Joseph Fogoros is a 2012 graduate of the University of Delaware with a BA in Political Science. He is an enthusiastic world traveler and enjoys writing about his experiences. In the future, Joseph hopes to release a travel narrative and work in international development.
10 Pieces of Advice to Every College Student
1. Have a STEM Major
What is a STEM major? STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Ok, those don’t exactly sound like the most exciting topics to study for four years, and you are not good at math, right? Well, guess what? Those four core areas of study will lead you to a great set of job opportunities after you graduate and are sectors of society that are experiencing focused job growth. If you have a STEM major and apply yourself, you will always have real life, in-demand skills that will present you with high paying job opportunities for years to come.
2. Go to your Professors Office Hours
You should take advantage of your professors office hours at least twice a week. I know you think you are busy, but trust me, you are able to fit in a quick 30 minute visit on a Tuesday afternoon. When will this come in handy? Not only will you be getting one-on-one work with a refined academic mind, but you will also be developing a relationship that may benefit you for years to come. Asking for a graduate school recommendation isn’t quite as effective if you are the kid who showed up late and sat quietly in the back row. But, the professor will be more than happy to write a glowing recommendation for the hard working and dedicated student who showed an active interest in the class by attending office hours and clearing up any areas of confusion.
3. Do All of your Required Reading
Again, you just don’t have the time, right? Well, make the time. It is vitally important that you read your textbook. That is why you buy it, remember? I know it feels like you have no homework when the professor tells you to take a look at Chapter 2 in between lectures, but there is value in staying up to date with the readings. Not only will it save you time when midterms roll around, but you will also be able to be a leading voice in class discussions. Which leads me to my next point.
4. Participate in Class
I know you don’t want to be the annoying kid who always needs to voice their opinion and you don’t want to hold the class back an extra minute with a question, but it doesn’t matter what your classmates think. It is so worthwhile to be a leader in the classroom. Not only will you improve your participation grade, but you will gain the respect of your professor, who will one day be able to be used as a reference or recommendation writer. Who cares about the opinion of some Frat Bro using their iPhone to set up a game of beer pong on Thirsty Thursday? They probably weren’t going to like you anyways. If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask. If you want to share your opinion, go ahead, start a debate, participate in the discussion, and make a name for yourself, rather than remain a forgettable member of the crowd.
5. Don’t Pull All-Nighters
When I was in school, there was a certain amount of pride that came along with pulling an all-nighter to study for an exam or finish up a paper. The day after, you could proudly strut up to your friends and announce that you hadn’t been to sleep yet, and still weren’t tired. But, in the end, this is pretty dumb and immature. I don’t need to link you to the scientific evidence for you to know this is harmful to your body and mind and far from the best way to retain information. You may remember for that 9 am exam, but you will surely need to spend way more time than you otherwise would reviewing that information during finals. You are way better off staying up-to-date with your readings and assignments, and making a progressive study schedule starting a week or two out from the exam. This will not be as easy to brag about and does not come with as much street cred, but a responsibly earned A looks much better than a lazy C+ on your transcript.
6. Get an Internship
But, you don’t want to work for free or spend your summer making coffee runs for the boss, you say? It doesn’t matter. Having an internship will be endlessly valuable after graduation and if you do good work, you may even get offered a job and be worry free as graduation approaches, as the anxiety of entering a competitive job market will be weighing down all of your friends. Even if you don’t get a job offer, you will be able to use it to polish up your resume and present potential employers with real world experience and skills.
7. Work a Part-Time Job
Wow, if you follow my advice, you will be very busy, won’t you? Forget that, it is good to be busy. Say goodbye to afternoon naps and nights spent on the couch watching the game and drinking Natty Lights with your friends. While that stuff is fun, it will not get you very far in life. Pick up some hours at a local restaurant. Mow lawns on the weekends. Sell items on ebay. Anything to start earning and saving some money. I know you don’t need much money to thrive on a college campus, but banking money now is very important. It will make paying for all of the real world expenses you are about to start incurring much easier post-graduation. Also, if you start saving now, even if it is only a few hundred dollars a month, it will ease the burden of those pesky student loan payments that will creep up on you faster than you think. Remember, having money saved leads to financial freedom.
8. Study Abroad
Traveling abroad and experiencing new cultures can change your life. One of my biggest regrets is not studying abroad in college. Luckily, after graduation, I had the chance to spend a year in Cambodia teaching English, so I didn’t miss out completely. However, I still feel a little silly for passing up the opportunity to see the world with my college peers. All of my friends who studied abroad list it as one of the best times of their lives and the stories they have are incredible. Not only will you have a great time abroad with friends while still earning some credits towards your degree, but you will have valuable intercultural experience to put on your resume, and we all know employers love to hire people who have proven they can work and thrive in diverse settings. So, use some of the money you saved from working that part time job and spend a semester in Paris. Or London. Or Rome. You pick!
9. Don’t Drink too Much
Ok, drinking is one of the core pillars of the college experience. I get it. I’ve been there and done that. Trust me. Just don’t take it too far. Save drinking for the weekends and if possible, only drink one night a week. Think about it… Do you really need to go to the bar 6 nights a week? Not only will this drain your bank account, but it surely will lead to poor academic performance. Not to mention, binge drinking leads to many poor decisions and nobody likes to wake up the morning after wondering “what did I just do”. We all know the shame of apologizing to your friends for making a fool of yourself or needing to walk past that boy or girl who you shouldn’t have got involved with. It is not a good feeling, but luckily, it is easy to avoid. During the week, focus on your studies and pick up a part-time job. On Friday and Saturday night, go out, have some fun, drink a few beers, but keep it under control. You don’t want to mess up your future because you took things too far after bonging beers in your frats basement.
10. Remember: You Will Never See These People Again
In the end, you will never see or spend time with most of these people after graduation. This is both a gift and a curse. Of course, it is sad that after graduation you and your friends are going to go your separate ways and spread out across the country to build your own lives. But, it is also a blessing that you will not have to deal with that jerk who always seems to want to start trouble or that girl who rejected you during sophomore year. Personally, I can attest to the fact that I spent way too much time in college worrying about people that did not matter to my life. So, take a deep breath, take a step back, and forget it. Don’t waste the best years of your life worrying about people who are soon going to be a distant memory. The time will be much better served enjoying the short-lived time you will have with the friends that you will remember forever.