my best advice for college students

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It’s so weird to think it’s already been four years since I graduated from college, the same amount of time I was in it. I could’ve done it all over again by now! 😂 Since it’s back-to-school month on the blog, I put together five pieces of advice I’d give to college freshmen or really college students of any year, I suppose, although it’s better to know these things when you begin than halfway through.

By the way, I dug deep in my Instagram feed for the four photos above that were taken on my college campus. It’s so funny looking at those photos, back when feeds were far less curated and were really just snapshots of the things you experienced day-to-day.

So, if you’re heading back to campus this fall, here are my tips:

live in the dorms //
Uncomfortable as it sometimes may be, there’s real value in sharing a small room with a stranger, dealing with a comically low pressure shower, and hearing packs of drunk students in the hallways and courtyards at night. I think it’s character building and a rite of passage that all college students should be required to do for at least two years. Plus, it’s a great way of transitioning from living at home to being totally independent. In the dorm, you’re ‘on your own’ but you don’t have responsibilities like paying bills and making repairs. It’s a really good stepping stone that will make you much more comfortable doing things like that in ‘the real world’ after school.

join a professional organization //
One of the very best things I did in college was join my school’s Enactus team which, because it was one of the top teams in the world, provided a lot of great resources. I started as the FInancial Officer and moved up to project lead and eventually Vice-President before I ended up leaving because my schedule was overloaded (see item four below). But my time on the team provided so much invaluable experience from learning to write grants and lead a team to traveling around the country giving presentations to top business executives. It even hooked me up with my favorite internship. I highly recommend joining groups on campus, particularly ones that are aligned with your professional goals because they’re a great resume builder, network grower, and also just a fun, productive thing to get involved with.

work at internships in different industries //
My goal going into college was to have three different internships, which I managed to do, and think it’s a good number. Each of my internships were in totally different fields. I did admin at the Fire Department (to get public sector experience), assisted the owner of a wedding planning company, and did a big summer internship in Customer Development at Unilever. Doing internships for companies of different sizes in different industries and cities is a really great way to figure out what you do and don’t like about certain work before making decisions as to what career path you want to take after graduation.

leave time for fun //
All this talk of productivity and career development aside, a big piece of advice is to make sure you’re allowing yourself the time to have fun. You can get really busy very easily in school but it’s important to take advantage of your time in college because - and I’m not trying to be depressing - it’s really the last time you’ll be able to be so carefree for awhile. After college, your lifestyle just naturally shifts and you don’t have as much free time or as many opportunities to make new friends. So, do all the things. Go on dates, drink milkshakes at 3:00 in the morning, go to events and games and whatever else comes your way. Those will be the most memorable parts of school, I promise.

make use of all the on-campus resources //
On the practical side of things, make sure you take advantage of all the great perks of being a college student. That means using your meal plan to its fullest, taking advantage of your school’s on-campus medical and mental health centers, and so on. I barely touched my meal plan for my first semester and once I started using it after that, I realized how dumb it was to skip out on. It’s paid for already, so you’re really wasting money by not using it! Also, when else will you be able to just scan a card and pick out whatever food you want or get counseling for free?