If you’re trudging through the last few weeks of high school, know you’re not doing it alone. And get excited, because your college life will be here soon! But it’s important to remember that transitioning from high school to college can be difficult. A lot will change over a short period of time, so to make sure you adjust and hit the ground running, consider the following:
- It’s a new way of thinking. A lot of high school is spent studying or otherwise preparing for standardized tests: SATs, ACTs, AP exams, et cetera. But in college, critical and creative thinking are of the essence. In college, your end goal isn’t a good grade as much as it is an educated life. In other words, the knowledge you acquire will have a real world application. It’s time to stop memorizing stuff and focus more on understanding it.
- Start keeping your own schedule. In college you’ll no doubt feel like you have a ton of places to be at once. With classes, extra-curricular activities, a social life, and other activities to get involved in, you’re going to be one busy undergrad. So, to prepare, get in the habit of keeping a calendar. That way you’ll get accustomed to navigating your day the college way: with organization.
- Take more notes. College classes are the real deal, and you can’t really fake your way through them. To keep yourself on the right academic track, take lots of notes and read them over throughout the semester—not just when studying for finals. That way, when that big paper comes along, or that big exam, you’ll be prepared for it.
- Try to be more outgoing. One of the main differences between college and high school is the social scene. In high school, your friends are automatically there in class everyday. In college you have to work to meet new people, especially when you first arrive on campus. So try your best not to be shy, and just be yourself. No doubt you’ll make friends in no time.
- Just keep swimming. In college, there’s plenty that can go wrong: you could get locked out of a class you really wanted to take, you could fail a paper, or you could spend the better part of 24 hours in the library. Get used to the fact that college, while fun, is also kind of grueling. Mentally prepare for that.
Below you’ll find what amounts to a video infographic, and I thought we’d share it. It’s regarding wealth distribution in America in terms of what the ideal distribution is, versus what people think the distribution is, versus what the actual distribution is. It’s based on research by Mother Jones and a professor at the Harvard Business School, so rest assured the math is right.
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.