Can you believe it? The school year is almost over. But the key word here is almost. While it’s probably fair to say that you’ve put in a ton of blood, sweat, and tears into your work this year, there’s still just a little more to conquer: those pesky final exams. To make sure you finish strong, heed the following:
- Do sweat the small stuff. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes paying extra attention to the little things actually makes a big difference. With that in mind, don’t get worked up over the big details, like re-reading the textbook or combing meticulously through every single note you ever took for every class ever. Instead, focus your studies on the specific things you don’t understand yet.
- Don’t cram the night before. While it’s a little late to spread out your studying, don’t make the mistake of staying up late, slamming coffees, studying non-stop to morning. That’ll zap your energy, your memory, your focus, et cetera–and you’re likely to do worse on a test for it.
- Ask for help. There’s no shame in asking your professors for a little help. In fact, doing so will only get you some bonus points, as they’ll see that you’re putting the effort into their class. Put in the extra elbow grease by attending office hours once or twice, just to make sure you clear up any class material that still seems a little fuzzy. Also talk with other students in the class, or friends who’ve taken the class before. They might understand something you’re struggling with.
- Close the blinds. Spring is here, and that means beautiful weather is right outside your window. That makes it kind of hard to sit in the library. There are chirping birds, a big sun, and a score of kids lounging on the grass. To ensure a top grade, set aside just a little time each day where you’ll forget that nature even exists (say, an hour or so). Then, when that hour passes, feel free to enjoy the outdoors as much as you want.
- Get some sleep. No matter how much studying you do, you’ll sabotage yourself if you don’t get some quality shuteye before your big exam. Remember that.
So you’ve sent out all your applications, and maybe you’ve even done a phone interview or two. Still, you’re just not getting those internship or job offers you were looking for. With summer approaching quicker than an oncoming train, here are some options that will keep you out of your parents’ basement:
1. Focus on your studies. If you don’t land a summer internship, then it’s important to stay proactive. For example, you could take a summer class or two in order get ahead on your college credits. That way you could potentially graduate early and get into the job market that much quicker, thereby beating your peers to the punch.
2. Travel. When in doubt, go see a new part of the world. Well, it doesn’t have to be that drastic or that far away, but make a point to take in some new places while you’re still young.
3. Work for free. The point of an internship is to get experience, and to build your resume. If you don’t end up with a swanky internship, then you can still get some much-needed experience by offering your skills and services for free. For instance: research some local non-profits (they’re typically always in need of help here and there) and say you’re willing to do some work for free, whether that be writing, designing, stuffing envelopes, whatever gets you in the door. Plus, by putting yourself out there, you’ll show initiative, which means a great recommendation may come your way in the future.
4. Keep learning. Just because summer might imply vacation, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning. Challenge yourself by making a summer reading list, by going to cultural events such as theatre productions, or whatever you think suits your interests best.
5. Try and try again. While you might not have scored the dream internship this time, you should still do your best to keep the dream alive. You owe it to yourself, so apply again the next chance you get. In the meantime, explore volunteer opportunities or work experiences that will bolster your resume.
It’s easy to get lost in the busy swirl of college life, but that doesn’t mean you should forget the world outside your campus. In fact, one of the best parts of college is that you’re really part of something bigger–a community–and with that in mind, get out there and contribute! Plus community service looks great on a resume, which will help later when you’re trying to find a job. The trick is making time to serve:
- Do community service that’s already organized. Most likely your school already has a campus organization or two that’s involved in community service. Ask the Office of Student Life or Student Affairs which clubs have a service component, and join up. That way you can socialize and do community service at the same time.
- Look around campus. A helping hand is a helping hand, so if you’re just too pressed for time to get off campus, then stay on. For example, you could ask the college library if they need tutors, or you could ask academic departments if students are looking for help in subjects such as math, physics, and English. Not only will you be doing a good deed, but you’ll also be assisting your peers. It’s a win-win.
- Get virtual. Another option for those who can’t quite get off campus: work from home. Reach out to a non-profit organization or two and see if they need any help creating spreadsheets, writing some press releases or memos, or whatever. It won’t take up much of your time and your help will go a long way.
- Make use of your weekends. Of course some of your weekend time should be spent studying (and sleeping!). But consider squeezing in a few hours of community service. You can help out at a church, or a soup kitchen, or a library, or a shelter–there are endless opportunities.
- Make use of winter, spring, and summer breaks. Big breaks are for big adventures, right? Then it’s the perfect time to go travel and get involved. Think about community service on a local and global scale. If you were going to travel abroad anyway, you might as well do some service while you’re there. You’ll get to know your host country more intimately and will probably come away from it with some long-lasting friendships.
With the job market more saturated than butter, it’s important that you set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. For best results, hone your personal brand. In other words: become your own advocate and become your own personal marketing tool. Here’s how:
- Hone your interests. If you’re going to make yourself into your own product, then you have to know what you’re selling. With that in mind, find your passion, stick with it, and do it well. It’s better to be exceptional at one thing than mediocre at many.
- Find your platform. Once you have your passion in your pocket, start sharing it. For example, you could start a blog or a personal website where you can share your ideas and thoughts. Even if what you’re interested in isn’t quite professional—say, food or photography—still showing your knowledge of the field can’t hurt. Plus, flaunting your communication skills is never a bad idea.
- Network. If you want to get yourself out there, then you have to work at it. In other words, there’s no way anyone will know you exist if you don’t show them. To that end, use social media, peruse other websites and blogs, and then get in touch with those who share similar interests and ideas. That way you can make contacts that will prove invaluable in the future when you’re looking for a job.
- Offer your services. Once you establish your interests, platform, and network, then you can start reaching out. Offer to help others. For example, if you’re a good photographer and you can prove it (on your blog or website, remember), then why not offer to snap some pictures at weddings, or other events where pictures are necessary? That way you’ll spread your name and expertise through practical work experience, which is hugely beneficial to your resume even if you’re not getting paid.
- Don’t be afraid. Sure, the world is a big place and it seems even bigger when you’re trying to make your mark, but with a little elbow grease and a solid attitude then there’s no reason why you can’t be successful. So get out there, hone your craft and vision, and talk about yourself like you’re the best thing ever.
There’s nothing quite like college: you’re young, there’s what seems like limitless opportunities, and the world is probably more open to you than it will ever be, or at least it seems that way. So why not take advantage of the moment, right? Right. Just make sure you don’t pick up any bad habits along the way:
- Putting off reading, or that paper, or studying for that exam. The nice thing about college is that you have a lot of academic freedom. Often your professor will assign a due date but won’t keep tabs on your progress, meaning it’s your responsibility to get your work done. On the other hand, that could also be one of the worst things about college, especially if you procrastinate. Procrastinating can result in all-night study or work binges, which aren’t fun, efficient, or good for your grade point average. In order to avoid being that person in the library with blood-red eyes and piles of empty coffee cups next to you, put the effort in to get your homework done as it’s assigned instead of when due dates are close.
- Pizza, chicken wings, Chinese takeout, oh my. There’s nothing wrong with ordering some of your favorite food once in a while, especially because you can order it directly to your door instead of having to walk all way to the dining hall. And hey, who doesn’t love a big greasy slice of pizza or two (or ten) once in a while? But if it becomes a regular habit, then not only will your body ask you to take it easy (hey, heart health), but your wallet will start to give you some lip.
- Let’s get wasted! Nah, let’s not. Especially if you’re underage. Not only could you get in trouble, heavy drinking takes its toll on your body, energy levels, and your ability to concentrate.
- Peace and quiet. That’s right, too much peace and quiet is a bad college habit. For real. Think about it: when will you be living so close to all your friends ever again? A little alone time once in a while is good. But sequestering yourself away in your room like it’s your very own Bat Cave? Bad. Get out there and socialize. Enjoy the college experience before it’s over.
- Sticking to the plan. Plans can be helpful. But sticking to them too closely can be too your detriment. College is a place where you should grow as both a student and a person. Push yourself in new ways, whether that means taking classes you never thought you’d take or by participating in an activity you never thought you’d enjoy, because chances are you will.