Too many college seniors know the panic of reaching your final year and realizing you've not done a lot of things you should have earlier in your college career. Whether it be a need to bolster a resume or graduate school application To avoid getting to your final couple of semesters and scrambling to play catch up, here are five things you should do during your freshman year of college to set you up for success.
1. Find a way to get involved.
I know, everyone says this, and you're probably sick of hearing the same old admonishment to find a club to join. However, finding somewhere to plug in is important for several reasons. It hopefully gives you an opportunity to do something you enjoy, you can connect with people who have the same interests or mindset, it boosts your social skills and provides opportunities for networking, and it will almost always look good on a resume. Whether it be a club in your major, a community service club, a campus ministry, Greek life, intramural sports, student government, or something else entirely, find a group you're interested in and join right away.
2. Think about which classes you need to take and when.
Most classes aren't offered every semester. Some are only offered in the fall or spring, and some only come around every two years. Talk to your advisor, professors, or upperclassmen about classes that you might be interested in and when they're typically offered so that you can make a rough plan. That way, you can help avoid getting to your senior year and finding out a class you were hoping to take isn't offered.
3. Begin making plans for after you graduate.
Look into what kinds of jobs graduates with your major typically have. Some majors are obvious, like engineering, but others, like English, have graduates who go into a wide range of occupations. Look into what jobs are out there and think about what you would be interested in pursuing. Find opportunities to get involved that will look good to future employers and improve skills you might need for that career. Also, consider whether or not you're interested in graduate school. Research schools you'd be interested in attending and the types of things they look for in or expect from applicants. The sooner you start informing yourself about these things, the sooner you can work toward completing them so that you're not scrambling at the last minute when it could be too late.
4. Get to know your classmates.
During your freshman year, you take a lot of general education courses with all different majors. Some people in these classes may have the same major as you, though. Start forming friendships (or at least friendly conversations) with these people because you will likely have classes with them in the future, especially if your major is relatively small. Getting to know the people in your classes is a great way not just to make good friends, but also to have good options for group projects or someone to send you notes if you happen to miss class.
5. Form relationships with professors.
This one is far more important and far easier than many students realize. It wasn't until last semester (my Junior year) that I was actually able to look at professors as real people and not just robots programmed to throw assignments and information at students. True, some professors are a little quirky, but aren't we all? Don't get awkward and look down at your feet as you shuffle past them if you see them in the hallway (you look ridiculous, I promise); look them in the eye, smile, and say hello or good morning. When you turn in your midterm, tell them to have a good break. Give them something to show them that you're not socially inept, and even if you don't have the highest average in the class, they will like you much more. Some put on a persona so students will see them a certain way; don't be intimidated, still, find a way to interact with them. If they are particularly willing to help and encourage you to visit during their office hours, take them up on it. These professors are usually there because they really enjoy teaching and helping students. Besides just making your classes more enjoyable, forming relationships or just polite conversations with professors will make them much more likely to write you a good recommendation letter if and when the time comes that you need it.