Anyone else feel like life before 2020 existed in a completely different universe? I look back on memories from my undergraduate career at UMBC and I think “No, that couldn’t have been me, that feels like someone else’s life. So much is different now.” Now that I’m in graduate school (still at UMBC – go Big Dawgs!!) I can reflect on all the lessons I learned during college. Here are some of the main things I wish I knew in undergrad:
- Use ALL of your school’s free services.
You may not realize it, but your tuition money is paying for career counseling, mental health counseling, gym facilities, tutoring, and a lot more. Depending on your home institution, you may even be able to use their services, too. You’re paying for these services whether you use them or not, so why not put your tuition money to work?
- Get involved both on AND off campus.
I review a lot of student resumes, and they constantly tell me “I haven’t done anything.” Most times we can find experiences to write down, but for some students it seems like all they do is go to class and go home. Don’t be that guy. Find a place to volunteer, join a club, and follow your passions – it makes college more fun, and your resume will write itself!
- Take a lot of pictures.
This one is pretty simple, and a little cheesy. I don’t buy in to the fact that these are “the best years of your life”, ESPECIALLY while we’re still in the throws of this pandemic. But, most of us will only be in college once, and documenting the good times will be a gift to yourself that keeps on giving for the rest of your life whenever you feel nostalgic.
- Take the wildest electives.
You’re already spending so much of your time and energy learning about your degree, so why not learn about something completely different? Some of my favorite classes were subjects like Classical Mythology, Music of the World, and Creative Non-Fiction Writing – and they had nothing to do with my degree. You might have fun, and even discover a new passion!
- Find a mentor, and keep in touch.
Last but most important, I wish I had found myself a mentor. This is someone you trust who is in your desired field and is willing to regularly chat with you and provide guidance. My graduate program matched me with a mentor, and within one semester I had greater clarity in my goals and networking calls with other professionals. Check if your academic department or any organizations in your field have mentor matching programs, and use it. Finally, be sure to keep in touch!