A college education is expensive. Regardless of whether or not your parents are footing the bill, you’re paying for it yourself, or through student loans, someone is funding your education. And the worst part is, most scholarships only cover so much – you still have to pay for books and living expenses such as rent, food, toiletries, laundry service, etc. With so much invested, you want to be sure you are getting the most out of your education.
If you are pursuing a technical or high-demand degree such as engineering, computer science, accounting, finance, nursing, or marketing, a prestigious 4-year degree is worth the expense. If you are pursuing history, anthropology, philosophy, English or art, you might want to think twice about a $200,000 private university versus a $50,000 public school. Consider your financial situation and the best paying careers for the future and make the right decision for you. Going to college is an investment of your time, energy and money – here’s how to do well in school.
Go To Class
This should be a no-brainer, but when you’re out all night with your friends enjoying your newfound freedom or up all night studying, an early morning discussion class the next day is the last place you want to be. You may be tempted to hit the snooze button, curl up and go back to sleep. Just remember you’ll regret that decision later.
- Someone is paying for it. This isn’t high school, when you stayed home and all you missed were some homework assignments, a pop quiz, and your friends. Missing class in college is like buying a car and never driving it. Each class is worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. You are literally throwing money away by going back to sleep.
- Education helps you grow. College isn’t only about maintaining your GPA and getting a degree so you can get a good job. Getting an education helps you mature, expand your horizons and experiences, and learn about yourself. It challenges and strengthens your mind while building your work ethic.
- Attendance creates opportunity. Professors love it when they see your eager face on time in every scheduled class. It makes them feel like they are doing a good job by keeping their students engaged and on-point. They see your regular attendance as reliable and that makes you seem trustworthy and dependable, which are qualities they look for when hiring assistants (TA’s), a great resume builder. You will also need certain professors to write you a glowing recommendation.
Don’t Over-Extend Yourself
The worst thing you can do is not allow enough time to study, work and/or sleep. When you’ve overwhelmed yourself with a heavy course-load or membership to numerous clubs/extracurricular activities, you leave little time for yourself, a job, or even studying. Don’t try to be a jack of all trades – focus on 2 or 3 specific goals per semester and achieve them.
Generally, student loans only require that you be enrolled full-time, meaning 12 to 18 units per semester or 8 to 12 units per quarter. While some students can probably take on an extra class, it would border on self-destruction to attend 6 classes per semester just to finish early. Far too many students end up dropping classes because they chose unmanageable schedules. In worse scenarios, students fail one or more classes and hurt their GPA.
An efficient schedule should leave time for clubs, extracurricular activities, exercise, networking events and other things that help build up your resume. When you’re applying for grad school or your first job out of college, a student with a high GPA and two leadership positions is a better candidate than one who finished a year early with a 2.5 and a dozen club memberships.
Build Your Network
For obvious reasons, it is important to network with professors, students, guest speakers, and professionals. Having study circles is a great way to break the monotony of finals week, and building rapport with your professors during office hours helps you get quality recommendation letters.
The best ways to network in college are to join clubs, run for student government, and attend seminars or professional networking events. Always take advantage of opportunities like conferences or symposiums where you could be introduced to industry leaders and entrepreneurs in your field.
Internships are resume builders – they provide real world experience and networking opportunities that make you more competitive in the job market. Many universities and majors require some internship hours; otherwise, we highly suggest you complete a summer internship your sophomore and junior years. If you don’t get the chance, you may have to look for jobs with no experience required.
Internships aren’t always paid, but we recommend you find a paid internship before accepting an unpaid one. However, either way, the benefits are invaluable – on-the-job training and the chance to turn that internship into a permanent job. When the time comes, your school’s Career Center and your Academic Advisor are there to help you find the best internship to fulfill your requirements and suit your career needs.
Explore Other Majors or Fields
Don’t tie yourself to a major until you’ve explored all your options. While it is a great to be dedicated and focused, there might be another career path more suitable for your skill set and long-term happiness. Some students have aspired to be something from an early age, while others are undecided and have no idea what they want. Just remember – you’re young and still learning about yourself. Take the time to explore different concepts, philosophies, industries, degrees or careers, and always keep an open mind.
One of the reasons you shouldn’t overload your schedule is to leave room for a class here and there that might complement your major. For example, you might combine a Business Finance Degree with a minor in Computer Science or maybe Electrical Engineering with a minor in Accounting. Take some time to peruse your college catalog and see if there are any classes that pique your interest. If so, don’t be afraid to sit in the class and check them out. You may find that there is something else out there for which you are better suited.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” -Steve Jobs
Study Abroad For A Semester or Summer
Did you know that most colleges and universities have “sister schools” in other countries? This means, not only are your units transferable, but also your tuition. If a whole semester abroad seems too daunting, most colleges offer summer trips that are available for those in certain majors. Traveling and learning about other cultures is a great way to broaden your horizons – both literally and figuratively!
What To Do In College
College shouldn’t be taken for granted – it isn’t just something everyone does between high school and getting a job. What you get out of your college education is directly proportional to the thought, energy, effort and time you are willing to put in. With hard work and dedication, you will find limitless possibilities at your fingertips. If you make your education work for you, what you graduate with will far exceed a diploma and a new job.