I am a recent college graduate (May 2010) and already have some suggestions for current and future students. It isn’t that I regret what I did or didn’t do. I don’t think anyone should live in the past. However, there are certain aspects of college that, if taken advantage of, can really help you once you’re out on your own. I would like to share which ones I think are most important.
Go to Class
This one may seem rather obvious but you would be surprised by the number of classes undergraduates skip over the course of a semester. Going to class helps with every aspect of college. It will make all of your exams and projects easier because you won’t have to study as hard to get a solid grip on the material. Reading information in a book is much less effective than seeing the material demonstrated in class by a professor.
Of course, if you take your courses online, you don’t have to attend class and have the freedom to learn on your own time. There are a number of other benefits involved with online learning, as you can tailor the coursework to match your learning style and do not have to worry about transportation costs.
By going to class you will meet other students who you may become friends with or with whom you may end up studying with. From a business perspective college is almost all about networking and there is no better way to network and get to know your peers than suffering through a grueling group project together. It may seem like hell during the project but when it is over you will have gained a better grasp of the material and you will have made some friends along the way.
Networking is not as important in public health fields, so making it possible to get your online degree, for example, without worrying about missing out on these opportunities. With this degree, you can pursue a career with government agencies, in your state health department, at hospitals and even within universities.
Going to class also helps one garner respect from the professor. Even in those classes where the professor doesn’t take attendance, they know who attends class on a regular basis and who doesn’t. If you’re grade is teetering between a B and C at the end of the semester, and the professor knows that you were attentive and gave your best effort to succeed in the class, then your chances of getting a B will be much higher than if you had skipped half of the classes during the semester.
There is no excuse for not going to class and for those of you who tend to pick things up easily, you will not have to do much work outside of class to garner at least a respectable grade. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work outside of class, I’m just saying if you want to minimize how much work you need to do outside of class then actually attending class is the best way to achieve that.
When I say “engage yourself” I don’t mean you have a buy a wedding ring and propose to yourself in your dorm room mirror. Instead, I mean that you should be as active as possible in as many different student groups, affiliations, fraternities, optional lectures, etc. as you can. The more active you are as a student, the more you will learn, the more people you will meet and the more opportunities you will find.
Many students think that it is easy to just fly under the radar through college and still end up with the same result as everyone else, a degree. While that may be true, those students should prepare for a rude awakening when it’s actually time to enter the working world. I found my first job because I did an internship for a company and when I graduated they hired me full time.
Almost all of my friends who found good jobs in their career field found them by participating in an internship or by being referred by a family member or a contact that they made in college. My friends who did not network or engage themselves ended up moving home and waiting tables while still searching for an opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with waiting tables (I did it for 6+ years) and if that is what you want to do for the rest of your life then by all means, do it. That being said, the more you engage yourself in college, the more options you will have to choose from after graduation.
Take Care of Yourself and be Self-Responsible
The best thing about college is that mom and dad are no longer hovering over you during every second of you life. Although this is a great feeling, it also comes with a lot more responsibility. It is easy to take for granted many things that your parents provide for you such as meals, laundry (maybe), scheduling doctors appointments, reminding you to change your car’s oil, waking you up for school, encouraging you to exercise, etc.
College is the transition phase between your parents being primarily responsible for you and you being responsible for yourself. Although I didn’t gain the freshman 15, I know a lot of people who gained a lot more than that. In fact, I remember meeting people freshman year, not seeing them again until senior year and barely recognizing them behind all the extra weight. Don’t let that be you.
I also know many kids who didn’t make it to sophomore year. I would say that at least 35% of my friends and acquaintances that I made freshman year were not around sophomore year because they either flunked out or didn’t meet their parents personal expectations and were forced to go home to community college. The reason for this was obviously because they did not do well enough in their studies. The reason they didn’t do well in their studies was not because they were dumb, most of the time anyway. Instead, it was because they were too hungover to go to class, they forgot to set their alarm… every day, or they simply forgot that they had class. All of these reasons can be lumped together into one simple concept: A Lack of Self-Responsibility .
Take care of yourself even if it means having a little less fun. You will be glad you did in the long run.
Network, Network, Network
Although I touched upon this topic earlier, I cannot stress it enough. The most beneficial aspect of college is the people you meet, the friends you make and the bridges you build. You will probably never again, unless you begin a career in academia, find yourself located at a single place with so many people pursuing the same, or similar, goals as you. You will also, most likely, never be surrounded by so many people who have dedicated their lives to the education of others. Your professors, and even your fellow classmates, have connections all over the world and it would be a waste not to take advantage of those connections.
I’m not saying you should use everyone for their connections. In fact, if you have your own connections then college is the perfect place to share them with others. That is what college is for. College is a place to exchange knowledge, make new friends, begin new opportunities and discover yourself. If you go in with a positive attitude and act friendly towards others, the opportunities you’re looking for will fall in your lap without any specific effort on your part.
Lets face it, high schoolers can be down right rotten. You will find a handful of jerks in college as well but, don’t worry, the further you get into your college years, the more the assholes get weeded out. For the most part, college is full of students just like you that are anxious to explore the world without being under the watchful eye of their parents.
That means that students are open and accepting of others’ ideas, styles, attitudes and appearances. College is short, trust me. You don’t want to be the prude, snotty college student that stays locked in their dorm room every day and calls mommy and daddy on the phone to talk about how appalling and immature everyone else is. The truth is, those students, are usually the ones that need to let loose the most and explore new opportunities.
If you know what you like, then find a student group that likes the same thing. If you can’t find the student group you’re looking for then go ahead and become the founder of that group. I guarantee that if you go to a college that is even remotely large, you will find other students that have the same interests as you do– regardless of what they may be.
If you don’t know what you like, then try different things until you find something that you really enjoy. If you’ve always been afraid or too shy to try something, then college is a great place to change that. People are much more accepting in college and you will soon realize that the goofiest, most nerdy, most unique students, are also the most liked students. The classic macho-man jock or the same old stuck up cheerleader come a dime-a-dozen so nobody is impressed by them anymore. College is a place to be yourself, stand out and discover who you are and what you want.