College is one of the best and most challenging periods of life. I had a great college experience overall but if I had a time machine, and could go back to my college years, I would do some things differently. I would probably do other awesome things with said time machine, but I’ll save that for another post….
Here are my top 5, college-time changes I would make to ensure future success:
- Pushed Myself Out of My Comfort Zone
I entered college with the mindset that I was going shatter my comfort zone. I was always a little reserved in high school. However, looking back, I see that I often took the comfortable route and avoided stretching myself enough. College is often the first time someone is truly on their own and completely runs their own affairs. Take advantage of this freedom and put yourself out there!
- Diversified Learning
I took a few art classes and changed majors between my sophomore and junior years. If I were to go back, I would take a lot more fringe classes that were interesting or taught valuable skills. The art class I took taught me a lot about graphic design, and in today’s job market I think everyone can benefit from graphic skills. I would probably take some business classes as well. I am a scientist by trade, so business acumen wasn’t necessary to get my diploma. I now realize that careers aren’t static. You will change companies and you will change roles within companies. Knowing the fundamentals of business (accounting, economics, stats, etc.) can really add value to your ability to get hired and can really come in handy if you start your own gig or side-hustle. Computers are also huge in today’s market. I wish I had taken some basic coding classes, or perhaps an app development course. If you already have a full course load, then audit one of these classes. That way they don’t count towards your GPA so you can learn the skills and focus on getting
A’s B’s in your major classes.
- Worked More
I did have summer internships every year of college, but if I could go back, I would have put more work hours in during the school year. From personal experience, my grades tended to go up when I worked part time. I think the added work forced me to utilize my time more efficiently and gave me valuable additions to my resume. We list some job ideas here.
- Taken Advantage of Networking Opportunities
I severely underestimated the value of networking in college. I took part in some clubs that were associated with my major, but I should have really tried to reach out (again a comfort zone thing). You may not realize it in college but the more people you know the more opportunities you have. This is true for finding future job opportunities and even just polishing your networking skill. Those who are relatable and can carry on a decent conversation are the ones who get the job. Now that I’ve hired many people, I can easily tell who has experience networking and who doesn’t. Also, networking clubs and experiences look great on a CV or resume.
- Stuck with Community College until I “Found My Path”
Some may disagree with me on this one, but until I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to “be when I grew up,” I should have chunked away at GenEd (General Education) classes at a community college. I remember resenting the idea of community college when I was in high school because I wanted the “real” college experience, and the local community college wasn’t cool. The reality is that community college would have been about 5X cheaper than the university, plus I would have graduated with the exact same degree. Don’t get me wrong, a 4-year college is a great experience. However, it’s not worth 50K in student loans just to have a good time. Another benefit of community college for some is that they can live at home for a year or two and save a ton on housing! This may be untenable for some, but even renting an apartment with some roommates is typically less expensive that dorm living.
If you had a time machine, and could return to college, what changes would you make? Are those of you in college following these recommendations? Share in the comments below!