I am about five and half years out of college and having worked in higher education for about three years, I often reflect on the things I wish I knew before I started. I don’t regret my journey, everyone’s is different and hey, my life is pretty sweet right now so I can’t complain. But as I get to know students where I work and talk to younger cousins going into college, I often reflect with them these few bits of “things I wish I knew before I started college”. So, with the start of a new school year, I hope for some of you these thoughts come in handy.
Just choose a major. Any major.
The first thing I always tell someone starting out is, just choose a major, any major! Choose a major that is intellectually stimulating and available to you, as in – hopefully all the classes are available when you need to take them. Choose a general major and once you graduate, you can start to carve out a more specific route whether that be through graduate school or just gaining experience through work.
I remember getting so caught up on the fact that my major determined my future. But I am here to tell you that it doesn’t. I changed my major about five times only to end up with the first major I started out with, and I am definitely not working in that field… in fact, I’ve gone completely rogue.
So the faster you get in, get out, and start gaining experience, the quicker it will be to start crafting the career you want. Most importantly, the faster you can finish college, the less student loan debt you will have as well! So definitely keep that in mind.
Community College is a great idea.
I was a mediocre student. In high school, I had mostly C’s and B’s. I signed with the first school that wanted to recruit me as a soccer player because all my friends were signing with some of the best schools, and in my circle, community college meant you failed.
The beauty of community college is that it does not mean failure. In fact, it was probably the most fun I had in any educational institution. After transferring back home sophomore year, I got to try different classes in different majors because classes were affordable. I took fashion classes, drawing classes, environmental and botany classes, business classes and guitar classes. The pressure to choose a major disappeared because I wasn’t paying thousands of dollars per unit. Community college allows you to explore your interests.
I also had some of the best professors at my community college. People often say the contrary, that you get lost and that the professors don’t carry the best credentials. What I found was that my professors were veterans of their craft and were teaching at the community college level because they already retired and simply enjoyed teaching. Not all of my teachers were retired veterans though, but all were equally passionate.
Attend as many events as possible.
Learn how to network. It will come in handy when you start looking for jobs after you graduate. As millenials, I think networking face to face is a lot harder for us than it is for older generations. We have gotten so used to texting and emailing that the soft social skills really, REALLY, need to be improved. I see it over and over again working with college students. I also struggle with networking in large groups, I’m great one on one, but then I get stuck talking to one person, which means I miss opportunities when I don’t push myself to meet new people.
The best networkers and most successful people know how float around and have many conversatons. Start going to club events, or meetings for you major, start practicing your social skills, because it takes more than straight A’s to land a job afer college. Personality is everything.
Get to know your Alumni Office.
Having worked in this department before, I realize the importance of getting to know your Alumni Office while you are still a student. They have connections to Alumni who you can talk to, or intern for. Most offices have a mentorship program where you can partner up with alumni in your field of interest and get to know first hand if that industry is for you.
Not only that, but they are always looking for students to partner with for their newsletters. Often times, where I’ve worked, we work with students to write a highlight story. These opportunities get published in a newsletter or blog and is a great way to start building up your resume and possibly grab the attention of someone (perhaps your next boss…) reading it. Not to mention, the Alumni Office is usually where all the best swag is too 😉 .
Take a spring break.
Lastly, if you have the opportunity to take a spring break, take it; Go somewhere. It doesn’t have to be far or expensive; but know that this will be one of the few times in your life where you get to close up shop with your brain and start anew when you get back. Once you start working, projects loom in the air even while you are on vacation. You can set your away message, but all the projects you were working on before you left will still be there, in addition to even more work when you get back. Consider college a bunch of mini sprints; When you get a rest, take it, because once that is over, you have a marathon called “Adulitng” that will never end.
I’ve always been an average student, and I’ve always only been kinda stoked about the whole college experience etc.; but now that I am working, I wish I could have immersed myself a little bit more, networked more with my peers, and got to know my resources on campus more thoroughly.
College is a special time. Whether you are going to community college, trade school, or a four year university, really take the time to learn and grow. I know that I was always so eager to “just start life”… but being a college student is the most kush life. So live in the moment and enjoy.