Annie and Anthony were two of my favorite students at UNLV. They couldn’t be more different. Annie was an honor student in high school. Anthony ended up in prison. Annie has a calm, quiet demeanor. She sneaks up on you. Anthony has adrenaline-driven moxie. He walks up and hits you right in the mouth. Annie dresses to impress everyday. Anthony has tattoos over most visible parts of his body and I’m sure wears his hat backwards when out on the town. What I love most about these two is that they have taken such different paths to success and are great examples of how to use your time in college to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Let me explain how this works. Each year the Lee Business School graduates about 650 students. Annie is a member of the Global Entrepreneurship Experience, one of only 20 UNLV students each year who are admitted into a program designed to help them start their own business upon graduation. She is also a member of the American Marketing Association team that has placed in the top three at national competitions two of the last three years. Annie is an honor student, Lee Business School Ambassador, study abroad participant and a producer of promotional videos for LBS. How many of those 650 LBS graduates this year will have this profile: GEE student, member of nationally recognized AMA team, honor student, studied in London, LBS ambassador and video producer? Answer: one.

Anthony came from the mean streets of Los Angeles. He is an extraordinary networker. Everyone knows Anthony. I have no idea about Anthony’s grade point average. I’m sure it is good, but it is not extraordinary. This is not his goal. Anthony is a man on a mission. He is bound and determined to make sure that others don’t end up like he did early in his life. His idea to create cheap ebooks to help high schoolers achieve financial and physical health, won $20,000 at the annual Governor’s Cup Business Plan competition. He also founded the nonprofit Jump for Joy Foundation that works with young kids who are at risk of developing child obesity. (Anthony by the way is skinny as a rail.) Anthony is a man who has turned his past to his advantage. How many students with his profile will graduate from LBS this year? Answer: one.

Oh, by the way, both Annie and Anthony have huge smiles on their faces whenever you see them. This is not fake: they are enjoying what the do to the point where they just can’t contain their glee. Both have earned banners with their pictures on them in the LBS courtyard. I would hire Annie and Anthony in two seconds: not for the same job mind you.

Oh, but you say: Dean Jarley, Annie and Anthony are bad examples of how students can execute a differentiation strategy while in school, they are extraordinary. Extraordinary, my point exactly.

Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week at following post appeared on September 17, 2012. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley.