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  • Writer's pictureLauren

Tips for college success

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

It's been about a year since I graduated from college, started working, and became part of the adult world. Even with the, very unfortunate and highly devastating, COVID interruption, college was a big chance for exploration, growth, and it set me up for success in a matter of ways. College is about so much more than academic success and can be an experience to grow in many more ways than just intelligence. I think that the best things that you learn and experience in college are outside the classroom. If you're in college or just about to start I hope that some of my learning experiences can help you make the most of your time in college as well.

1. Follow your heart, but be strategic.

I'm a big believer in every major having value and being able to achieve success if you go about it the right way. Going into college I had a few ideas about what I wanted to major in, I loved teaching, writing, digital media, politics, and a lot of other things. I was drawn to English or journalism but, I kept looking into related majors and I found out about communications. The more I read about it and the job opportunities it has the more excited I got about it. Not only did communications combine the things I enjoyed, but there were jobs in communications across nearly every industry from politics, sports, and tech. I was also into politics and decided to add that major after starting the communications major. There was a decent amount of overlap between the two majors and I had a headstart with some AP credits and an old college course. Being more strategic with my classes and major choices helped me succeed in both finishing school early and securing a job after college. I would recommend using your advisor but also mapping your four-year plan yourself to see where there could be overlap in your requirements.

Do research into what careers you could actually get in your job, what the median pay rate is, and all of that before you commit. Once you do, be strategic in the classes you take and even your electives. Think of classes that could supplement your major that aren't directly related. Classes like statistics and data science helped me to stand out a little in communications and gave me an edge when applying to jobs.

Here is a list of college majors to start your search

2. Involvement is (almost) everything.

I think not getting involved is one of the biggest mistakes that people make in college. From a professional perspective, involvement can really help you stand out by giving real examples of projects you've worked on and leadership roles that you have taken on. You can also choose roles that have to do with your major or your prospective career. I was a social media coordinator or event planner for a bunch of different clubs on campus and that helped to understand what the roles could be in a real-world job.

Getting active on campus is not just good from a professional perspective but personally. In my different organizations is where I saw myself grow the most. That's where I gained more friends, found my passions, grew my voice, my confidence and where I pushed myself to become a better leader. If you're looking to get involved but don't know where to start I'd say find something professionally based, something that is a passion for you, and something that's just fun and active. I did Public Relations Student Society of America, Black Honors Caucus, and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (and by association the National Panhellenic Council). They all kept me busy and fed me in different ways. I also tried new things like debate club (I went to like two meetings) and club basketball. I didn't end up liking them for various reasons, but the experience of trying something new is invaluable, even if you don't stick with it.

3. Explore your industry

Me at my internship on Capitol Hill

Internships are the best way to find a job, which means you've got to start early. I got my first internship with the help of a program on campus. Leverage those programs! They have connections that will make up for the little experience you have starting off. I did my first internship at the United Nations Foundation in communications and it was a great first experience for me. It was unpaid, but only do one unpaid internship! I got school credit and the hours were manageable which made it marginally better. There are a lot of paid internships out there. I thought it would be hard with my majors but I did two internships that paid $15 1hr and my last one, which turned into a job, paid $28 an hour. The last internship I applied to was through a career readiness program called SEO. There are a lot of programs that help students get matched with top companies for internships. Every internship is not always exciting, at all, but they are always a great learning opportunity. I liked maybe half of the internships that I had, the others I suffered through but learned what I needed to. Another great part of interning, especially in communications, is that you can switch around industries as well. I covered education, international politics, the hill, and tech. All were great learning experiences that helped me build connections (keeping up with those is something I wish I did much better at) and experience.

My top internship resources

  • For general searching purposes: Linkedin

  • For making connections: Handshake

  • If you're Black or Hispanic looking to get into finance, marketing, etc: SEO

  • If you're a POC looking to get into corporate America: Inroads

  • If you want to be a politician: The Hill job bulletin

  • If you want to work in government: Daybook

  • If you're Black and want to work in media: Emma Bowen foundation

  • If you're really smart: Whatever your Campus resources are

4. Leave time for fun, life is about balance.

Please don't think all you need to do is go to class, work and join five clubs. Add some

Me in Israel, this experience had me waaay outside my comfort zone. It was fun but it also challenged me to reflect on my views on the world and values

nightclubs in there too. Seriously, you have to come out of college with stories to tell. Have to. Go to tailgates, basketball games, house parties, step shows, poetry slams, study abroad whatever it is that you enjoy. Find the people that you can work hard and play harder with. Make mistakes, travel when you have the chance, meet strangers (maybe not with COVID), idk you've got to find yourself and that is not only going to happen in the classroom. I learned a lot from the experiences that maybe I shouldn't have had. And that's enough on that. But seriously, you can't grow and challenge yourself without making mistakes. That doesn't mean do the dumbest thing you can think of but do go out of your comfort zone.

5. Don't let college define you

One thing I've learned this past year is that as much as college was my end game, life begins when college ends. Now I'm trying to change from the person I was in college. So much is new, new city, new friends, new jobs. College can be some of the best years. but they shouldn't be where you stop. Even when you are still in college your success, your grades, the number of internships and clubs that you are in doesn't define who you are and what you can achieve.

A lot of people say that college is the best time of your life, in some ways it will be, but really, it shouldn't be. After college, there's so much to learn and experience and there's a world full of people to meet. Nothing will be the same as college, but your life can't peak at 21 (or however old you are when you graduate).

Life is about lifelong learning, that doesn't only mean academics. Choose to do things that challenge you and make you think, that move you out of your comfort zone. Chase that excitement and vigor you had during college.

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On that note,

Conquer college don't let it conquer you!



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