There are a few things I did, or wish I had done in college, which really helped make the most of the experience. The time spent in college, even counting graduate school, goes by so quickly! It’s important to make the most of it, before the opportunities are gone!
1. Join a student group/organization.
The only group I joined was my college’s volleyball team, and I wish I had joined more! It doesn’t have to be a sports team. It can be social, or political. It can be about a hobby, or a cause. The fun in this is that often they are people from different classes, majors, and walks of life who come together for a common interest. Not only will you make lifelong friends, but it is a great way to grow your network!
Now let’s talk about networking. I don’t care for the word. It implies schmoozing simply for the sake of future career or personal advancement. To me, there is a difference between networking, and growing your network. “Networking” is the aforementioned schmooze fest. “Growing your network” is the result of getting out into the world and actually getting to know people. Putting it another way, when you are needing a job or reference, would you rather turn to a friend that truly knows you, or someone you met at some networking event, gave your business card, and to whom you blathered on about your credentials for 15 minutes?
2. Study abroad.
It would be really hard to get the same level of experience you get from studying abroad, on your own. The most important benefit these trips provide is an added level of safety. You are placed within a network of students who can accompany you on adventures, program supervisors who will check on you, and locals who you can give you safety and travel tips. It’s the perfect combination.
This is also a way to meet people outside of your normal group, only this time they will be from other countries, instead of just other majors. You become fast friends with your study abroad group too. You are normally all out of your comfort zone and have no idea what you’re doing, so you naturally become stuck together.
This is also a good option for those who aren’t super comfortable traveling internationally, because you can choose from different levels of immersion. Some schools put you in a dorm with a bunch of other expats, while other schools stick you right in a local’s home with a family that barely speaks any English. You get to decide how adventurous you want to be!
3. Take an Internship.
This is an area where I missed out, and I REALLY regret it. One of the major benefits to internships is that they often lead to careers within your internship company upon graduation. Another benefit is, even if you have work experience, it diversifies your resume substantially. This is very beneficial if you are looking to change careers/industries upon graduation.
I went to a smaller college that had a virtually non-existent Career Development Office, so internships were a little bit harder to obtain. Any big name school, should be able to help at least get you started in the right direction. For those in smaller schools, take initiative and find your own internship. You won’t regret it, and a surprising amount of internships are even paid!
4. Attend Events
There is something about going to a college game as a student, which makes it more exciting and fun than most other sporting events. Anyone can buy merchandise for a professional team and say they are a fan, but attending a game at your school with your fellow students and yelling obnoxious chants over and over (It’s GREAT… To BE… A FLORIDA GATOR!) is much more fun, especially when you beat the opponent in triple overtime… No offense Kentucky..
If sports aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to get your school spirit on. Homecoming weekend is a blast. UF had Movies in the Swamp, cultural events and Gator Stomp. You might also want to check out some of the performing arts shows. Whatever gets you out and amongst your fellow Gators, Tar Heels, Longhorns etc.
5. Use your Electives!
The biggest waste of electives is just taking classes that are easy. This is college! You’re here to learn! Think about your future career, and in what position you would like to be. What electives can help you get there? Or maybe you’re studying something that already defines your career, like accounting, take something that will be personally rewarding. Curious about photography? Take a class! Interested in American history? Take a class! Want to learn another language? Take! A! Class! Don’t take Intro to Art History because you heard the professor has never failed anyone. You’re paying for an EDUCATION, so make good use of it!
These are from my own personal experience, but I’d love to hear your tips! Leave a comment below!