A fear that many people have is being stuck with a “dead-end” job. This is why more and more people are attending college. The expectations of today are that people need a college degree (or more) to get the job they want. Unfortunately, running off to college and getting a degree is not the cure-all to avoiding being stuck. If this is true, what is the answer? This is the third in a series of posts to help give some ideas for what to do while at college to give you an advantage in the world. Read Part 1 and Part 2.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
One of my favorite professors on the UMD campus likes to reiterate how much he enjoys when undergraduates ask questions. There is nothing wrong with admitting you do not understand everything. For some reason, when the opportunity to ask questions or answer a question arises in the classroom, students seem to perceive that the costs outweigh the benefits. “If I get the question right (or ask a ‘smart’ question) the only thing I receive is affirmation. If I were to answer the question incorrectly (or ask a ‘dumb’ question) people will think I am not smart.”
The aforementioned professor enjoys relating a story to his students to hit home the point that asking questions is most definitely a good practice. For you to enjoy and learn; here is that story:
I used to teach psychology to high school students. They were wonderful. They asked questions, because they knew they were not expected to know everything. Undergraduates are a little more hesitant to ask questions. Not as bad as graduate students, though. If you take a class of graduate students, they think they need to prove themselves to the faculty. So, they are very hesitant to ask questions if they do not understand something. It turns out, 4th and 5th year medical residents are worst. I ask them, “What makes neurons change to a negative charge?” They answer: potassium. “What is the charge of a potassium ion?” They answer: positive. “If potassium is positively charged, how does it make a neuron negative?” They don’t know. Then why did they say they understood everything I said? These medical students could be very close to going out and making a misdiagnosis that could ruin someone’s life. You know, it is okay to be honest. It is much better to ask a question if you don’t know something than what could happen if you make an uneducated decision.
Asking questions is a great way to avoid making mistakes. Also, you never know when a piece of information will become useful. Whether it is for the purpose of taking a test, applying for a job, applying for graduate school, or researching a topic, holding knowledge is extremely useful. The only time I can imagine knowledge being harmful is if, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH.” But, I think in most situations, people can handle it just fine. I believe in you.
So, to be more successful in your ventures, do not be afraid to ask questions. Adding information only strengthens your tool box for the future. I will end this post in the same manner I ended my first one: You may have noticed there is a recurring theme here: if you don’t want to get stuck, don’t sit still. Be proactive. Ask questions when you don’t know what your teacher is talking about. All of those clichés are applicable. Whatever you do: don’t do nothing.