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Campus bigwigs' advice on getting through college

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  • Administrators hope college students graduate with more than a hangover
  • Point of college is to create well-rounded people, president says
  • Some students can't afford to do as much exploring, administrator says
  • Interim vice president suggests students volunteer free time
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By Ben Wolford
Daily Kent Stater
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Editor's Note: Ben Wolford is a writer for the Daily Kent Stater, the leading news source for Kent State. This article was brought to CNN.com by UWIRE, the leading provider of student-generated content. UWIRE aims to identify and promote the brightest young content creators and deliver their work to a larger audience via professional media partners such as CNN.com. Visit UWIRE.com to learn more.

(UWIRE) -- If tuition stays the same, an undergraduate living on campus will have spent $33,720 on tuition alone after eight semesters at Kent State.

New York University students celebrate in the fountain after graduation in May 2007.

New York University students celebrate in the fountain after graduation in May 2007.

As one such undergraduate said, "It's just one big party with a cover charge."

That's one way to look at it.

But Kent State's administrators are hoping by graduation, students will gain something from the university more lasting than a headache -- and more useful, too.

"We're complicated people," President Lester Lefton said. "We can do lots of different things. You can be an artist and a psychologist. You can be a scientist and religious. You can be a sports enthusiast and a scholar."

He didn't say beer connoisseur and temperance activist; perhaps that's a little too complicated. But his contention about human complexity resounds at a liberal education university.

"Isn't it the point of a college education," Lefton said, "to create well-rounded individuals who are not uni-dimensional, who can see the world through different lenses?"

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Lefton described with reverence his college music professors who were "exhilarating, who inspired me and created transcendent moments."

Though he was a psychology major at Northeastern University, Lefton said he lapsed into thoughts of studying music, but he was able to stifle them.

Music was his mistress, but he always came home to psychology, or something to that effect. That's why Lefton is an advocate of exploring as many different facets of knowledge as possible.

"Use every elective you've got to take courses in music and theater and religion," he said, listing others. "You will never have another opportunity to have so much expertise in so many fields available to you ... It will open your mind."

On the other hand, Pete Goldsmith, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, considers the expenses of soul-searching with a cover charge.

"The first year, maybe year-and-a-half, you can do a lot of exploration," he said, "but you need to begin to focus in ... Most students aren't in a situation where they can be on the six-year plan or the seven-year plan."

But Pat Book, vice president for regional development, explored several different areas before she found what she was really interested in. "I tried different things," she said. "I took general (education) courses and then I took English and psychology and sociology. And then I discovered anthropology, and that became my passion."

And she still made time for a life outside books. "I went to Rod Stewart concerts, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Judy Collins," Book said.

That's all fine, said Yank Heisler, interim vice president for finance and administration, but he pitched a more selfless use for students' spare time.

"You can certainly often go hear a lecture or go hear a performance," he said. "The other side of that is, if you're a student, most of you have more free time than you did during your high school experience. Figure out a way to give something back. Do something volunteering-wise."

With classes, jobs, volunteering and concerts, Provost Robert Frank said creating structure for one's life is a valuable skill for a student. "The most important thing for freshmen," he said, "is to think about developing consistent study skills and stress management skills. It's a big year in people's lives; there are lots of changes."

One change might be a switch in one's major, said Willis Walker, interim vice president for human resources. And if that happens, he encouraged students to go with it.

"As you go through the education process, you have to realize that you are learning skills," Walker said, "some of which are transferable to whatever it is you may decide you want to become if you change your mind about what it is you think you want to become now."

For example, Walker, who is also Kent State's chief university counsel, paid for his undergraduate degree by laying bricks. After he decided he wanted to become a lawyer, he landed his first job with the National Urban League because he had knowledge of the construction trade. In whatever facet of student-dom a college student places priority, Gene Finn, vice president for institutional advancement, said he or she should be thinking "carpe diem."

"Now is the time," he said. "Take an art course. Take something you wouldn't normally try. Now's the time to do it because once you get out into the real working world, there aren't as many opportunities for that."

And there will always be opportunities for parties with cover charges.

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