College life is full of hopes and dreams… and misconceptions. There are some things to expect in campus life and some big surprises. Besides getting an education, you learn to live on your own, make your own decisions, get an internship in a field you enjoy, etc. For your academic and emotional health—as well as student success—here are four (out of many!) things you need to know while you’re still in college.
Need to know #1: There are no critical periods
In “10 things I wish somebody had told me about college before it was over,” posted on Huffington Post February 20, 2014, Michael Restiano at Tufts University said, “It’s dangerously easy to divide your collegiate life into a set of critical periods. To say that if you don’t achieve X, (love, a job, an A grade, sex) by Y point in time, (next week, next month, next year, tomorrow, today) you never will. To essentially proscribe to the ‘that door closed, but hey, another one opened’ philosophy. That line of thinking is complete bullshit.”
Life is long, on average about 80 years. There will be plenty of time to do the things that are important to you. Lovers, jobs, experiences and friends will all evolve and change and grow and move on during your life. Don’t try to cram it all into four years.
Need to know #2: Leave your comfort zone
Sure, you can coast through college then go home to live above your parents’ garage and work at the local gas station. To really grow, you need to be challenged, make difficult decisions, learn about yourself, fail miserably, pick yourself up again and make more decisions. To get into practice for “real life,” take a difficult class, learn a language, start your internship, make friends with a different group of people or try an activity you’ve never done before. (In college I took an equestrian class and I had never seen a horse in person before!) See what you’re made of and how far you can go.
Need to know #3: Go abroad
(See #2!) Seriously, do it. Take advantage of your school’s programs to study in Europe, South America, China or anywhere else that strikes your interest.
Benefits of studying abroad:
- get a new way of thinking about the world
- learn another language and culture
- learn cross-cultural communication
- gain new experiences so you can see what’s available to you and what you’re capable of
- live among people with a different world view than you have
- experience great art, music and food
- live in another country—it might be the only time in your life you can!
On the value of college students studying abroad, Mark Salisbury, director of Institutional Research and Assessment at Augustana College in Illinois, remarked in “Studying abroad: Is it really worth it?” on NPR August 9, 2012, “Many times it reshapes the way they think about their own career plan, and they take a more reflective turn on the role that they’re going to play in the world as it relates to their career plans. And oftentimes, you talk to people who studied abroad 50 years ago, and they will tell you that that was the most powerful experience that they had.”
Need to know #4: Network
Make friends in as many disciplines as possible. “Network” is a business term that means developing and using contacts. Think of it like a web of friends and contacts stretching out in many directions that you can draw on for information, friendship, job tips, news about an industry, etc.
Networking can’t start too early, and college is an excellent place to get to know people in many areas of interest. Get a sports buddy, a study buddy, a partner you do charitable donation or service work with, a few faculty members you connect with, a boss at your internship, a spiritual friend at your house of worship and many friends in the field of study you’re pursuing. Keep in touch for years to come.
As a writer for CollegeBoundNetwork suggested in “31 things you need to know about college:” “Make as many connections as possible. You’re going to meet a multitude of people during your college career; it’s a great time to build relationships and create a social and professional network. You never know when you’ll need help or a reference down the road.”
What can you add to the list of “things you need to know while still in college”?