Everyone has some perceived notions about what their first year of college will be like. Realistically however no two college experiences are exactly alike. The stories from your friends and family may provide you with a general idea of what to expect as a college freshman but most of it you have to figure out for yourself. No matter what type of first year you have there are a few things I would have liked to know as I look back at my time as a freshman.
1. Start building your resume on day one: Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point this past year I began applying for jobs. I stuck around the local area like many of the other graduates. As I wrote, edited, rewrote, and vamped up my resume I started to wonder what would make me stand out from the other students. Tragically the answer was ‘not much at all’. I didn’t participate in any groups in college. While I did well in my classes and graduated with honors I realized that wasn’t all that unique. That one number, my grade point average, was my only hope at a future career.
In your final year of college at least one professor will ask you to create a resume. They believe this is how they can finally prepare you for the job market. As you write down all your achievements throughout your college years you get a sense of accomplishment and confidence. The most common question in my class as we did this was, “what if I can’t get it all to fit on one page?” The question I was wondering but did not ask was,” how on earth can I stretch my work history and education background to fit a full page”?
I got a job three days before graduation and couldn’t be more thrilled. It isn’t my dream job but it’s a good job. It’s a necessary stepping stone for my resume as I learn new skills. Perhaps had I participated in clubs and organizations that gave me a unique skill set and a long list of interesting activities I may have been able to land my dream job with my first try. It’s difficult to join an established club your third or fourth year in college and get the most out of the experience. If I could do it all over again I’d join at least three clubs on the very first day. That may be what the ‘nerdy’ students do but they’ll be CEO one day while others bring them coffee.
2. Get a job on campus: Many colleges have programs designed where you can work for the school. In Stevens Point this was called work study. These jobs were amazing because while they provided you with job security and a steady income they also were built so you could spend time doing school work. It’s almost like getting paid to study with a few necessary tasks built in.
I worked as an assistance manager at the school’s library for a year. Twenty hours a week, not bad hourly pay, and not taxed. I spent about twenty minutes opening the building, twenty minutes closing it up, and sometimes had to check books in. Other than that I’d bring my entire backpack full of books and notebooks and finish my homework.
The next year I worked at a marketing center on Fridays for eight hours. I worked alone and had maybe one customer come in during my eight hour shift. For the rest of that time I simply did my homework. During this time my senior year I created and distributed my resume. This is how I got my first post-graduate job.
It is a great idea to take advantage of the work study programs at any university. The jobs will provide you with work history for your resume as well as help you succeed in your classes. This tip couldn’t be any more of a win-win situation.
3. Attend study groups: This may not sound like anyone’s idea of a good time. Spending Wednesday night with a group of students and your professor for no additional credit at all. The benefit to doing this is you get to hear the professor’s insight to the material.
Succeeding in a college course isn’t just about reading the book and taking good notes. It’s about understanding the specific instructions of a professor and applying them correctly during an exam. Have you ever answered all the questions on exam nearly word for word what you studied in the book and you didn’t receive full credit? The professor wants you to get the same valuable information from the material as they did.
I took a philosophy class my freshman year and I had heard from older students that most do not do well in the course. This concerned me as I strived to get very good grades. Philosophy is mainly relative and means different things to different people so how can any answer be wrong? Initially signing up for the course I thought it would be a few papers about writing “how I feel” about the material and using a lot of “well this is what I got from the book”. Unfortunately I wrong, but fortunately I went out on a limb and joined the professor’s weekly study groups.
The group met on a Monday which was one of the less exciting days on campus so I decided I didn’t have many better things to do. It also offered a one credit pass/fail option which was incentive as well. The class was just ten other students and I with the professor as he explained the material in depth and provided us with his thoughts. Not only did I enjoy the class much more because I actually understood what Pascal’s Wager was but I also answered the test questions with precisely what we discussed in the study group and I got an easy A. The study group ended up taking place of my actual studying for the course. Prior to beginning it I would spend over an hour with a short story and not understand what I supposed to be learning from it. In the group the point of the story became much clearer as we went through it together.
Basically, you get out what you put into your college education. I put in enough effort into the course work but seemed to have missed the point of the college experience. I made few friends and mostly kept to myself and I had the GPA to prove it. Unfortunately I didn’t realize until my final semester of college all the other things I should have done.