The decision to pursue your education beyond high school is one of the most important in your life. Going to college can enhance your career prospects, boost your earning potential, help you find your passion, and broaden your horizons in every sense of the word.
That’s why college is an experience you shouldn’t take for granted. You’re spending your time, money, and resources, and you are only there for a few years. Make them count! Follow these tips to help make the most of your college experience.
Plan your courses
A basic first step is to make sure that you’re signed up for the right courses to complete your degree. During the registration process, take note of the class requirements for graduation. Expect that there will be a core group of mandatory courses and a number of optional ones to choose from. Investigate the specific prerequisites for each course, and make sure you understand the progression of classes within your major or degree program. Some classes may only be offered in certain semesters, or every other year.
Determining these details will help you plan a course schedule that will maximize your time and experience. Your workload will be that much easier to manage, and you’ll achieve your objectives with less stress.
While you may have a fair idea of the courses you need to take and in what sequence, it’s always good to speak with a counselor or advisor, as well as with instructors. They can help you understand what’s required to graduate, and what elective classes might be right for you, depending on your specific interests. If you’ve taken classes elsewhere, speak with an advisor to see if you can receive credit for them and avoid taking any redundant classes.
Take every opportunity to learn
It goes without saying that you should do your best in each class. However, it’s also a good idea to look for ways to learn outside the syllabus. For example, talk to your instructors, fellow students, and counselors to learn more about the job prospects in your field of study. Although you might have a vision of the type of position you want, career paths are often not what we imagine they will be.
The time you spend in college offers exciting opportunities for learning, so make the most of all the resources available to you. Go to your instructors’ office hours to ask questions, meet regularly with your advisor, and take advantage of any career, internship, or job placement services. Attend free lectures, make the rounds at job fairs, explore volunteer opportunities, and check out what’s available at the library. Remember, your tuition isn’t only paying for classes; it’s also giving you access to a wealth of resources meant to enhance your education.
People are often the most valuable resource on a college campus. In fact, that’s one of the main benefits of attending college: getting to be around a lot of interesting, intelligent people like your fellow students, professors, and administrative staff. You can learn a lot from these individuals, so don’t be shy about making connections. You can also look beyond campus for contacts in the industry you want to join. Ask your professors for recommendations about who to contact, introduce yourself to any industry leaders visiting, or simply make a few cold emails.
Chances are, you can find one or two individuals who do the type of work you’re interested in — and when people love what they do, they’re apt to share a little of their passion. Of course, some professionals may be too busy to take time with you. However, you may find someone willing to answer your questions, meet for coffee, or even let you shadow them. Not only will you learn things, but this is valuable practice in the networking skills that will serve you well in the working world.
Get involved with your peers
Navigating a new environment takes time. Something that can really help is to reach out to your peers. For many people, this comes naturally, but even if you’re shy, it can be worth it to socialize. Fortunately, college is an excellent environment for making friends — with so many people on campus studying so many different things, you’re likely to find people who are interested in the things you like and who share your values. Making friends will help you feel more comfortable faster, and it’s not unusual for friendships formed at this time in your life to last a lifetime.
Explore what clubs, sports, and student-run activities are available. Many groups sponsor events to orient new students to what they have to offer. Participating in these extracurricular activities with your fellow students can help you find a nice balance between coursework, your other responsibilities, and fun. The result will be a broader and more well-rounded university experience.
Granted, you may be a little overwhelmed when wondering how to pack as much as you can into your few years in college. Properly planning your course load, joining the organizations that fit your interests, networking, and taking every opportunity to learn are excellent places to start.