Plenty of people are ready to hand out advice for college students. But some of it really is worth listening to. Here are some practical tips for success.
College can be an exciting experience, but there are lots of challenges and choices to make when you first start. From which modules to study, to which campus sport to sign up for, plus hundreds of other decisions in between, how are you supposed to know which way is the best way to go?
Luckily, there is lots of advice for college students that can help you make your best choices early on. We’ve rounded up some of the best tips — so read on for a dose of well-rounded advice that could help make your college experience great from day one until the day you graduate.
1. Explore the topics and subjects that interest you and don’t be afraid to really delve in.
Whether it’s the early works of William Shakespeare or Alexander Hamilton’s life story, use your time at college to explore the subjects that pique your interest and really submerge yourself.
Why? Because specialist knowledge can give you the edge over general knowledge, and it could mark you out as someone worth hiring after college because you have a detailed knowledge of something employers need on their staff. Also because this is your time to learn, explore, play and enjoy accruing knowledge for knowledge’s sake in a way you might never get to again.
2. Make a schedule that works around when you are the most productive and creative.
When I was at college, I worked out pretty quickly that I’m not a morning person. I’d struggle to wake up energised and I’d fight against it all day long. But come 10pm, when the rest of my roommates were out partying or asleep in bed, my creative juices would start flowing. It was at night that I wrote my best papers and had my best ideas.
My loud typing kept my roommates awake (sorry, guys!), but this taught me a valuable life lesson: it’s ok not to be a morning person. If noon to midnight works for you, embrace it.
Create a schedule that works around when you are the most productive and switched-on. And use the other times of day to rest, exercise, work your part-time job or hang out with friends.
3. Schedule regular breaks, days off and field trips.
This practical piece of advice for students really works. You need to factor proper leisure time into your life, even if you’re working a part-time job and raising a family at the same time as studying. Take a close look at your study schedule and identify the day you have the least pressures on your time. It could be a Monday or a Friday, or a weekend day. Whenever it is, don’t be afraid to block it out of the calendar, hit the road and explore a new place, catch a football game or just go out with friends or family for a walk.
The time off-the-clock will restore your energy and give those tricky study dilemmas time to work themselves out. Struggling with a tough subject? After a day off, you might return to your studies with increased wisdom, without even trying.
4. Don’t choose your specialist subjects too quickly.
Some colleges require you to choose your major right at the start, but if there’s a chance to delay choosing your specialist modules for a bit longer, take it. You might think you’re really interested in marketing right now, but in year or two you discover that actually it’s business development that makes you excited. Hold off on choosing your thesis topics for as long as possible, so you can get a good sense of all the subjects before making your choice.
5. Go to the careers center or speak to a career advisor early on.
By contrast, there’s one thing you can never do too soon, and that’s to start gathering information about options for life after college. Corporate companies with job openings will send details of their graduate positions to your college careers service, and your career counsellors will have all the latest information, deadlines and contacts to help you plan your job search strategy well in advance.
And don’t worry if you’re at an online university like UoPeople. University of the People’s Career Service Center offers career guidance and career planning during and after the completion of a UoPeople degree, and it’s available through your laptop at any time.
It’s never too soon to start drafting a winning CV, so start this long-term project early so that by the time application deadlines come around, you’ll be ready to pitch for success!
6. If you’re in a college campus environment, leave your door open.
When I was at college, I had the middle bedroom in a corridor containing five bedrooms. I made the conscious decision to leave my door open for most of the first week, except when I was sleeping. This meant that all my roommates got to know me. They said hello when they were popping to the bathroom or kitchen and by the end of the first week I had four new friends instead of just the one or two I might have made if I’d chosen to live more privately.
This meant four more sets of people to go for a drink with, talk to when things went wrong. Try the same trick in different environments. In the cafeteria, don’t sit in the same seat every day; move around. In the college bar, turn left one night and right the next night. Sit with different people and you’ll maximize your social network very quickly.
If you’re studying from home, check-in to different online hangouts and go to networking events in real life from day one, to help your subject and industry come to life. There are lots of ways you can make new friends when you’re studying at an online university. Find relevant events in your area on Eventbrite.com or meetup.com.
7. Don’t obsess about social media.
Remember that people use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to show a curated version of their life. Instead, try living in the moment. Of course you’ll want to post every now and then to share your accomplishments. And social media can be great for networking and finding out about job opportunities. But try rationing the time you spend mindlessly scrolling. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, researchers have found that using social media obsessively causes more than just anxiety.
In fact, testing has found that using too much internet can cause depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsive disorder, problems with mental functioning, paranoia, and loneliness. It is more than just the pressure of sharing things with others, it is also about how you may be comparing your life with others you see on Facebook.
8. Accept that you will have bad days.
If you feel sad, try joining a new club: colleges are great places to try new activities, from rowing and swimming to coding club and hackathons; there are lots of things you can try now that you wouldn’t have had access to before. So turn your low days into new beginnings and get stuck into something you’ve always wanted to try.
9. Ask that person out — or take a risk in another way.
Use college as a time to take a chance every now and again – if that means asking out the person you’ve noticed on campus for a drink, then go for it. The worst that can happen is that they say no. But if they say yes, something exciting and new could open up for you. Equally, don’t be afraid to try living in a new part of town, or in a studio flat on your own for the first time. Encourage yourself to take chances every now and again and rewards may follow!
10. Work out what college will cost you.
You can never know for sure, but if your tuition fees are $17,500 per year and you have 30 years to pay the money back after graduation, your monthly repayments will be around $700 a month. It’s a lot. Don’t let this put you off studying completely, if you are worried about student debt you may want to consider a tuition-free degree instead, such as with UoPeople’s US accredited, 100% online degrees. Being saddled with debt from a young age could take the joy out of the college experience, so know what you’re signing up for before you start.
11. Find a side-hustle that feeds your finances and soul.
You could work part-time in a bar or coffee shop, for an hourly rate, or you could use this time to develop a small business that also feeds your passion. From an online business or app that you can develop from anywhere with wifi, to training as a yoga instructor or fitness coach alongside your studies so you can be paid for teaching others throughout your degree, it’s worth making a financial plan now that will help you make cash throughout your studies. And remember, Facebook started as a college communication tool. Great things can come from students who try while they study, so don’t sit back and wait for the future to start after graduation!
12. Ask a graduate: How did you do it?
Getting encouragement from someone who’s been through it before you could be a great way to get some top quality advice. Find a friend, relative or business figure you admire who studied at your college, or on a similar course at a different school and ask them, how did they manage their finances? Come to think of it, how did they secure their internship, or get their thesis done on time? They may have a fantastic tip that’s tailored to your campus or your course and it could really help you. Never be too proud to ask for advice.
College can be overwhelming at first, but there are practical steps you can take to get ahead and enjoy the experience. Let those who have been there before guide you by listening to some of their expert advice. Find student advice blogs online and keep up to date with the latest tips and tricks. And don’t be afraid to keep trying new things as you enter this new phase of your life.