If there was one thing that I wished my guidance counselors would have told my 17-year old high school graduate self, it’s the importance of making your own path in college. I naturally assumed that picking the ‘perfect’ college would magically grant that experience. Sadly, it didn’t. I later found the experience I wanted, but there was a lot of trial and error getting there. Regardless of your college situation, you can shape it into path that you want. Here are a few tips and situations to get you started:
College Relationships are Dramatic, and That’s Good.
Fostering relationships is work, and at some points you may need to work at it as hard as your academics. Most will tell you that academics always come first and I definitely agree with that. But the truth is for many of us, college is one’s first extended time away from family and friends who are situationally close both emotionally and physically. College pretty much puts you at level one, and tells you to build yourself up from the start all over again. And creating connections is essential for dealing with college stress. So talk to people, join clubs, fall in love, and break a heart or two. Don’t let college get too monotonous.
Try Things and Take Risks (In Moderation)
I personally do not believe in the mantra of ‘sign up for everything at the activities fair, and then drop what you don’t like.’ I think a better approach is to start in your comfort zone, and join clubs that relate to things you already love. You’ll meet people with similar interests, and it’ll help you to manage your time initially as you’ll be following a similar schedule as you’re used to. After that, THEN I say take as many risks as you want. Your high school never had a karate club? Sign up for it then. But only after you’re comfortable. There’s a certain awkwardness that always comes with branching out, but once you’ve given yourself time to settle, you’ll feel much more at ease exploring new things.
Say Hi to Professors (Even The Mean Ones)!
If nothing else, this is a must-do (only second to fostering friend relationships). Your professors are a valuable source of information, and if you have absolutely no idea of your future plans, they could also be a source of interesting facts, opportunities, and career advice. Be eager to learn from them both in and out of the classroom.
Get a Job. Your Parents Will Thank Me Later.
I personally think that some of my greatest experiences at college have been due to my jobs. I absolutely love working, and I discovered my talent for marketing and my love of librarianship through my jobs. And my jobs have helped me to learn how to interact with others and manage large groups, skills that can’t fully be learned in a classroom setting. Even if a job has nothing to do with your future career path, it can definitely get you into the working world mindset.
Overall, be proactive in finding the college experience that suits you best. There’s no one correct path, and many people have taken different avenues to get there. Just try not to spend all of your parents money and have fun with it OK?