8 Steps to Make the Most of College

1. Make Connections 
Seek opportunities outside of class such as internships, summer experiences, and research projects with faculty where you can learn about the real world. Visit the career center early in freshman year, meet with your advisor regularly and talk with professors about your areas of interest — both academic and career.

2. Be a Joiner. 
Join an activity that interests you in depth. If the first doesn’t click, try another. Consider trying something completely new. There is a significant correlation between participation in an extracurricular activity or two (for as much as 20 hours per week depending on how well you manage time) and overall satisfaction with college.

3. Explore New Academic Areas and Avoid the “Let’s get the requirements out of the way” Syndrome.
If you focus on requirements freshman year you will spend most of the year in large lectures and will be much less likely to seriously engage with a professor in your first year. Take a course in a subject area that is completely new to you. If you are interested in psychology, then try an anthropology course. If science is your thing, explore new fields such as neuroscience. Challenge yourself even if you think you know what your intended major will be.

4. Learn to Manage Your Time
Work a little bit on every subject everyday. To get the most out of your education, you should complete the reading for every class before you arrive. There is a dramatic increase in the amount of independent work that will be expected of you. You also need to allot a longer period of time for significant engagement with a particular subject.  If time management is not your strength, get support from the academic resource centers on campus or in the community.

5. Seek Help When You Need It and Do Not Delay
It might be time management or it might be that you are not equipped with the study skills to meet the demands of college-level critical thinking. You will not be asked to report back facts, but rather to analyze and evaluate ideas from multiple sources, provide your own views, and extend what you learned to new situations that may not have been covered in class. Writing Centers on campus are a great resource — so use them!

6. Seek or Form Study Groups 
Students are more likely to engage with the course material if they first read and study independently, but then meet with a group of peers to discuss, study and review ideas. If the course doesn’t require group work, form a group with classmates — even if you grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria right after class.

7. Learn to manage money

  • Fastweb – Under the resources section, there are articles about managing money, how to choose a credit card, and responsible usage of credit cards. You must create an account to access (it is free).
  • www.pueblo.gsa.gov – This site offers consumer articles on money management and credit cards
  • The Northwest Education Loan Association – This has a great series of articles on their website about managing credit cards.

8.   Take Care of Your Health
Abuse of substances, sexual assaults and not managing stress are common problems on college campuses. Seek help from campus counselors, your resident assistant in your dorm and other resources on campus, and encourage your friends to seek help if they begin to make poor choices. Don’t hesitate to call your parents or other close family members if you need help, feel homesick or just need a familiar and empathetic voice.

Sources:
Making the Most of College: Students Speak their Minds by Richard J. Light, Harvard University Press, 2001.

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