Well, here I am…14 days away from graduation. It’s kinda funny that this moment is already here, and, now that it is, I’m not quite sure how I feel. Of course, I’m excited and proud to be receiving my Bachelors in Journalism, but, after spending twenty-one years of my life in school, I now have to figure out what I really want to do. I don’t even want to think about beginning that long road to employment. So, I’ve combined 10 tips for those just starting out. Here are some things I wish I had known before starting college.
1. Google is a life saver!
Seriously, no joke! I didn’t discover all of google’s tools until my junior year and it’s too bad because it would have really helped me out. If you’re starting college, trust me, it’s worth getting a gmail account. Once you create an account, you can use all of google’s tools from Google Docs to the Calendar. Google Docs is amazing! Not only does is automatically save your documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc., but it also allows you to go from school to home with all of documents online! No more USBs or going through the process of emailing yourself! The best part? Whenever you have to work on group projects or presentations, just put it all on Google Docs and your group will be able to edit at the same time and view in-time edits. If you want to get really savvy, I recommend downloading Google Chrome so that all you do is sign in once and all of the tools are easily at your fingertips! Using google really helped me to stay productive during these last two years and also meant I no longer had to lug my laptop around all the time. My aching shoulders thank you, Google!
2. Read every paper out loud!
I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m a pretty good writer, especially when it comes to writing papers. But, even I make small editing mistakes. These mistakes, though small, end up costing you a lot in the final grade. As a staff editor and writer on Xpress Magazine (SF State’s publication), I really learned some great tips to help my fellow writers. The best one was just reading stories aloud. Believe it or not, most people tend to know when something sounds off and reading out loud will help you discover what in your paper needs editing. As one of my professors used to tell me, “There’s no vision but revision!”
3. Professors hate 5-paragraph essays!
Okay, I know most of us have been taught the 5-paragraph essay structures. First the introduction then main idea #1, #2, #3 ending with a conclusion. We have all had this structure drilled into our heads since the fourth grade, but I’m here to tell you that is doesn’t work and most often annoys professors. The whole point of writing a paper is to make an argument and deliver it to your reader while making it efficient, accurate, and well-written. The 5-paragraph essay just does not work in college because you may need more than three paragraphs to convey your ideas, you may have only one idea, and, more often than not, your professor wants to see you go beyond this simplicity. Also, many teachers want your “thesis statement” to be the first sentence of your paper—no dancing around your point, make it fast and tell me why. It’s about quality. I once heard it described in this way: that a 5-paragraph essay structure is a shape dictating an idea, whereas, in college-level writing, the ideas should be dictating the shape that the paper takes. My advice? The first sentence of your paper should dictate your argument, then tell me why in the following paragraphs. Relax, and just get all your ideas on paper; editing can always come later!
4. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Internships!
So, I didn’t get an internship until my final semester of college…I know, bad idea. If I could do things over, I would have tried to get an internship during my freshman or sophomore year. Internships give students experience, and you’ll need that experience to get a job because, let’s face it, education just isn’t enough anymore. I’ve learned so much during my internship that I never learned in school especially when it comes to work relations. Learning how to handle a tough boss and meet deadlines is valuable experience for all students.
5. Make A Decision!
I was lucky enough to enter college knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but many people I encountered in my classes were not so fortunate. It’s a hard decision for a lot of students, and I know I’m not making the decision any less hard, but I’m here to tell you that you must decide. I’ve seen so many student fail classes and even drop out because they were not motivated. This lack of motivation often stems from the fact that they are not sure what they want to study. Every student should set goals for themselves; it’s what keeps them studying in the library till midnight when they’d much rather be doing something else. If you’re not sure, I would highly recommend going to community college first and just focusing on GE.
6. Most People Don’t Become Successful By Being Lucky!
In order to be successful, you’re gonna have to work for it. Throughout these four years, I’ve watched students make terrible mistakes, like letting the partying get the best of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love to party, but I never let it become a priority over school (Even during freshman year when I was going out every weekend, my homework always, always got done). Then again, everyone goes to college for different reasons…some are there just for the experience alone, so they don’t care so much about homework…some are there for the sake of learning, so they spend their time taking a variety of classes even if don’t count toward a particular major…but there are those, like myself, who are there to learn a skill and, ultimately, get a job. They spend their time wisely, only taking the classes that count toward their degree. I’ve known my goal from the beginning: I want to travel. I need money, good money, to do that so I need to get a job that pays well. I was determined to finish in four years, and here I am…let’s hope I find that great job eventually! So just remember you get out of college what you put in.
7. Attend Class!
I guess this is kinda similar to tip #6, but I really can’t stress this enough. I know it sounds simple, but you won’t believe how many students don’t attend class. I’ve never heard of a student failing a class they showed up for everyday.
8. Watch Your Pocketbook!
This tip is short and simple. I don’t know how many times (even now, I’m sad to say) where I’ve spent so much money on food and drinks that I’m left with $4 in my bank account. Warning to incoming freshmen: Alcohol is EXPENSIVE! So, just be cautious; partying is not worth being broke!
9. Don’t Be Shy!
I always considered myself to be a pretty shy person and, to be honest, I missed out on so many opportunities during the first two years of college because I was too shy to go up and talk to people. You’re never gonna get that internship or job from being shy; it’s just not going to happen. Employers need good communicators and confident employees. I, myself, know just how hard it can be to break out from your shell, but it’s totally worth it. Not only will being friendly and outgoing help you make connections, but it often gets you positions of power. Whether it is leading a group in a presentation, making new friends, discussing a grading mistake with a professor, or talking with a vendor on campus, being able to communicate well will help you succeed wherever your life takes you.
10. Your Failures Will Teach You Just As Much As Your Successes!
I learned a lot during these college years both inside and outside the classroom. It’s an exciting time, but you might as well accept the fact that there are bound to be downfalls. It’s even harder being away from family and old friends, but I believe those failures only make you stronger. Take heed in that everyone around you is probably going through similar issues.
*I dedicate this blog post to my sister in high school. The road is long and bumpy, little sister. My advice? Take deep breaths, eat dark chocolate, and watch funny You-Tube videos!