I loved college! It was a great experience and I’m very happy I decided – at the last minute – to give it a shot! If I had to do it all over again there are a few things I would have done differently. There are some experiences I feel I missed out on without realizing it at the time. There are also some things I could have done to make things easier on myself or that would have helped me out in the long run.
So I have compiled a short list of the top ten things I wish I would have done in college. No regrets! You live and you learn. I do hope that by sharing this post, I can help at least one person maximize their college experience.
1. Utilized Professor Office Hours
Communication with a professor can certainly make a difference in your classroom performance. In my first few semesters I rarely even raised my hand to ask the professor a question during class! With every passing year, I became more and more comfortable approaching them. At first it was through email and finally by my last semester I was visiting a couple of my professors during their set office hours. My grades improved significantly! My last (and most difficult) semester ended up being my best!
I once thought I was “wasting” their time but professors purposely set up these office hours in hopes students will use them. Plus, you pay an awful large sum of money for their time. One of my professors was even happy to help me with a project from a different class! You can learn a great deal from them and when you take an interest in your education, your professors will notice and admire your effort.! Bonus: This could work in your favor if you happen to be in between grades 😉
2. Take Spring/Summer Classes Every Year
I know what you are thinking! Give up my summer vacation? Are you crazy?! Hear me out! There are a few reasons for this. It’s easier to maintain good study habits. You won’t have to “get back in the groove” if you keep the momentum going. If you take just one 3 credit class every summer, you can graduate an entire semester early! It’s a lot easier to focus on just one class than it is to juggle multiple. Don’t be a lazy bum like me, take a class or two!
Perhaps you go home for the summer. Think about guest enrolling at a local community college (it’s cheaper!) or taking an online course through your home institution. Just make sure the credit will transfer! For those of you who currently attend a Michigan college or university, there is a fantastic website dedicated to making sure your credits will transfer – https://www.michigantransfernetwork.org/
3. Joined Clubs
Joining a club or organization is a great idea! You can connect with other people with similar interests and it’s a fun and interesting outlet (keeps you out of trouble too). I mean they seriously have something for everyone! My University had an optimism club and a fashion club! If you are interested in a club and your university doesn’t offer it, guess what?! You can start it! Bonus: This would look great on a resume!
Clubs are a great opportunity to network and create relationships with people. Consider this an easy way to find people with similar interests. Yay for friends! So why didn’t I do this?! Not to sound lazy or anything but it was probably because of my hour drive, and because I was lazy. The regret is strong with this one.
4. Studied Abroad
Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity! It gives you the ability to explore different cultures and environments while continuing your education.
By the time I decided this was something I was interested in, many of the courses that were offered through my university were not required for my program. I couldn’t justify paying for classes I wouldn’t need for graduation. It would have also required me to take time off of work and I would have taken two classes instead of my normal five (delaying graduation). Hindsight- I should have just went for it! The chances of being able to do this later in life is very unlikely.
Maybe money is an issue for you: Financially, many universities will help you apply for grants and scholarships intended for students who want to study abroad. Student loans can also be used to fund the trip. Visit your University’s website for more information or go to www.goaborad.com/study-abroad to learn more about private companies offering study abroad opportunities.
5. Applied for More Scholarships
Those wonderful loans that seem to be paving your way to freedom can actually be a burden on your financial independence later on. It’s easy to rack up thousands of dollars in student debt resulting in 10+ years of high payments. The easiest and quickest way to ease that burden is through scholarships. There are so many and not just for the academically or athletically inclined. It seems like they have scholarships for everything and everyone. I’ve even seen scholarships for people who are left handed! How cool?!?
So why didn’t I spend more time applying for scholarships? For one I had dial-up internet service (a weak excuse- I know), I was lazy, and I didn’t understand how important it was. If it takes you four hours to search and apply for one $2000 scholarship, you potentially just made $500/hour. Wow! Keep in mind this is money you don’t have to borrow and pay interest on!
Here are some websites to help you with your research:
6. Applied for an Internship
I truly believe internships or co-op positions will help you get a job in your field after college. You make connections with some influential people, gain valuable experience, and many internships are paid. I know a few of my close friends who were able to get great full-time positions after graduation within the company they were interning for.
Maybe you are unsure of what you want to do with your life. There are opportunities that give you awesome experiences while trying out a new field at the same time. I really wish I would have at least applied to the Disney College Program! http://cp.disneycareers.com/en/default/
I didn’t think about it too seriously until I was almost done.
7. Traveled for Spring Break
I never went anywhere for Spring Break in the four years I attended my University. I’m not kidding. I was pretty frugal with my spending back then. I was definitely more concerned with saving money for tuition so I could avoid the dreaded student loans.
If I could, I would go somewhere really cool just one time! Experience the whole Spring Break thing and come out with some good memories and stories.
8. Studied More
I had horrible study habits going into college and even though they improved with each semester I wish I would have taken it a bit more seriously early on. Sadly, I completely bombed my second semester and I lost my largest scholarship. Ouch. I thought I could just attend class and magically obtain the information, just like high school! So so wrong. Some classes just require more work than others. The next year I was more prepared and I slowly began to understand my learning process. I utilized the library and took in depth class notes.
Everyone learns differently so it is important to identify the study methods that work best for you. If you weren’t able to discover your preferred method in high school, be sure to try a few methods early on. It will save you so much grief later on.
9. Double Majored
I know exactly why I didn’t do this. After four years, I was ready to graduate and become a “real” adult. I desperately desired a break and some time for soul searching to help me determine what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I never regretted my choice to study History, but I also understood finding a career in Mid-Michigan that would utilize this particular major (besides teaching) was highly unlikely. When I think about it I could have unlocked many more doors with a second major. It’s true, I could go back to school and obtain a second degree or a post-baccalaureate, but it’s easier said than done.
It is much easier to get grants and scholarships for the first degree. Loans are an option but let’s be honest… you have to pay those back! Plus you have to reapply to attend the university. Another obstacle! A small one but still. Remember Newton’s First Law: Objects in motion, stay in motion. Taking a “break” from school makes it much more difficult to get back on track and maintain motivation. There is absolutely no shame in taking a few years to complete your education.
10. Lived Closer to Campus
For a majority of my college years, I lived one hour away from campus. I did save a great deal of money by not living on campus, but I think I would have been much happier living (at least) closer to campus. I would have been able to more easily take advantage of the resources on campus and I wouldn’t have had to schedule my classes so intensively.
Do you have something to add? Do you wish you would have done something differently during your college years? Tell us about it is below! I’d love to hear from you!