When a college information session mentions the number of students who return for a second year, they are giving insight into the quality of the programs designed to integrate young students into the fabric of college life. Most do a good job.
First Year Experience Programs that create groups of students with similar interests or into a First Year Seminar in which all participants student the same thing or read the same book make it possible for new students to have an immediate group of acquaintances to walk with, talk to and meet for dinner or coffee.
The National Career Development Association polled students to formulate this list of activities that helped them stay the course to graduation.
6 College Experiences that College Grads Say Helped Them Be Successful NCDA
- I had at least one professor at [college] who made me excited about learning.2.2. 2. My professor(s) at [college] cared about me as a person.
3. I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.
4. I worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete.
5. I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom.
6. I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations while I attended [college].
Point 1, having professors who create excitement about learning or who fuel your curiosity puts the onus on the professor to bring the subject to life. You will meet professors who know a lot but aren’t inspiring teachers and you will meet professors who can make a brick wall interesting. Don’t write off the boring subjects or boring teachers: learn what you can because somewhere, some time, you will be able to use that knowledge.
Notice that Points 2-6 all rely on the student to take initiative.
#2 For your professors to care about you they must know you. Get over your intimidation and drop by office hours for a chat. See them as people who happen to know more about a given topic than you do. Pick their brain, ask questions, show interest.
#3 To find a mentor you have to know people and when you find the right one you must ask. Mentors don’t pop up out of nowhere: you have to look for and make connections with lots of people. Put yourself out there!
#4 Projects that are interdisciplinary or are carried out over an extended period mirror work experiences. Assisting a professor’s research or writing is a great way to get yourself known in your field. Many undergrads are published before commencement.
#5 Internships are like jobs. You will need a resume and an interview. Students who expect the college or a professor to hook them up with an internship have missed the point. Gaining experience requires that you know what you are good at as well as what you need to learn. Guess what? You will use those skills every time you look for a new job. Internships create experience and networks that lead to your first post-grad job. Use this opportunity to have as many internships or co-op experiences as possible.
#6 Joining organizations early in your first year is a great way to meet people and explore ideas or events that you might consider in your job search. Students who spend their time with high school friends on FB or Instagram tend to be lonely and unhappy. Choose a time once a week to check in with your old group but spend the bulk of your socializing hours getting to know the people in your new world. Those with the most connections tend to be the happiest and most successful. You may make life-long friends in the organizations you join.
To sum up, colleges have a responsibility to provide relevant knowledge and to make it available to students. Students have the responsibility to build relationships with faculty and other students. You aren’t in high school any longer; only you can make these years productive and fulfilling.
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