So, as I write this, I am completely finished with all college work. Every paper has been turned in along with every exam. It feels really good to be done. Looking back on my four years at SUNY Oswego, I realized that there were a few key things that helped me to succeed in college. Feel free to take my advice and run with it. It can work for you too.
1. Diversify Yourself and Your Skills:
Fun fact, when I originally started college, I was looking to become a journalist. While I was interested in writing, I figured that I should be a broadcasting major as I figured journalists in the future would have to know how to speak in front a camera or a microphone. When getting involved at the campus radio station, WNYO, and the TV station, WTOP 10, I realized that I liked TV and radio production a lot better than I did writing. I changed paths quickly, but always explored other options.
I took it upon myself to learn everything I could. By the end of my college career, I have produced radio, directed TV, learned how to be an on air personality, and much more. I learned a little bit of everything, which made me a well rounded person. Additionally, I also took public relations and journalism classes which helped me to develop other skills.
Rather than looking to become good at one or two particular skills, making an effort to learn everything regarding your career field will take you far. You will find that you can apply for more jobs and adapt to new situations quickly. It’s never good to know or like just one thing. Having multiple interests and skills will benefit you more.
2. Learn How to Write Well:
While applying for jobs this past semester, one of the things employers told me the most was that they were very impressed with my writing skills. One employer even proceeded to say that this is rare as most college students do not know how to write well. I would have to agree with this statement. After being a TA for two years, I have read plenty of papers with ridiculous spelling and grammar errors. Some students even try to use complicated words to make themselves sound smarter, but that just makes things even more complicated.
When it comes to writing, the two things that matter most are content and style. What you say is important, but how you say it makes all of the difference. Anything in the world, even paint drying, can be interesting if presented in the right way. Learning how to write well can allow someone to make anything they say remotely interesting.
What helped me to improve my writing skills were lots of practice. During one semester, I took both a news writing class and a public relations writing class. Having these two classes back to back gave me more practice writing than I ever could have asked for. Both classes also used A.P. Style, a set of rules typically used by newspapers and journalists. Every college student should take a class which requires them to learn from the A.P. Stylebook. It improved the quality of my writing significantly.
Another piece of advice is to always proofread your work. I read everything I write out loud when I’m finished with it, including this blog post, to make sure that it makes sense and also catch any typos or errors. You are doomed to do poorly if you do not proofread your papers at least twice.
3. Get Involved, and Get Involved Early:
One of the best decisions I had made when getting to school was to get immediately involved in a couple of on campus organizations. For tips on how to get involved early, I actually wrote about this in a previous blog post. Getting involved gives you great experience and also allows you to meet like minded people. I had a lot of trouble making friends during my first semester, but getting involved allowed me to meet the people who would become my close group of friends.
My college experience would not feel complete and would probably not feel special if it were not for getting involved. My experiences at WNYO and WTOP 10 are some of the most valuable experiences of my life thus far. The earlier you get involved, the more you learn and the faster you climb the ranks.
4. Use Your Last Semester to Focus on the Future:
If there is anything I have learned over the past few months, it’s that the job market is very tough. I am very lucky that I currently have two paid internships lined up for the Summer and possibly a full time job lined up for the Fall. One reason I got all of these opportunities was because I spent most of my time searching for them.
Since January of this year, my main focus has been on finding a job and making myself look like a great candidate. I visited The Compass (career services) to make my resume and cover letter look stellar, created a portfolio website for myself to further showcase who I am, and did a lot of research regarding how to find different opportunities.
My GPA may have taken a small hit this semester, but I’m glad I used my last semester to both relax a little bit more and focus on my next steps. While I have been applying for jobs since March, I didn’t receive a single reply from an employer until the middle of April. You really do need an entire semester and a bit of luck to get a position right out of college or get into graduate school if that is your next step. Maintaining grades and staying involved on campus are important, but put your future above everything else when you’re close to the end.
Are you ready for my single most important strategy to succeeding in college?
I credit this to being the single most important tip I could ever give someone starting college or continuing it.
5. Show Up!:
I’ve already written an entire blog post on this strategy, but I’ll provide a little more insight. You can only benefit yourself by going to class. Being present and attentive are the most beneficial things you can do for yourself in college. Even when I did not understand anything I was learning in a particular course, I would have been even more lost if I had missed even a single class.
This tip is so powerful because it is so effortless. All you need to do is walk out of your room and be in class or at your job on time. There’s nothing more to it. The best part is as Woody Allen says, “Showing up is 80% of life.” When you attend class or a meeting for a club, you’ve done most of the work by just showing up. By doing this, you’re 80% of the way towards being successful in college.