The Importance of Curiosity at University

By Bong Miquiabas, Freelance Contributor, Forbes

It’s the summer before you set off for college, and if you’re anything like most people, a mix of excitement and nerves has settled into your system. It’s natural, people say, and a part of you knows that the feeling won’t leave until you set foot on campus and finally discover what college is like in person.

Advice will flow from every direction, if it hasn’t already, on how to make the most of the experience and ‘hit the ground running’ as the expression goes. When I think back to the advice I would have given myself over half a lifetime ago, it boils down to this: follow your curiosity.

Why curiosity? For starters, it’s a good sign of what interests you. There are few better ways to figure out how to spend your time in matters educational and personal than to follow your desire to know.

When selecting classes, for example, it’s useful to be honest with your feelings. Ask whether you’d mind studying a certain subject over weeks at a time. If so, that’s an indication that you see value in the subject and should investigate it.

Once in class, follow your curiosity further by asking questions, a lot of them, both during class and after. Professors and classmates can be powerful allies in examining life. Curiosity can thus pay off.

Here I’ll mention a strong American characteristic of higher education: the encouragement of asking questions. Perhaps challenging teachers in class to explain what they’ve told you could feel odd, but asking questions is essential on many levels.

Not only do you understand the material better, you get a stronger sense of how you learn. More specifically, we learn best when we test our understanding, and in this process we gain knowledge, which can lead to academic excellence as well as a fulfilling life.

On this last point, consider curiosity an essential tool to uncovering your identity. In your new friendships, for example, ask what you don’t know and would like to know. Americans college students are famously open-minded.

Consider each person you meet a potential tour guide in your American college journey, even if they’re not American. Being curious means being more engaged, especially with unfamiliar people, thoughts and customs, which can lead to more enriching experiences.

By stepping out of your comfort zone, you are inviting wisdom. Some lessons will be harsh. Most will be memorable. All will be worthwhile.

You’ve already made the bold decision to venture far from home. Why stop there? More opportunities to reveal who you are and what makes you ‘tick’ await if you’re open. And keep in mind that curiosity can guide you every step of the way.