The Greatest Achievements.
I’m going through a special time in my life, which has put me in a position to really explore the notion of being “successful” in college. As I’m finishing applications for graduate school and writing personal statements, I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I’ve done, the experiences I’ve had, and how those things have helped me evolve slowly, but surely, into a person qualified for the real world. That’s right, guys, as much as we wish college could last forever, the reality upon us is very different! Don’t take that as a downer. On the contrary, get pumped because if you haven’t started yet, these are some of the things to focus on during these next four years to make sure that when you graduate, you can cue that One Republic song, “I Lived”.
1. Making real friends
I’ve mentioned previously that finding where you belong, in the scope of student life, can be a difficult feat. Do not be discouraged if the first few months (or year!) feel like a drag as you’re coursing through feeling a little bit lonely, and a little bit misunderstood. It’s all part of the process! But no matter what kind of weirdo you think yourself to be, there’s always someone that will appreciate your unique quirks and characteristics. Also, sometimes we find friendship and community in the most unlikely of places. Just remember to keep your mind open and it will slowly fall into place. Finding friends who “get you” will probably be one of your first “achievements” in college.
2. Landing an internship
It’s never too soon to start thinking ahead and gathering some experience in the field you’re interested in going in to. During freshman year there are just so many possibilities! It’s early enough that you can really get crazy and follow your heart, test something out, move to a different city for the summer, etc. It’s one of those things that once you start (building your resume, and having “things” to talk about during your next interview) you’re never going to want to stop. Plus, landing an internship can boost you up to achievement #3 below.
3. Finding out what you want to study.
Unfortunately, this one is one of those you just gotta throw yourself into. You’re never really going to know if you like biology until you take the stuff you read about in books and apply to real-life experiments. That’s why so many courses at college offer labs! It’s all about the real-world now, kiddos. And like I mentioned previously, a lot of it has to do with falling into it and building your wings on the way down. So land an internship, go to career fairs, get a research opportunity with a professor, just find out! And if you ever need more help, the Career Services Center is always there for you. This one is the one can will make or break your career, but once you truly know, there’s no way to describe the rush of “unstoppable” you get.
4. Studying Abroad
I don’t think a college experience is truly complete without an experience abroad. The world is just so big, and Ames (or any other city!) so small in comparison. It’s natural that nowadays employers value so much getting out of your comfort zone. Besides, I think college is about the only time in your life when you’re responsible and independent enough, and at the same time free enough, to just take off a complete semester and study in Rome (or wherever you picture yourself!). After you graduate everything is just that much more difficult: there are going to be the demands of a full-time job, family, loan debt, etc. to attend to.
5. Connecting with professors
This one I can personally vouch for at this particular time in my life. As I’m applying to graduate school and I’m needing those famous (or infamous?!) letters of recommendation, I’m really appreciating those connections I’ve made throughout these last four years of my life. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not the only benefit! Connecting with professors can provide you with so much perspective and experiences. For example, it can help you decide if the field of study you’re in is for you, or help you land research opportunities/teaching assistant opportunities, etc. If at the end of the game (graduation time) you can say you made at least three professional connections with professors (or employers!), you’ve been successful my friend. Trust me, you’ll be grateful you have people that believe in you and your skills.
6. Getting your first real job.
Your first “real job” should be something relevant to what you’re studying, or something that provides you with valuable experience and so you can “talk it up” during interviews; something particularly valuable to your career. After all, college can be fun and games, but the main point of attending is to prepare you for the start of your career!
7. Leading a student organization
Something I always say is that ‘if you’re going to mess up, let it be now’. Let it be when you’re learning and you can still use that excuse. You’re not going to want to try to lead an army in the real world without knowing what it takes to be a leader. That’s why when you find yourself with the opportunity of leading a club or student organization you’re particularly passionate about, don’t let it pass! You truly learn so much about yourself, your time management skills, and your characteristics. And besides, it’s another one of those things that just looks really good on your resume. Don’t wait to get involved!
Did I miss any others? Do share!