Win the Professor’s Heart, Mind, and Admiration

In high school, gifted design students, artists, and writers tend to have little trouble standing out and gaining the attention and recognition of teachers and peers. High schools are made up of a mostly random assortment of kids who live in the area. They will eventually all filter into various fields of work and paths of life. So the most talented in a specific field have less competition.

But what about in college? Now students are in a new field of peers. Everyone there has been hand selected on the same criteria (except for legacy students whose last names adorn the campus libraries and dining halls). The playing field is elevated. It is harder to stand apart.

While school is not a competition per se, there is a real benefit to being the kind of student who leaves an impression with the teacher and class. They are future job references and lifelong advice-givers. They could even be friends. So how does one stand out among a talented class? Here are some suggestions…

Have a point of view without being a dick. Having some reaction or perspective on your lessons shows that you are actually absorbing and grappling with the subject matter. Simply writing down notes and comprehending the material is fine, but asking questions that try to further your understanding of the material is even better. It signals to the teacher that you care. But there is often one student who just wants to argue and try to one-up the professor. That person tends to come off disruptive and straight-up dickish. Even if you think you’re smarter than the professor, you aren’t doing anyone a favor by holding up the class and arguing constantly.

Be creative in how you complete assignments. Go beyond what is expected. If you’re a writing student, that doesn’t mean you should write a novel when you’re assigned a short story. But it could mean that you turn it in with a piece of cover artwork, or a little something extra that makes it stand out.

That’s a lesson you can take with you for the rest of your life. In order to get ahead, we are often in positions where we are competing with a bunch of similar people. When you apply for a job, usually dozens of others have submitted their resumes and cover letters as well. So how can you write your cover letter in a way that stands out? How can you design your resume to pop on the page? Start exercising this way of thinking in school.
Finally, you can stand out by earning accolades outside of the classroom. That’s the advantage of submitting your work to The Digital Shortlist. There may be other advertising or design competitions for students, but this is the only one we know of where college applicants compete with working professionals. That carries a lot more weight than a student design award.

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