High school students across the country are gearing up for one of the most exciting, important and, for some, scary, days of their lives: graduation day.
A high school graduation is a celebration of each student and the incredible friendships, the long hours of hard work, the overwhelming successes and the trying moments experienced over the past four years. But, it is also a rite-of-passage for each young adult, a passage into their next chapter in life. For some, this is the workforce or the armed forces, and for many, college.
As cliché as it sounds, college really can be the best four years of your life… as long as you are prepared. In chapter four of Ingredients of Outliers, author John Shufeldt talks about the importance of preparation in every aspect of life.
Here are seven tips for success in college:
1. Live on campus your freshman year.
I know you have heard this before, but listen up. Your social interactions with other students and involvement in campus activities and organizations become integral in your college career. Immersing yourself in the melting pot that is your school is invaluable. Students from all walks of life, cultures, social classes and religions coexist together in one place, allowing you to learn from them. Students can pursue their interests while meeting new people in organizations and activities like Global Brigades, Habitat for Humanity, fraternities, sororities and intramural sports. By living on campus, or at least in close proximity, you have the best opportunity to get involved. If living off-campus is a must for you, make sure you don’t miss out on some of the above activities.
2. Budget and save your money.
This sounds like something your parents would say, but the truth is, most young adults aren’t used to saving money to buy toilet paper, toothpaste, food and cleaning supplies. Previous priority lists may have included Starbucks between classes, iTunes purchases or shopping sprees. Bottom line: All of these little (or big) expenses add up, don’t go without deodorant because you stopped to get froyo with a friend. What works:
Use an app, such as SpendingLite or Mint, to track and categorize your spending. When you link Mint to your accounts, it automatically tracks spending for you. Realizing where your money is going and how much you’re spending really makes a difference.
Use online coupons to save on groceries, such as Safeway’s “Just for U” and Fry’s digital coupons.
Finally, rent your textbooks if you can, or purchase used books online at least one month before classes. Most textbooks, especially for general education courses, are available for rent on websites such as Chegg, Amazon, Textbook Rentals and more. You can save up to 50% off, or even more, by renting your textbooks instead of buying them.
3. Use the to-do list, reminder and calendar functions on your phone.
Whether it’s the app or calendar on your phone or laptop, nothing is more valuable than to-do lists and reminders for efficient time-management. College is just one large balancing act after another. Five to six classes, an internship, a job and a personal life can be difficult to juggle. Use a to-do list to keep track of homework and internship assignments. Use alarms or your calendar to remind yourself of events and important dates. The most high-achieving people live by these practices! A great resource on the subject: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.
4. Take advantage of campus educational resources.
Most college campuses contain a plethora of resources to help students succeed in their journey to higher education.You may just have tutors, office hours and review sessions available at your disposal. Unfortunately, many students allow their grades to flounder without taking advantage of these opportunities. Sometimes, the hardest thing for a young adult to learn is how to ask for help. There is no better time to master this skill than in college.
5. Look up your professors prior to registering for a class.
Did you know that there is a website where real students can rate their professors — RateMyProfessors.com? Students can rate their professors on their overall quality, helpfulness, clarity and more. They can also leave notes about each class that the professor teaches. Not every review on the internet is fair, however, a site like this can provide greater insight into your prospective professor’s teaching style or course-load tendencies, so you know how to best balance your classes during registration.
6. Intern, intern, intern.
Knowledge gained from lectures or assignments is invaluable, but applying that knowledge in a real-world situation brings theory into practice. Internships allow you a peek into your future and can help many determine the right career path to pursue. Contrary to how interns are depicted in movies and television shows, internships aren’t all coffee runs and errands. At the right organization, interns have the opportunity to network with valuable players in their chosen industry, shadow professionals in their field and see what they could be doing post-graduation. If you do get stuck as an errand-runner, coffee-brewer, or something else you didn’t sign up for, thankfully the job is temporary and you may even learn how to screen opportunities better or negotiate for more optimal terms in the future.
7. Do not slack off your freshman year.
Leaving your parents’ rules and roof, and doing whatever your heart desires seems overwhelmingly appealing. The benefits of this are total independence, but if you’re not careful, this can include skipping classes, missing assignments and failing to study for tests. Making up for your freshman year grades in the next three years is not as easy as it sounds. So if you’re going to have fun, why not schedule it wisely, so you can walk across that stage in four years to grab that diploma you worked hard for.
There are a million and one ways to prepare and make your college experience a success. Whatever you do, take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn and challenge yourselves.
Welcome to the next chapter in your lives, young outliers! It’s going to be a great one.