I was a pretty high strung person during my undergraduate years. And while I’m generally a Type A personality at heart, I can’t help but think that if I had entered freshman year with some extra information, those early college days would have been more enjoyable for me.
After reflecting hard on the experiences I had during undergrad and on the amount of pressure that I put on myself to succeed, here are seven tips that I have come up with. These are the things that nobody tells you about before you enter college, but that you definitely realize once you leave.
Your Major May Change, And That’s Okay
According to research, “only 20% of people 10 years out of college, work in jobs directly related to their majors”. Majors are important for helping you define a focus during undergrad and to help you prepare for certain graduate programs. However, in the long run, they are much more flexible than you may think.
Choose a major that you genuinely enjoy and feel accomplished in, not one that you think is required for the job that you want. The job that you think you want will most likely change throughout your college and post-graduate years, but the experiences and work that you put into your classes will remain; so make sure that they are worthwhile.
Personally, I did not even consider unpaid internships until my senior year of college. By then, it was too late. I neglected to really think about the value and experience that an internship in my field could give me. With Dartmouth’s D-Plan system, you as an undergraduate student are at a serious advantage in regards to time outside of classes.
Especially if you are preparing to go straight into your field after graduation, an internship is a valuable (and sometimes necessary) way to make connections. Internships can also give you a sense of career-readiness and a clear direction for after graduation, both of which would be very important to a hiring company.
Focus on Clubs That Are Meaningful to You
Quality over quantity is a real thing. In terms of both graduate schools and potential employers, the general consensus is that clubs and organizations are great in moderation as long as through them you are showing passion and leadership potential. Clubs are viewed as much less important now than when you were in high school, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t participate in any at all.
It is much more valuable to be the President of one club that relates to your major or what you want to study in graduate school rather than stretching yourself thin in three to four random clubs. It can be hard to find that balance if you are a person with many interests, but keep in mind that clubs should be the icing on the cake, not the whole cake itself.
Mentorship is Invaluable
Something else that I really wish I had considered looking into is mentorship. Especially if you are a minority and/or first-generation college student, finding a mentor can help you in so many different areas. From finding an on-campus job/internship, to advise in class registration, to general mental and emotional support, a mentor can be an invaluable resource.
I had always been under the impression that I had to do everything myself in order to succeed. But at Dartmouth especially, you have so many resources and people specifically available to make sure that you receive the help that you need, every step of the way. And if you don’t know where to start, stop by the Academic Skills Center’s office and we’d be more than happy to chat with you.
Network, Network, Network
Networking really ties into all of the tips that I have already mentioned. It’s important to not become so consumed in your classes and being a student that you forget about how influential your connections can be. Networking can involve anything from making friends on your club’s executive board to utilizing your professor’s office hours to ask them questions about their field.
Making a professional connection during your internship could also open up opportunities for you down the road. Make your connections real and personable, while also remembering the immense value they can have for you.
Imposter Syndrome is Real
Most of us can probably recall the day that we were accepted into Dartmouth. You probably felt completely elevated while also feeling quite a bit shocked. At an ivy league institution such as ours, it can be very easy to feel as though you don’t belong or that you are not good enough to be here. My first few weeks being here, I found myself looking around and wondering if people thought that I was a fraud.
The truth is that a lot of us feel that way sometimes, but the feelings do subside after a while. Remember that we’re all dealing with our own set of battles and that not everyone is on the same playing field. But just remind yourself that you do belong here; you wouldn’t have been accepted if you didn’t.
GPA Matters, But Make Sure to Take Care of Yourself
Obviously, having a strong GPA is important and can open up a lot of doors for you post-graduation. But make sure you concentrate your energy on taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional well-being as well. I mention this idea in a lot of my other blog posts, but it’s worth repeating: you can’t be a strong student if you aren’t looking after your health. Schedule time that’s dedicated to taking care of you, whether that’s exercising, getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, or hanging out with friends you haven’t seen in a while.
- Iyad Uakoub, Seven Things I Wish I Knew as An Undergraduate Student
- Karen Lum, What I Wish I Had Known as a First Year Student
- Diego Contreras, 25 Valuable Things I Wish I Knew In College