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THREE THINGS FOR A SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE JOURNEY

For me, the fall is my favorite time of the year. I have never been really a fan of the summer. I think primarily it was because I didn’t do a lot during the summer when I was a kid. Even when I was in college, I would basically come home and work, but I did have a lot more fun.

I have always loved school, which is probably why I pursued my goal of being a college professor. I will probably always teach and/or have some connection with a university in some capacity because I find that it keeps me young and invigorated. That will be especially important if Mrs. ROB and I fulfill our goal of becoming parents later on in life.

Anyway, this is also a time when you have students coming to college, trying to find themselves, trying to figure out who they are as a person (much more so than they are now). And at my university we are primarily a commuter campus where most of our students live at home or off campus. Because of this so many of our students (also because they work) don’t stay on campus to take advantage of all of the great things our university offers and other universities offer.

Last week I wrote a post on how I think it is important for students and parents to realize that they don’t have to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I mean at 18 you shouldn’t know that. I don’t know any student that really ever has.

But I also spoke of some things that I think are important for a successful college journey, but also pays dividends in the marketplace. In my humble opinion, there are THREE extra things (and I am sure there are more) that if college students can do this then they will have a better college experience, but also make themselves much more marketable.

The Three Essential Extras for a College Student

The first thing is for students to get involved on campus.

Unfortunately, so many of my students come to class, put in their head phones, go back to their cars and go to work or home. If they would just spend a couple of hours a week on campus there are so many things to get involved with. And initially I don’t care what students get involved with. Create an intramural badminton team, join our Cheese Club, play Dungeons and Dragons or get involved with gaming, student government, whatever. But get involved in something that is organized. Something you can take part of. Something where you might obtain leadership skills and working in groups, managing problems, etc. All of these things, by the way, are the characteristics that employers say they are looking for. Students can enhance their resume by getting involved.

The second thing is internships. 

Paid or unpaid I don’t care. But the dirty little secret nowadays is that just getting your degree doesn’t get you a job anymore. Maybe 30 years ago or even 20 years ago it did, but not anymore. If you don’t have any relevant experience in your chosen field/area of study then you probably should get some through an internship. I know for some that could be hard because you have to balance a job, school, social life, and other things. I would personally sacrifice your personal life for an internship, but most of my students say they can’t get an internship because it is unpaid and/or it interferes with work. If that is the case and it is a legitimate excuse then I say you spend 6 months AFTER you graduate and get an internship in your field. Some places won’t allow you to do that because they require you to do the internship for credit, but most places probably will. If this means you work at night. Then work at night. Internship(s) are essential into guiding you into the workforce for your chosen field.

Third, I suggest you get the hell out of here.

What I mean by that is leaving your state and studying somewhere else. Ideally, I would require ALL college students to study abroad. I think spending a semester and/or year abroad in another country broadens your horizons like no other experience. It isn’t for everybody, but in a global environment understanding other cultures, peoples, languages, and developing an empathy for others around the world is invaluable.

If you can’t do that then maybe you take a short study abroad tour for a couple of weeks. Practically, every university has them. I have taken students to South Africa and Greece and almost to a person they say what a great experience it was for them. For some it even changed their lives and career trajectories. Studies clearly indicate that studying abroad or even at another university in the United States gives students skills that set them apart from normal college students.

If you do those three things, plus graduate in a normal period of time with reducing your student loans then I think you have set yourself up for a great initial future ahead of you.

Of course this doesn’t work for everyone, but I have found that it is a winning formula for so many of my students and so many others who are across the U.S.

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