Colleges and universities across the country begin classes for a new academic year near the end of every summer. For the millions of first-year students embarking on a new journey, now is a time to heed advice from those who walked in their shoes before them.
A recent viral Twitter thread poses the question, What piece of advice would you give a new freshman college student?
Self-discovery, forging relationships, simply having fun all goes into the college experience. It's such a robust experience that the advice one could bestow on a new student is seemingly endless. Paring it down specifically to career preparation, however, there are some steps to help make college a positive gateway into the working world.
ENROLL IN A WIDE VARIETY OF GENERAL EDUCATION COURSES
Most universities require completion of a series of general education courses before beginning higher-level classes specific to a degree program. The motivation behind this is to encourage a diversified education, but it can be tempting to focus on taking courses with similar topics and formats. Gaining the most well-rounded education possible, and discovering a perhaps unknown career aptitude, can come as a result of stepping out of your comfort zone.
For example, if you take one general education on literature, try balancing that with a computer science. Contrast mathematics with childhood development. There are limitless possibilities; explore as many as possible.
DON'T COMMIT TO A MAJOR IMMEDIATELY
Because schools emphasize a balanced, general education curriculum early on, you're not under immediate obligation to declare a major. Use the general education focus to discover topics and career paths that might interest you, which you otherwise would not have known of coming in as a freshman. Much can change over the course of four years, so you shouldn't box yourself into a specific degree program right away.
PURSUE YOUR PASSION...IN WAYS OTHER THAN A DEGREE
You hear it so often, to the point of redundancy: Pursue your passion.
You know all the cliches. If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. That's great, so long as there's career opportunity in your passion. Lacking career options and struggling after college will leave you with more regret than if you choose to pursue your passion in ways other than a degree.
Consider majoring in a high-growth, high-potential field. The market for STEM majors is always plentiful; less so if you specialize in literature. But that doesn't mean you can't minor in your passion, or even pursue a double-major.
JOIN A CLUB
Groups either directly or indirectly affiliated with universities cater to just about every interest a student could have. This includes clubs and organizations specific to career paths. Joining a club can be one of the most rewarding experiences in college, both in meeting like-minded peers, and gaining skills for the labor market.
An art club can be a great means of building a portfolio if you're an aspiring multimedia professional, for example. Clubs for those interested in wildlife might unlock a career in biology or ecology. Check out the wide array of clubs your college has to offer, and it may be a vital first step into your profession.
GET A JOB!
We all know the stereotype of the broke college kid subsisting off Ramen packets. It doesn't have to be this way! Find a job on or near campus and keep the mini-fridge stocked with moderately priced foods.
Beyond just earning some spending money, though, getting a job freshman year can provide a boost in the classroom. Having a place to go and responsibilities to meet during downtime forces a student to budget time. If you're the type who thrives with a schedule, a job is a multiply beneficial way of having a set timeline to meet each day.
What's more, the kind of lower level, part-time job you hold as a student can provide gateways into a career. Working at a retailer might expose you to some of the more advanced stages of the industry, like the Logisticians who work behind the scenes. If at all possible, finding a part-time job that will allow for further opportunities down the road is a way of adding another layer to the educational process.