You’ve gotten into college. You have checked one limited, however laudable, goal off of your life list. Now, as you head off to college, you may be wondering how you can ensure that you will get the most out of your college years. How do you know that your choices in college will help you realize your full potential and find an engaging career and life path? There are many factors that help students thrive once they get to college. We hope the following suggestions, though not comprehensive, will serve as a starting point to guide you toward flourishing in college and beyond.
- Expand your academic horizons by exploring many fields. This will help you obtain strong written and verbal communication skills, as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills. This also helps with learning to work in teams, multi-tasking and prioritizing independently, applying knowledge in new settings, being creative and taking risks, and having a strong sense of ethics and integrity. Consider a minor, double major, or certificate program outside your intended major.
- Go outside of your comfort zone. Continue with the extracurricular activities you may have started in high school, but be open to trying new ones. Find your passion by following interests and abilities, getting involved in the local community, and collaborating with peers to create a new club or activity. Conduct a self-assessment: where can you use your interests and abilities to help, inspire, coordinate, engage, participate, and, ultimately, succeed? Relate an interest to a potential career.
- Use your breaks and summers wisely. Consider internships, jobs, travel, or time studying abroad. Use your college’s career center and study abroad program coordinators, ask professors for suggestions for research or other academic programs, and consider contacting alumni in areas of interest. Be proactive and start planning for breaks and summer experiences early in the semester. More and more employers place a good deal of weight on work experience, including internships, work-study options, and hands-on research (as well as involvement in extracurricular activities likes clubs, sports, and volunteering) over a particular major or final GPA.
- Build relationships with your advisor, relevant department and/or program heads, and career center staff. Conduct informational interviews with alumni, campus guests, and staff. Maintain contact beyond graduation.
The ideal goal is for a college student to gain intellectual and interpersonal skills that will contribute to work and life after college. Successful students take time to reflect and ask themselves questions like: What classes do I like best? What classes do I do best well in? What are my strengths and weaknesses? Where is the greatest opportunity to get involved? And where would my skills be beneficial? As with any other adventure in life, you’ll find the greatest success with a little planning and a whole lot of commitment to explore.