Last Wednesday was my college graduation. I walked across the stage and finally flipped my tassel to the left.
It was a bitter-sweet moment standing with all the friends I started college with, as we said goodbye to an important chapter in our lives. Its crazy hearing where everyone is going next and what they are about to set forth and accomplish. It is crazy because you sit next to these same students and watch how hard they have worked through the years to get exactly where they are today. As students, we all work so hard to achieve our goals and it is rewarding to see them be accomplished.
College has been a really important experience for me, and I am nowhere close to being the person I was when I first started. That is a good thing! I have grown up (some may disagree), gained new interests, acquired new perspectives, and I have become truly content and happy with the person I am.
Here are some things that I found to be most important during my years at college, and what really helped me evolve as an individual. My advice is by no means the “right” why to go about college, but it really helped me.
So here is the sharing of my wisdom, for which I gained through trial and error.
1. Step out of your comfort zone
I am going to drop a very cliche line here, I have no other choice, but college is truly a place of finding oneself. Its a place to mold yourself and be introduced to things that you might not have come in contact with before. That being said, try as many things as you can. Join clubs, get involved in organizations, go to events, etc. Put yourself in places that might make you feel uncomfortable, in a good way! Step out of your comfort zone. You honestly don’t know if you’ll like or dislike something new unless you try it. Plus, many of the events, organization gatherings, and club meetings offer free food. Take advantage…
Drop in on a language club meeting, walk into the fitness center and see what they have going on to try, talk to professors that are passionate about certain issues and see what ways there are to get involved. This allows you to meet people of different interests, backgrounds, cultures, etc., and helps you to find your footing on what you are passionate about and what you might want to further pursue. Even if you take part in 15 clubs and only stick with one, that in itself is an experience that brings you one step closer to shaping yourself.
Better yet, find out how you can start your own club or event. Maybe you are already passionate about something and want to meet more people who have the same interest, or more people to help you work towards a specific cause. Maybe you are someone who likes drinking red wine, eating cheese, and watching old Friends episodes. Start a club that promotes just that! NYU has a very popular Cheese Club, so no idea is too far-fetch.
2. Don’t be alarmed if “you don’t know”
You are going to meet people in college who seem to already have their future planned out. The girl who sits behind you in Writing 101 tells you she is pre-med, taking the writing course for her minor, and wants to be a doctor. No questions asked. That is great if you figure out your passion early on and are working towards it, but not everyone does. Actually, I would like to say that the majority don’t. That is A-Okay.
You don’t have to know right away what you want to do as soon as you start college. Definitely choose a major for which you have an interest in, but if you aren’t sure what you want to do with it you aren’t alone. Don’t be alarmed if you start taking courses for one major, realize you hate it, then switch over to something completely different.
I changed my major 3 times. Towards the end of academic career I was a Psychology major, and had plans to do something in family counseling. I had taken a random writing class and loved what I was learning. I soon realized I wanted to make writing a career in some form or another, and switched at the last minute. Granted, I did have to graduate a year later, but it was totally worth it. I’m so happy I made the switch.
Don’t feel that you are doing something wrong if you don’t know what you want to do right away, thats why I say to join as many clubs and things on campus as you can. It does help to direct you towards your interests. Also trying different classes, if you can, and seeking out internships allows you to immerse yourself in hands-on experience.
You are going to figure out what you want to do eventually. Just don’t force it on yourself. Listen to your heart, and follow what you enjoy. Realizing what you want to do comes at different times for everyone, so be patient young grasshopper.
3. Buy a planner
Your best friend in college is not the person who holds your hair back when you start puking at a frat party, or the person who helps you study 5 minutes before the exam you forgot about.
It is your planner.
Buy yourself one right away! It really is helpful, I don’t care what anyone says. Even if you don’t use it in the obsessive way I use it to I hold my life together, it does keep you stay organized and on top of things. No matter what way or how often you use it, it will help you in college. Planners help you prioritize things, get things in on time, and just remove the clutter of things to do from your brain to paper.
They have cute ones now, and they even have ones that are multi-purpose and double as a wallet. I just bought a new one, and it is literally a heavy duty piece of planner art. It has budget books, clip boards, card holders, faux leather binding, you name it.
I don’t play around when it comes to my planners…
4). Study Abroad
Whether you have traveled before college or not, studying abroad is an opportunity I believe every student should take advantage of. Studying abroad not only allows you to broaden your horizons and deeply immerse yourself into a new culture, but its just awesome. It really is.
Studying abroad allows you to live a month or two in a different country, study what you love, and just experience a whole new place and way of life different from your own. It really does provide you the opportunity to see the world around you in a new light.
Two years ago I went to Paris, France as my study abroad trip, and I studied 20th Century Literature. It was wonderful because I spent my whole trip reading great literature and writing my own pieces all while sitting in quaint little cafes drinking deliciously dangerous café au lait. Our professor, who lived in France for most of her life, took us on trips to see the homes and famous spots to write of some of the most influential writers of the 20th Century. What was so fun about the whole trip was that I was traveling with other students who had the same interest in literature and writing as myself, and we all came to France for similar reasons. I met some of the greatest people during that trip.
As for money, you shouldn’t shy away from studying abroad because of financial reasons. There are so many scholarships and opportunities to help. I was able to study abroad completely through scholarships. Without them I would never have been able to go. Drop into the study abroad department at your school, every school has one, and they’ll direct you and connect you with opportunities. They WANT you to study abroad, so they will help! Not many students take advantage or know about many of the options available to students, so research and see what is out there for your taking and apply. It never hurts to do so.
5) Party…but don’t party hard
Get out, have a drink. Party.
But don’t party too hard.
Partying in college is great, but in moderation. Parties let you meet people in a casual setting, and have some fun. But in all honesty, not to sound like an old toot, don’t party on a school night or too often…you’ll regret it. Maybe once try and have that one experience of partying all night, getting in with just 20 minutes to get ready and head to school, pulling on some strange sort of mixed matched outfit, and rushing to class hungover. After that don’t do it again.
In college, parties happen all the time. It is very tempting to want to go to one every night. You see your friends getting ready and having fun, and you want to be a part of the festivities. You aren’t missing much though if you decide not to go.
Partying all the time does affect your performance in school. There are so many friends I started college with who got caught up in the party cycle, and didn’t get out of it. So party, but don’t make it the sole reason you are at college. Be strong!
I’m not saying don’t go out and have fun, just be smart about it and prioritize.
And never, and I repeat never, go to any party that requires you to make an outfit out of random material. Tape will loose its stickiness, “clothes” will fall off, and you will regret it.
6) Make friends with professors
Now don’t be a teacher’s pet. We all know the type. Don’t be that person.
Connect with your professors though, and get to know them on a personal level. Drop in when they have office time and maybe talk about a topic that was brought up in class that you want to further discuss. If they are an expert in the field you are considering making a career out of, stop in and ask them the steps to take to get to where you want to go. They are really knowledgable and they honestly like when you do that, they don’t just tell you to stop by because its part of their job. Professors are passionate about what they teach, so they enjoy when you show an interest as well (like how I made myself the voice for all professors).
I have stayed in contact with many of my professors throughout my time at college, even when I wasn’t in their class. They have been my mentors, and some of my biggest supporters (of course after my parents). Staying connected to professors is also important for when you need recommendation letters, or even to learn about opportunities that they might be directly connected with.
So there you have it. My small list of college wisdom. If my list wasn’t helpful or you want a little extra college knowledge (there’s an interesting rhyme), here is one from BuzzFeed that I found amusing. If you are about to start college, in the middle of completing it, or just graduated, good luck to you all!