What separates successful college students from those who just skate by, and earn a degree? That’s what historian Ken Bain wanted to know. So, he interviewed hundreds of college graduates who’ve gone on to have successful careers. Then, he shared their advice in his book: What The Best College Students Do. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of college.

  • First: Pursue your passion, not grades. According to one prominent astrophysicist Bain talked to, people who succeed in college – and in life - are generally motivated by curiosity, not by earning the highest test scores. Because as an adult, no one ever asks you what your grades were. Instead, our success boils down to: Do we understand how to do the job or not?

  • The 2nd tip from successful college students: Read and think actively. In other words, instead of just memorizing a bunch of facts in text books, always ask yourself this question: “How could I apply this information to my life?” For example: Economist Dean Baker says that when he was in school, he questioned everything he read and thought about how the economic theories he was reading about shaped our lives. Because of that “active” thinking, experts say Baker was one of the few economists to actually predict the last recession!

  • One more tip for college students: Set goals, and then make them real. One lawyer Bain talked to says that when he was in college, he read a book about a massacre in El Salvador, and he was so moved, that he decided right then that he wanted to do something in his life to help less fortunate people. And he fulfilled that goal by becoming a lawyer who now provides legal services to the poor.

Bottom line: When it comes to being successful in college, it’s not about where you go, but what you do once you get there.