By Tina L. Caulder
Its more than an American tradition, its an American institution. You kill it in high school. You coast all year long and then suddenly turn into super-geek in the final semester with a book strapped to your hand every second for the last chance at making that 3.0 gpa. You join the yearbook staff to round out the extra-curricular requirement. Even college application completion and early admittance becomes a competitive sport amongst your friends. And God forbid you end up at a local community college. Its just not cool enough.
So you go away to college, and for some, not all, the new-found independence goes straight to the brain providing a rush not even rivaled by the strongest gateway drug. The parties, the frats, the sororities, the drugs and alcohol, and you haven’t even scratched the surface, yet: classes.
Typically, the end of first semester is the moment of truth: You actually survived your first set of prerequisites and ready to press on or realized your grades are considerably low in the classes you didn’t drop after the first day. Those who fall in the latter could extend their college experience to play catch up but many wind up losing hope, going home, and settling for less.
How do you complete a college education before crashing and burning before the finish line?
First, who said the key to success is college after high school? Many make the mistake into rushing into collegiate life and have no idea the territory they are stepping into, especially when not experiencing much freedom at home. With that said consider taking a semester off after high school to find yourself, thus establishing a purpose for pursuing an education:
● Work. Get a job in retail or at a relative’s business. Maybe even explore starting your own business (car washing, jewelry making, etc). Establishing your niche through work will give you a feel for what you want to do so you’re not studying education when you’re actually good at money.
● Study abroad. Ok, so we don’t all have $3,000 in the bank to hop a plane overseas but there is a such thing as saving up. Plus there are programs and groups that go to third world countries that are not expensive to visit. Also, don’t overthink it. There maybe a relative on the other side of the country or in a city you’re not familiar whom you can visit and use as an opportunity to submerge in a new environment.
● Do your first semester at a community college. That’s great that you got into NYU or UNC! Understand, of course, these schools are not highly regarded for NOT being challenging. A semester at your local college means you don’t have to move out right away, you get a feel for what you’re in for, and, bonus, you’re knocking out those prereqs in a classroom of 15 as opposed to a classroom of 30 where you can expect the least amount of attention. Mostly all of prerequisites will transfer so take care of them at a least expensive school, first.
Next, what do you want to major in? You this is a decision that shouldn’t be rushed into so early in college yet still thought about often:
● Research different fields. You may be interested in a major early on, so don’t take it for granted. Shadow someone with a career in your chosen major. Interning and shadowing will offer hands on insight
● You are who you hang with. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, like most business partners, found each other in college. Cling to those with a common goal, and you may be surprised at how far you soar. Stay away from parti some peers who lack goals.
● What are you good at? If you were a C math student in high school and cringe at the thought of numbers, accounting may not be for you.
Lastly, when it comes to a higher education, sacrifice is the name of the game. You may not rush into college or be one of the few who strive on the challenge of jumping in head first. At any rate, it’s important to take full advantage of the opportunity at all cost:
● Time management. Make a schedule around the class schedule and stick to it. If there is a prime time to be in the library, campus cafe, etc when you are most productive, than be there and don’t deviate. Factor in a job schedule as well if applicable. Something like time management follows you throughout your college career and beyond.
● There will be plenty of time to party. Remember this, and you will never feel that you are missing out. So, theres an event during the week and you have a paper due. If you can honestly say your research is complete and the assignment is in the bag, break time may be beneficial. However if you’re not remotely done, remember there will be an event next week that you can actually enjoy without that “I have work to do” feeling at the pit of your stomach.
● Remember that college is not a sprint but a marathon. The majority of us must apply time and hard work where we lack in genius. Study is essential to success in college so its important to remember that time studying out of class is just as required as sitting in class itself.
College is an exciting time for discovering new people and ideas, and even yourself. However many fall out of the race before it starts when not understanding that the responsibility of an education now lies on your shoulders and not your parents or high school teachers. You’re going to be broke, tired, and maybe even drained at some points. Keeping your eyes on the prize, the reason why you work so hard, will help drive you to the finish line.