Written by Christina Lorella
For many of you students graduating from high school this spring, college will become the next step on your journey to success. In an economy where Bachelor’s degrees are often required for many jobs, your decision will certainly put you at an advantage. However, leaving your home and joining the world of the unknown can leave teenagers feeling a bit uneasy. Here are a few tips to help you transition into your new, exciting, but a bit nerve-racking life:
1) Do not overwhelm yourself your first quarter or even year
For many of us overachievers, we have a tendency to think we can go above and beyond what others consider the standard. While that may be true, college is not a great place to experiment with overload. College is a completely different realm than high school, so no matter how many classes you took in the past, do not assume you can do the same in college. Rather, take time to adjust to your new lifestyle without overwhelming yourself with too much all at once. The last thing you want to do is get bad grades or lose your financial aid right from the beginning.
2) Join a group or organization
Not only will these groups look great on your resume, but you will be able to meet an entire network of people. Leaving home for an unknown place can be a lonely transition, so get out and meet the people in your community! Join the campus events board, a diversity club, pool leagues, church youth groups, whatever interests you. Remember, every time you meet a new person, you have the opportunity to meet their friends, too. Take time to socialize, it will make a huge difference!
3) Learn how to use the Internet…better
It is no secret that we live in the digital age. No matter what job you will have, you more than likely will need to know how to navigate the Internet. Spend some your free time expanding your knowledge of the Internet and major computer programs. Branch out beyond Facebook and Twitter. Create a blog on WordPress and learn how to manage it. Explore Microsoft Outlook and utilize the many tools it offers. Learn HTML. Practice using Photoshop and Final Cut. Most of you will need to use these programs throughout your career so why not be one step ahead?
4) Take advantage of the resources at your school
Most colleges offer a wide variety of resources that are intended to help students achieve higher levels of success. Unfortunately, many students do not take the time to explore the many assets available to them. Spend a few minutes learning where you can go if you need help with almost anything. Get online and search student services, or simply go in and ask someone what resources are available to students. These services are more than likely free to use because a portion of your tuition goes toward their maintenance.
My college has invaluable learning resources that continue to make a huge difference in the quality of my work. We have a writing center, where professionals will review your work and provide suggestions either in person or via the Internet, a quantitative skills center that offers one-on-one math tutoring and workshops, even a digital media lab with tutors who teach you how to create and edit videos. Chances are you will have many of these services available to you, too! USE them!
5) Participate in an internship
Let’s face it; the job market is a competitive one. Every time you apply for a job post-college, there will be a large list of other qualified candidates applying, too. Make your resume shine a bit brighter than the competition by participating in an internship. Not only will it spruce up your credentials, but it will provide you with the hands-on experience that you will need to succeed in your field upon graduating. Perhaps more importantly, an internship will allow you to network with people who already work in the industry, opening doors that otherwise would have remained closed. Also, note that most companies prefer that their potential job candidates participated in at least TWO internships prior to being hired.
Fun Fact: According to Career Exposure, a Portland- based e-recruiting company, “90 percent of interns reported receiving an offer for a full-time position within the organization following their internship.”
(For those of you interested in finding internships or jobs at nonprofits that share our mission of creating a just and sustainable world, click here.)
6) Take classes that sound interesting
Whether you decide to major in biology or literature, be sure to also take courses that sound interesting to you. For example, my college offered a class called “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur.” Would it count towards my major? Absolutely not. Would it provide me with a new appreciation of something that I once overlooked? Yes. Not only is it interesting to explore new topics, but it could potentially point you towards a career that you may one day want to pursue. After all, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average American changes not just their job, but their career “three to five times during their lifetime.”Explore your options!
7) Go to sporting events
Even if you aren’t an avid sports fan, I highly encourage you to attend at least one sporting event, especially a football or basketball game. There is something magical about these games that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the sport itself. When a group of people get together and root for the same cause, a huge sense of community and school pride is achieved. It rewarding to feel like you are “a part” of the student body. Go see what I mean!
8 ) Plan a major event
Organize and lead an event or fundraiser that is worthy of the attention of the community. Whether you do this through an organization, a class, or independently, it is a fabulous accomplishment to add to your resume. Not only will you receive recognition for your hard work, but it will surely be an impressive addition to your list of credentials when the time comes to find a job.
9) Have fun!
College is all about learning and some of the most valuable lessons in life are learned OUTSIDE of the classroom. It is a time to discover yourself and to become an adult. Go out and have fun, whatever that may be. Explore the local community. Ask friends to join you at restaurants and hot spots. Take time to sit back, relax, and have fun with the people around you.
Lastly, remember that there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who are unable to attend any form of schooling, let alone college. Understand that college is a privilege and respect that privilege immensely. You have the ability to become global change-makers, now go out and make a difference!