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The classroom is all too commonly seen as an obligation rather than an opportunity.

And by opportunity, I do not mean the opportunity to receive a good grade. Instead, it can be the opportunity to begin making footprints that will pave the student’s path long after their graduation ceremony.

Grades are important. However, there is so much emphasis put on having the highest marks that it overshadows the networking opportunities and leadership practice the classroom environment bursts with. But with noses either in books or pointed toward the windows that frame the image of being anywhere else but there, students can float from class to class through to graduation, get their degree, have an impressive transcript, and look really great on paper, all without ever taking advantage of the students they can connect with or the members of faculty that can mentor them.

We live in a digital world. It is a world that encourages solitude, that advertises the glamor of living life in front of a screen, that tells students they can accomplish anything, meet anyone, and be anyone they want to be without having to physically lift a finger other than to press a button. Millennials are not just aware of this fact, they embrace it.

Now imagine the impression a student can make with the awareness of being in the moment.

On average, a full time student takes ten classes a year. If each class is three hours with a different teacher, one student has the opportunity to network 30 hours a year with ten different professors. Imagine ten different personalities, looks, standards and expectations, and sets of activities. That’s not to mention all that time surrounded by fellow students as well.

The classroom is a fantastic microcosm of the professional world. It can be competitive, friendly, and filled with friendly competition. A friendship one day can lead to a career the next. A name can sound familiar a decade later, and be the difference when a potential employer is rifling through a massive stack of resumes. Professors will almost always have professional world connections, and you never know which students will be in positions to help you out down the line.

Everyone knows the adage, “Never burn a bridge.” What we’re talking about here is building a bridge, and often all it takes is a hello.

Of course you’re going to be uncomfortable at first. Most communication is separated by digital transmissions, and even talking face-to-face can be done electronically and from a mobile device. But this is a guarantee: you will need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable if you want to achieve your goals.