College Tips: While in College
My time in college, in many ways, was an enlightening,fun experience. I got a degree that led to a career I enjoy (most of the time). I learned a lot from the coursework and the experiences I had. I started some enduring friendships and to some extent started to figured out who I was and what I wanted to be. Though, I don't think any of us completely know that answer.
Everyone's experience and situation is different. Going in to college, I had a huge expansion of freedom coming out of high school with only the added responsibility of making it through college, managing a budget, and ultimately getting a job. Looking back now, as I am now a few years out of school, I have a couple insights and tips for those still in school.
1. Take Advantage of the First Few Weeks of College
When school starts, every freshman is trying to get set up and is new to the school. Most, if not all of the the freshman, are trying to get settled in and make friends. This is a great time to meet other people, especially before and right as classes start. This is your opportunity to be a social butterfly. That does not mean you need go to a bunch of parties and rage the nights away. More so, go to the campus events and leave the door to you dorm open while unpacking so you can talk with others getting settled as well. After a couple of weeks you will find some friends and activities you like as classes pick up. Not everyone you meet is going to be your best friend nor is that the goal, but put yourself out there a little and see what sticks.
2. Do Something Other Than Coursework
At the end of the day, you are going to school to get a degree and get a job. While getting the grades and a diploma may be the end game; you are missing out if everything you learn and experience is out of the textbook. Join an organization, start an intramural team, or get a part time job. Find an outlet or activity to help you balance out your days and prioritize against school and add something fun to your schedule. Beyond purely finding something to do outside of school, it is a good way to build and demonstrate soft skills. When it comes to interviews and job hunting it always helps to have experiences that help show that competency. Being the chair for an organization or a shift manager for Starbucks shows something that your grades in college can not.
3. However, Don't Go Crazy With the Extra Stuff
Have fun and do something outside of class but don't do it to the extent where it could impact you failing classes or graduating. Too much extra stuff can make it easy to lose sight of that. Find one or two things on the side that you enjoy and see how you manage that with your coursework. Also, not all semesters are equally challenging. Some semesters you may be able to do more and others you have to cut back.
In college, I struggled with over committing and sometimes things fell to the wayside. This was one area I messed up on early on but I was able to rebound and off load some of the extra things I was doing to get back on track. Through it, I got a better understanding of myself and my limits.
4. Make Good Decisions and Bad Ones You Can Live With
Through your college experience, you are going to potentially do some dumb things. At the end of the day make sure you can live with the consequences and put some basic safety measures in place. It is really hard to give a clear set of instructions on this end in general. Have fun but be smart and stay true to who you are.
College is going to test you. For many, it is going to be a lot easier to get drugs, alcohol, and have sex. If you don't want to do certain things, one safeguard it to try to avoid situations where it is easy to be tempted. If someone invites you to a keg party you don't have to go if you are uncomfortable going. This is easier said then done, you want to fit in and meet people. However, while it may be hard to believe; not everyone's college experience is a page from Animal House or a National Lampoon movie. At the end of the day, you can't be everything to everybody be someone who makes you happy. Personally, I drank during college but had friends who didn't and some who flip flopped. Not every social function is centered around it nor does it need to be a defining moment in who you are.
You may find that your opinions toward certain things will change or you like the party life. If you are going to drink; go slow and don't try to push your limits with your first go. Also, have friends with you that you trust and will look out for you and make sure you get home safely. I REPEAT HAVE FRIENDS WITH YOU THAT YOU TRUST AND WILL LOOK OUT FOR YOU. Make sure you ride with a designated driver, get a taxi/Uber, or have someone to walk back with. Every friend I have lost was because of an automobile accident. It is something you think you and your friends are impervious to until it happens.
Also, remember to respect other's decisions whether alcohol, drugs or sex. No one fully understands what is going on in someone's head. No needs to be taken as no and if the answer is I don't know, then that is pretty much no as well. You will find there are several decisions you can not undo. The accountability and impact is real, regardless of what you meant or thought.
1. Read the Syllabus and Make a Calendar
Your teacher is likely not going to hold your hand through class. Know what is going to be covered and when tests are coming up and projects are due. This will help keep you from being surprised later on. Google Calendar or planner book are two good ways to keep track of things. There are a lot of things more fun than class so do what you need to to keep classes and coursework in focus.
2. Seek Help if You are Struggling
Visit your teacher's aide during office hours, meet with your professor, or join a study group. If something does not clicking it is your responsibility to find the resources to figure it out. A lot of times, no one shows up during the teacher's aide hours and that is a free service to you.
3. Go to Class
It is very tempting and very easy to get in the habit of skipping class. If you start, it is hard to stop. College classes are often heavily tied to test scores and it does not take a lot to put yourself in a bind. It is easy to coast after a good mid-term but if you only have two tests and a final it is very easy to nose dive at the end of the year, especially if there is not a big time gap between your second exam and final. Also, if you do not particularly like your teacher's teaching style, try sitting in another teacher's lecture to see if things stick better.
Finding a Career
1. Go to Career Fairs
Take advantage of the career events your campus offers. Even if you are a freshman and have some time before you are looking for a job, get the lay of the land. See what companies are offering for your major and see any of those options interest you. Practice talking with recruiters and figure out how to perfect your canned opening. Overall, you have nothing to lose be attending these early. It well help build confidence and may eventually be where you land your first job post college.