We’re experiencing an epidemic of “What now?” — 20-somethings who reach the end of their college careers without any idea who they are, what they like, and where to head next. College isn’t just about making it through; college is about making it matter.
So how do you do college right?
How do you increase your chances that all the time and money you’re investing will be paid back in full?
Here are seven ways to make your college experience worth the cost.
- Get Uncomfortable: Too many students treat college like that big college couch — cushiony, comfy, and stationary. But, just like an Olympic athlete training for a marathon, you can’t properly prepare for the race ahead without a willingness to push yourself beyond what feels normal. In college, this means purposefully choosing activities, situations, classes, and opportunities that will stretch you.
- Network Like a Pro: The most valuable thing you’ll leave college with isn’t a degree but your relationships. You’re spending two to four years with like-minded, motivated people who could be your network for life. How far, wide, and deep that network extends depends on how much you water and feed those relationships when you’re sitting together in the same garden trying to grow.
- Intern, Intern, Intern: Too many students bank on that 3-point-something GPA opening up the giant door to their dream job, and then stepping off the graduation stage into the swirling Catch 22 Whirlpool of “expensive degree with no job experience.” Interning is your lifeline out. Whether you’re a freshman or senior, it’s never the wrong time to intern.
- Treat College as a Wilderness, Not a Staircase: One of the biggest issues 20-somethings face upon graduating college is being unable to manage the thousands of options, variables, and ambiguities of life without the structure of school. College should be that wild forest you explored as a kid. You didn’t exactly know where you were going or which direction was correct, but you learned a whole lot about life as you explored the unknown. Learn the tactics of a skilled explorer now so that you don’t get lost later.
- Date, Don’t Hibernate: Date! It’s scary. It’s awkward. But it’s an amazing way to learn about the opposite sex, and maybe more importantly, about yourself. However, if you enter into the tradition of a long-term relationship, don’t become each other’s nightly fallback plan. Don’t restrict and squish the possibilities for new, needed experiences because you feel the need to spend every second together.
- Fail More Than You Succeed: There’s an epidemic of success in college. Seriously! Too many straight A’s and sticking to the syllabus like a fly on flypaper instead of pursuing things where you have a very real possibility for failure. Succeeding too often means your goals are too low.
- Leave College with a Diploma and a “This is Me” List: Knowing who you are and what you’re passionate about is key to stepping into life after college. In college, you’re being shown repeated glimpses into the person you are and what makes you come alive. Begin constructing a “This Is Me” list. That way, when life after college begins to feel like a scavenger hunt, you’ll already have the map.
Whatever part of your college journey you find yourself on, it’s time to engage in a strategic education. Don’t just rent your college education — buy it!
PAUL ANGONE is an author, speaker, humorist, founder of AllGroanUp.com, and author of 101 Secrets for Your Twenties (Moody Publishers). Paul received his Bachelor’s in Communication Studies at Westmont College and his Master’s in Organizational Leadership at Azusa Pacific University. He lives in California with his wife and their two beautiful girls.