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Past personal achievements count for almost nothing, except the confidence they give you, as you enter new classes. This includes high school fame of all kinds. A record in one college class doesn’t carry over to another, either. The reverse is happily true, as well: A poor record doesn’t have to be lived with. You can start each course with a clean slate.

Students are sometimes unwilling to stand out in a class by taking an aggressive part for fear they will be looked down upon by their classmates. A good professor helps a class overcome this reluctance to speak up. Not to speak up is a hindrance to self-education. A silent class is “dumb” in more ways than one.

After class, you may hesitate to drop in on the professor to discuss something that interested you a great deal. You may fear another type of carry-over: that someone will think you are trying to impress the professor and thus improve your grade. If your motive is genuine (professors are pretty sharp in distinguishing the genuine article from apple-polishers), you will find the professor eager to discuss the subject matter at length. He knows that this is the finest type of education. Post-class discussions will have little effect upon your grade, directly. But indirectly, your own interest will increase, making it easier for you to concentrate. Besides, it would be a rare professor who did not consciously or subconsciously favor an interested student, particularly when the grade happens to be on the border-line. He would be justified in rewarding (and thus reinforcing) a student’s genuine interest!

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