For many of us, college is the first time we experience what essentially amounts to total freedom. At the ripe age of 18, we’re sent out (or not sent out, if you commute) to function on our own as complete adults as we’re only just beginning to reach that stage mentally, emotionally, and legally. As you’d expect, most of us make some mistakes.
Being that this is more than likely the first time you’re out making decisions on your own on a consistent basis, you’re bound to encounter twists and turns that leave you pulling out your cellphone to dial mom or dad. However not all problems you find yourself falling into will be able to be solved by asking your parents–in fact, most of these decisions could, and should fall squarely on your shoulders.
Here are a few things that, if you’re in college, you might be doing wrong right now.
1. Not Getting Involved
On-campus and extracurricular involvement is one of those things that many college kids find themselves thinking “Oh, I’ll definitely join that team/club/group,” then failing to follow through until it’s senior year and they’ve deemed it to be too late.
There are two distinct errors with the above anecdote. First and foremost, get involved! Failing to actually follow through on joining a club or team could mean missing an opportunity for networking sessions, group outings, conferences and making lifelong friends. It may seem like joining something like an honors society, the school newspaper or a professional development group is doing little other than setting yourself up for an even more overloaded schedule, but I can attest firsthand that this isn’t true. Joining organizations like these has helped me grow professionally and personally, as well as craft friendships I’m confident will last a lifetime.
The second error is believing that it’s ever too late to join an organization. You’ve obviously heard the expression “better late than never,” so why not apply it here? Even if you’re a second-semester senior with eyes on graduation in the near future, showing up to your first meeting can impart knowledge on you that you won’t be able to get anywhere else.
2. Not Taking Full Advantage of What’s Offered
How often do you go to your professors’ office hours? How often do you stay after class to ask questions or engage with your professors or peers? How often do you really explore and take advantage of all the options at your disposal that set you up for success? Chances are, the answer is not nearly enough.
Colleges and universities are places in which you’re supposed to have your ideas challenged, engage in lively discussion and, most of all, learn. So why aren’t you taking advantage of all of that? You’re paying tens of thousands (or more) for this experience. Don’t turn what should be a life-changing experience into a home-class-home-sleep-class… never ending routine. Take a turn and make your college experience whatever you want it to me, but by all means take advantage of everything your campus has to offer to further your knowledge.
3. Staying Put
I’ve written about the importance of studying abroad here and the importance of travel and gaining a global perspective all over here. One of the biggest mistakes you can make during your college career is not at least considering making the trek abroad. At the risk of repeating myself, gaining a truer, real-life experience of how other cultures and other people learn, engage and grow can lead to greater personal development on your own behalf.
4. Waiting for it to end
Regardless of whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or beyond, you’ve undoubtedly heard the exclamation “I can’t wait to be done with school,” or “I can’t wait to be in the real world,” countless times. You might hear it so often that you too begin thinking along these lines, essentially closing your eyes and waiting for college to come to an end and the real world to begin. And while the real world may be great or not so great depending on how you approach it, I can tell you that if you’re determined to make the most of college you, you shouldn’t be too eager to get out.
Everyone wants to land a nice full-time job, start making money and begin living their lives. But too often do college students focus so hard on this that they’re blind to what’s going on around them. Focus on studying, getting good grades, getting involved and setting yourself up for success in the future, of course, but don’t lose sight of taking time to really enjoy your time in college.