First half is me reminiscing about my regrets. If you don't want to read some sappy reevaluation of a guy's life, you can just skip to the entree.
Honestly, when I was in university, I let fate take my course, allowing things to progress without my guidance. I regret it everyday. I wished that I took things more seriously. I think I would've had more fun that way as well. Well no point in regretting it too much. At the very least, I have an ounce of idea to where I want to go from heather forth. I have to go by textbook when it comes to building up my design identity, simply because I had no idea what I was doing at my time at university. But now with the knowledge on hand, I can say with certainty that things will eventually sort out. I just need to put in more effort.
I'm the most self-deprecating, self-pitying person around, and my confidence is pretty much nonexistent. Which is why I messed up my chance to find proper design job right out of university -- even before that, people pointed out my issues. I didn't even think of correcting it. Now it's evident that this lack of confidence is actually a huge obstacle in landing a job. After my recent botched interview, I've really got to get my act together. It's really dire.
Now for the topic of this post, I want to talk about the confidence to say "no". When I was in university, I took my professor's words as law, and changed my designs to fit to what they want. Of course, one can argue that they should be treated as a client, reflecting the real world, but I don't agree with it entirely. First of all, the dynamic is different. What they tell a student is a suggestion, not a want. A student should be allowed to state their opinion and be allowed to sway the professor. In that case, the best professor should always have the student's best interest in mind. For one, they must have an understanding of their student, and have a few suggestion to improve their project, "as the instructor would do it". The student should be encouraged to challenge it, if they have evidence that their rebuttal holds well against their professors'. And then, the instructor with enough conclusive evidence, should allow them to pursue it, or so to speak. A student's idea, to be executed even with the benefit or minor detriment, is still their idea. They are more likely to enjoy the process for better or for worse.
If the instructor's words are law, and they follow them despite having a good reasoning themselves, and the project failed due to their obedience, the project is a complete failure.
I suggest a healthy dose of humbleness, open-mindedness and flexibility to be paramount for a good educator in the design field.