“This is real, this is life. You have to take it seriously!”
The above statement is but one of the many ideas that are tossed at college students throughout their academic careers. That particular one is aimed at students who tend to lean more towards the experimentation phase of the college experience.
Another common phrase is: “Keep your head down, work hard and all good things will come your way.”
While it is undeniably true that those who work hard in school earn themselves certain advantages, and potentially better job offers and greater development opportunities among them, spending one’s college years strictly studying, might cheat you out of some of the best aspects of higher education.
The college years are crucial for social development, for understanding the wider world and defining oneself.
There are many ways to get the most out of your college experience; here, we outline seven of them.
1. Define Your Realm
Going from the security of your family home to a completely new environment can be nerve-wracking; one way to gain control over the possibly overwhelming feelings of loss and anxiety is to determine where you will eat, study and hang out. None of those activities should be conducted exclusively in your dorm room.
Your dorm is a microcosm of the wider campus and not fully representative of all that campus life can (and should) be. Think of your dorm room as the place where you sleep.
Find other places to study, eat and mingle. Campus libraries, student lounges, and study halls make for much more productive study sessions.
2. Try New Things
A common stereotype of college students is that they go wild with drinking and using other harmful substances as soon as its time to let loose and party, which can often lead to addiction.
Now, not every student goes off the deep end, but many students tend to push boundaries in one way or another. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting loose and enjoying oneself now and then, provided it is done safely. In fact, this phase of discovery is integral to your defining yourself in your new, adult role.
Don’t go nuts but do try new things… safely.
3. Build Your Network
At this early stage of your adulthood, you are more apt to find like-minded people and be receptive to new ideas than you will ever be. Use this to your advantage.
In college, many students become new beings. Essentially stripped of virtually everything that, until now, has identified you – the school you attended and the grades you got, where you lived and your family’s social status, you are forced to establish your own identity.
Talk with other students and make new relationships. You can meet people in the lunch line, at the library or in classes. Don’t forget about social clubs; college campuses have clubs ranging from politics and debate to ecological and environmental awareness programs, with a liberal number of fun themes sprinkled between the more serious ones.
Getting involved is a great way to find your place in this world!
4. Consider Tutoring
There is no shame in needing help; only in failing to seek it out. Whether you want someone to proofread your latest paper or need clarity on some of your more complex coursework, tutors can provide the help you need.
Many colleges offer tutoring, often for a low fee and/or on an as-needed basis. You may ask your professor or student union how to find such a tutor; your fellow students may know of a good tutor too.
Conversely, if you are a whiz in a particular field, maybe math or science, you too may become a tutor. Besides helping your classmates, you stand to make a little pocket money while doing so!
5. Sign Up For Extras
Workshops, seminars, and other extracurricular activities are a staple of most colleges. These are different than activities promoted by the various campus social clubs and sometimes feature guest speakers – usually experts or professionals in the topic concerned.
Typical seminar topics include surviving your first year at college, time management skills and how to dress well on a budget. You might also participate in a first aid workshop, learn cooking basics and skills for interviewing successfully.
6. Interning or Working
As part of your degree program, you may be required to intern with a concern related to your field.
If your particular field of study has no such requirement, you might request placement into an internship program to gain some practical work experience while still within the safety of campus life. The same goes for working part-time. Often, college campuses restrict a certain number of jobs to students; arranging for such a position might see you working in the campus bookstore, cafeteria or your department’s administration office.
Another good reason to seek an internship or a job is that it will look great on your CV and boost your chances of landing a position right out of college.
7. Take Good Care of Yourself
This should go without saying but, between all of the new experiences you’re likely to have and all of the pressure you’ll certainly be under, foregoing sleep, food and exercise often happen before you know you’re doing it.
Make it a point to eat at least three (healthy) meals and get some exercise every day. In fact, you may consider joining one of your school’s sports teams – another great way to forge connections.
If need be, arrange your schedule in such a way that you plan your sleeping time. No matter how much fun an upcoming event might be, it cannot redeem the resulting sleep deficit – something that commonly dogs college students.
Following these tips, especially the last one is sure to make your college experience richer, more productive and rewarding.
The best thing is, just like your college diploma, those rewards last forever, too!
For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.