Hope you savored the sweet feeling of graduating debt and care free
Congratulations recent high school graduates! This is surely an exciting time of year for you, sitting on the cusp of adulthood and what not. It’s college time!! Can you practically taste the freedom? Free of parental control, from guidance counselors, from banal classes you don’t care about, from low-wage after school jobs, from being treated like a child whose opinions don’t matter. Yeah…all of that is totally no longer a concern.
Now all you have to worry about is college. Your only concerns now are easy as pie! All you have to do in the next 4+ years is set yourself up so that you have enough relevant knowledge, experience, and connections to ideally land a job in the field of your study without racking up so much student loan debt that you’re literally buried under a mountain of fiscal reality before you even think about ordering your cap and gown. Simple!!
Pay no real attention to my cynicism. I’m a bitter senior. You got into college! This is absolutely something to be happy about and something to be proud of. All I want to achieve with this piece is to hopefully give some perspective to incoming freshman from someone who has been there before, from someone who had no idea what college entailed. I meant it when I said this is an exciting time. You hold the keys to your own future starting right now. However, you still aren’t old enough to celebrate with big-people beverages. So grab a juice box and prepare your straws as I take you through my five general tips for all freshmen. These tips obviously don’t apply for everyone, but my hope is that they help someone.
5.) Don’t String Along Your Past
One of the coolest things about college is that you can totally reinvent yourself. If you had a hard time in grade school because you came from a small town where everything embarrassing you had ever done clung to you year in and year out like a bad smell, a fresh start is the best possible thing for you. Or fresh underwear depending on your level of hygiene.
Do not navigate college based off of anything but your own desires. If you didn’t have very many friends in high school, or only had a handful of crappy ones, don’t gravitate habitually towards “Person X From High School Who Was Somewhat Nice To Me” that might also be going to your school of choice. This is your chance to branch out on your own and make new friends who share your interests, not just your geographical location. Even if you had good friends throughout high school, don’t feel obligated or pressured to try and go to the same places or stay close to one another. This is your future.
You don’t need to feel burdened by the past any longer. You’ll be living and taking classes with people who don’t know you at all and you’ll have endless chances to make good first impressions. Seize this opportunity to the maximum. This is a perfect time to try and obtain confidence in yourself by seeing firsthand that the world is a trillion times bigger than your hometown and any of the problems that you encountered there.
4.) Maximize Your Degree’s Potential
This is perhaps one of the most widely offered pieces of advice given to incoming undergrads. The only problem is that it can mean a hundred different things based on your definition of “potential.” Choosing a major is definitely one of the most crucial aspects to having a successful undergraduate career, and I don’t want to yank you around when it comes to deciding what degrees are worthwhile and which ones will only serve as insulation for your fancy new cardboard box house.
A simple rule of thumb for picking a major should be as such: You enjoy the field of study and you can name at least three possible careers off the top of your head that might follow from obtaining a degree in that subject. Broad majors in fields that are in high demand (such as communications, engineering, computer science, economics, etc.) are a relatively safe and worthwhile endeavor in regards to getting some sort of job directly out of college. Specific majors in fields that are not in demand at all are quite a bit more risky and restricted in the kinds of opportunities that you will be presented with.
Say you have a mild interest in accounting but a true passion for philosophy. The sad reality of our country right now is that it’s a better idea to major in accounting so that you have a good leg to stand on for a paying job, and minor in an area of philosophy that you love. You’re already paying exorbitant amounts for this degree, and choosing a path that leads to likely unemployment isn’t going to make your life any easier.
3.) Get Involved
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned throughout my time at college, it is that the enjoyment of your experience hinges almost entirely on your own effort. Getting involved around campus is an essential factor in making a lasting and memorable mark during your time at school. If you’re an athlete, you should obviously be striving to at least play for one of your school’s teams, even if you don’t plan to pursue athletics after college.
If you aren’t interested in sports, campus clubs and organizations are a fantastic place to hone your skills, meet new like-minded people, or just kindle your passions. Being a journalism major, I joined my school’s online newspaper at my very earliest possibility, and it was the best decision I could have made as a freshman. I met fantastic people, gained hands on experience in the field I was studying, and now have great material to put on my resume for the future. With so many ways to get involved during college, it’s simply wasteful to coast through without taking advantage of the great opportunities presented in front of you.
2.) Network Network Network
This tip requires repetition because it is absolutely one of the non-negotiable aspects of setting yourself up for success during and after college. It is a widely known cliché (and a true one) that in this world, most times it isn’t what you know but who you know. Having a respectable, professional, and trustworthy network of people to vouch for you is one of the most powerful tools you can have when stepping out into the job world.
People like to make networking seem like a complicated task, like you have to be presented with lucky, stars-aligning moments that open doors at just the right time. In reality, networking is simply the natural side effect of being an engaged and active college student. Speak up during class, ask your professors questions, meet with them during office hours, anything to get them to recognize you and learn your name. Once you start building up a good report with professors, you might be surprised at how willing they will be to try and pull some strings for you to get you a spot in a competitive internship, or an actual paying job once you graduate.
1.) Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goal
Here we see a Law student in his natural habitat.
This last tip is perhaps the most important of all. I feel like everyone who goes to college knows at least one person that goes absolutely ape shit freshman year and either winds up on academic probation, in a hospital for some kind of self-induced bodily harm, or worse. Please don’t be that person. Going off to college is indeed a marquee moment in your life; it is absolutely a reason to celebrate and try new things and to live a little crazily. However nothing screams “I’m not ready to be an adult” like getting alcohol poisoning at your first party, or getting tossed out for failing grades after one year, or doing a prison bid because you took mushrooms and thought the school mascot was putting a Pagan spell on you at a basketball game.
You have years to party and you have years to go crazy when it’s appropriate. You came to college for a reason, and I highly doubt the reason was so that you could see if you could drink yourself into a coma. That can be tested at a much lower expense if you’re just dying from curiosity. College, to me, is an incredibly fun and rewarding buffer between the last stages of your childhood and becoming an actual, world-ready adult. It teaches you how to handle adult responsibilities while still having the liberty to sometimes act like a child. It shows you how to manage time, relationships, deadlines, the siren song of distractions, and yourself. Don’t get so caught up in your newfound freedom that you become a prisoner of indulgence.