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.
While public speaking can be uncomfortable or intimidating, it’s an essential skill, especially in college. Whether you have to speak in front of your class, at an academic conference, or at an important event, it’s always good to speak well. Here’s how:
1. Practice, practice, practice. And practice. Like wine, public speaking can be an acquired taste. In order to get used to the feeling of it, practice as much as you can. For example, if you have to give a presentation, practice in front of your mirror, or friends, or family. It might seem silly, but you’ll be glad you did once you’re not stumbling over your words in front of an actual crowd.
2. Find a pace that works. It’s natural to speed up your speech when you’re in front of an audience, which is why you should always tell yourself to slow down. Think about it: no one wants to listen to someone who’s talking too fast. At best it’s annoying. At worst it’s incomprehensible.
3. Learn from the best. You’re paying all that money to be at school, so take advantage of it. Since you already have to sit through class each day, why not try paying attention to how your professors give their lectures? Some professors are rock stars, and can make even the most boring material come to life, while others are as dull as a broken pencil. Either way, take note of what works and what doesn’t. Then imitate as necessary.
4. Make it a routine. If you want to do something well, then you have to do it every day. That’s how you fine-tune a craft. Practice by raising your hand in class to ask or answer questions. In other words: make use of the opportunity to get up and get talking in front of people.
5. Be honest about what you need to improve. Public speaking doesn’t have to be your thing, but it’s a skill you need. So ask for feedback whenever you have the chance. If you make mistakes during a speech or presentation, don’t sweat it. Just remember those mistakes and fix them next time.
If there’s one thing that all students want more of, it’s sleep. There are so many distractions on college campuses that it’s almost impossible to get consistent shuteye, but for your health (and also for your sanity) it’s important you do. In light of that, here are a few tips that may help you sleep better:
1. Get comfortable. It might seem like a lot of cash to dole out up front, but if you hook yourself up with a quality mattress pad an a couple of cozy pillows, every dime spent will be worth it. Remember: a comfortable night’s sleep is a good night’s sleep, and a good night’s sleep is priceless.
2. Ventilate. Dorms rooms can be a little stuffy or stale. To fix that problem, get yourself a portable fan to get the air moving. Besides, a little extra white noise probably won’t hurt either.
3. Avoid naps. If you want to make sure that you sleep better at night, then try not to sleep during the day. If you absolutely can’t function without napping, consider a twenty-minute power nap. Anything longer that may negatively affect your ability to fall asleep later.
4. Flex your muscles. Your creative ones, too. If you exercise during the day then your body will thank you when it’s time to hit the pillow. It’s also a good idea to exercise your mind. For example, try journaling a bit before sleep. Or even try reading something more academic.
5. Stay clean. Even if you’re not a super clean person, keeping a neat room isn’t a bad idea. Too much clutter will likely cause stress, meaning sleep won’t come as easy as you’d like.
6. Watch out for all-nighters. While it might be hard to avoid staying up late into the night-slash-early-morning writing a paper or studying for an exam, don’t make it a habit. Your body may become accustomed to staying up late. If that happens, you may find it hard to go to sleep at a reasonable hour when you actually need to.
7. Set patterns. Knowing when you’ll go to sleep and when you’ll wake up is one of the best (and medically proven) ways to stay rested. We know you can’t go to bed at the same time every day, but sticking as close to a schedule as you can will help zap some of your fatigue.