Essential College Skills: The Importance of Your Voice

Many new college students may feel intimidated when they first start classes. You may find yourself surrounded by graduate students, professors, or classmates who always seem to know the right answer. It's important to remember you bring different ideas and experiences to classroom conversations. Your unique voice or understanding of a subject is important. Use it with confidence and speak up respectfully when you have a question or opinion to share. Doing so will further your understanding of the subject, may help others learn, and could improve your grade if the instructor emphasizes student involvement.

Using your voice more frequently in the classroom, when appropriate, could also improve your writing. It is important to write college essays with an authoritative and credible written voice. You can hone that voice by learning to share ideas openly.

Add your voice to class conversation and keep these tips in mind:

Learn the jargon: Every area of study uses unique technical language, or jargon, which outsiders might find difficult to understand. Engineers talk to other engineers using words a musician, artist, or an accountant might not know; and, vice versa. Learning the professional language in your field of study will enhance your understanding of the subject and give you added authority. It can take years and work experience to fully understand the nuances of a professional language, but it's worth your time to start building that vocabulary. To do so, attend class, stay on top of assignments, network with others in your desired field, and look for internship opportunities.

Discover the real life advantage: Your life experiences may help you learn concepts which could otherwise be tough to understand. Use those experiences, such as past jobs, relationships, successes, and failures, to help you better articulate ideas. For instance, suppose you worked in a grocery store in high school, checking out shoppers of all economic backgrounds. That experience may help your understanding of social policies in a collegiate political science course. When you can connect real life to an abstract concept, your understanding of it will improve. Life experience is one of the biggest advantages adult learners bring to the classroom.

Share ideas openly: Don't sit quietly while classmates discuss a topic. Your voice is important, too. You may not always know as much as the student next to you, your professor, or the textbook author, but you can offer a new perspective. College is a time of self-discovery. Value your opinions enough to share them. If you are borrowing ideas from another source, remember to give credit where it's due.

Find your confidence: College students who lack the confidence to go to their instructor with a concern or question could have difficulty. It's important that you feel confident visiting your professor at his or her office if you need help with the material or are concerned about your grade. More often than not, your instructor will gladly listen.