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Jake Van Geffen-Men’s Cross Country

Posted by on Friday, January 1, 2016 in Student-Athletes of the Month.

Jake Van Geffen
Men’s Cross Country
Major: Civil Engineering

Why did you choose to attend Vanderbilt?
I chose Vanderbilt because I wanted to challenge myself to grow in all aspects of my life. Obviously, I knew the academic aspect would be tough, but I also knew that going to a completely new environment full of brilliant people would help me learn a lot. Vanderbilt offered me more opportunities to improve myself and refine my goals than any other school I thought about attending. The chance to run SEC cross country played a huge factor as well; I can’t stress enough how important that has been to my college experience.

What are your career goals?
My major is civil engineering, but I am more focused on the environmental aspect of the civil engineering field. Right after college, I want to do either Teach for America or a Peace Corps term in Peru for a few years. I’ve been tutoring the past couple years at Eakin Elementary and discovered a passion for teaching that I did not know I had until college. I still love environmental engineering, but I now know that I could use my talents for teaching instead to improve the lives of others. Ultimately though, I want to either work for the Environmental Protection Agency as a policy adviser and field scientist, or have a role with an environmentally-focused nonprofit organization. I’ve felt that I want to do something with the environment for as long as I can remember.

What does it take to be academically successful at Vanderbilt?
It definitely takes a great deal of sacrifice to be academically successful here, especially when mixing in athletics as well. It requires not taking the easy path more often than not. However, balance is essential; if you’re never having any fun, you’re going to get stressed out, and your grades will fall. Time management is probably the most essential component though. You have to have an understanding of how much time you will need to study for an exam or complete an assignment, so you can budget your time accordingly. That has probably been the biggest key to success for me academically.

How do you manage your demanding schedule?
One of the most important things for me in terms of time management has been taking advantages of the shorter windows throughout the day. For example, if I have an hour between two classes or some time before practice, I’ll try to knock out some homework or get some studying done. Using those windows really adds up, which helps me stay on top of everything I have to do. I have also realized that I work better in the morning than at night, so if I have a test the next day, I prefer to go to bed early, get some rest, and get back at it after some breakfast. With all the time commitments student-athletes have here, it can be easy to work yourself too hard and get way too stressed out. So I have made it a rule to not study at all on Saturdays, which gives me a lot of time to recharge after morning practice and have some fun.

What is your ritual before taking a test?
In my experience of taking mostly engineering classes, the best way to prepare for a test is simply paying attention in lecture, asking questions, and completing the homework honestly and thoroughly. Doing those simple things gets you most of the way there. My ritual before a test is to first go over all the notes and textbook sections for the exam and pick out all the key concepts and equations. Once I feel like I have a grasp on the general ideas, I like to work on example problems until I feel confident I can do them under a time constraint. If possible, I prefer to get the bulk of studying done in the morning rather than late at night, but sometimes that doesn’t work with my cross country practice schedule.

What is your favorite quote?
“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.” -Rachel Carson