Conducting mentored research for the first time is one of the most exciting and enriching experiences most students have during the academic career.  In addition, there are many added benefits that develop you as a person, as student, a critical thinker, a responsible citizen in society, and a life-long learner! As a Professor of Biology for 25+ years there are certain experiences, exercises, practices, routines, or habits that I have seen in students that help ensure success in determining and pursuing their future goals.  Resolving what you would like/want to do in College and with the rest of your life is not as easy as perhaps you thought previously.  Getting involved in and staying involved in research, even as a freshman, is one of the best experiences that will help you in this quest and will simultaneously hone your skills in critical thinking, time management, diagnostic abilities, problem solving, focus, interpersonal interactions, and clarify your aptitude for a plethora of avenues in life as potential arenas that can fulfill your passion.  Of course, it goes without saying that maintaining a very good GPA and having smart and consistent study habits are critically important, as is having some foresight into future classes you need or wish to take – so that you will have the proper prerequisites.  This means doing some planning in advance!  Having a caring advisor or mentor is also a definite plus.  If you don’t have a mentor that you like or one who is in an area of science that does not interest you then you should request a change – it’s that simple.  However, for some students that have done some in depth research into career possibilities and academic requirements for graduation, a mentor is not necessarily critical to your success in college (although I insist that you should keep regular contact with your assigned or chosen advisor and mentor).  All the requirements of a degree or program are clearly spelled out in University documents or webpages (make sure you are looking at the latest requirements and documents and check with your advisor/mentor on this!) and you can master navigation through college using this and researching your areas of interest and what you need to get there by yourself! 

Fish illustrations by Joseph R. Tomelleri and used with permission.