” to learn how to be comfortable with diversity of ideas and people.
That includes talking with professors. Bruni asked Mitchell scholars to rank the importance of college “coursework, travel abroad, internships, relationships with classmates, involvement in campus groups and reading done apart from any class obligation.” Relationships with faculty members “was the clear winner,” he writes.
In a large survey of college alumni, the most fulfilled graduates talk about “establishing a deep connection with a mentor, taking on a sustained academic project and playing a significant part in a campus organization,” writes Bruni.
He suggests learning to write and speak clearly and to tell a story. “Take a course in Greek mythology, British literature, political rhetoric or anything else that exposes you to the structure of narrative and the art of persuasion.”
The Mitchell scholars who were science majors wished they’d paid more heed to the humanities, Bruni writes. “Humanities majors mentioned computer science and statistics.”
Several Mitchell scholars also fretted that they’d lost out on some of what college had to offer by sticking to predetermined scripts, sweating perfection and avoiding risks. That dovetailed with a concern that many professors articulate to me — that students aren’t learning to stumble and to right themselves, which they can do in college with lower stakes than later on.
“I didn’t learn how to fail,” wrote Aaron Kurman, who graduated from the University of Virginia in 2005 and now works as a human rights lawyer. “I didn’t learn how resilient I was.”
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