Life Hacks

Reflecting on Undergrad: Advice From A Soon-To-Be College Graduate

How to make the most of your circumstances before Pomp and Circumstance.

When you start college, it feels like graduation is light years away. But four years can go by really fast, especially when you’re cramming your college years with classes, internships and fun activities with friends. There can be a lot of pressure to make the most of your time in college, or “the best four years of your life” (I 100% believe this isn’t true). While my graduation quickly approaches, I’ve been reflecting on my time in college. If you still have college years to go, here’s some advice that can help you make the most of your time before you get your degree.

1. Make time for yourself and things you enjoy.

This one was hard for me to remember and embrace. It’s really easy to get caught up in the competition of college, feeling like you have to be doing activities or studying all the time to stay ahead. There’s not one right way to success in college. You can’t study or work every hour of every day. Take time to spend time with your friends, to call your family or to do activities you genuinely enjoy. Go out for lunch, read for fun or even park yourself on the couch and watch Netflix. Obviously, don’t totally disregard your responsibilities. But by taking breaks you can rejuvenate, so when you are in class or at work you can do your best and not feel burnt out.

2. Get to know your professors.

Professors can be incredible assets and mentors during your time in college and beyond. If there’s a class you really enjoy or a professor you want to keep in touch with after class, make an effort. Go to their office hours and let them know you’re interested in their guidance and keeping in touch after your classes end. One of my professors helped me get an internship, and hired me as her TA after I took her class. Plus, professors can provide great perspective on life after graduation and steps you can take to make the most of your college life. I know multiple people who received post-grad opportunities because of their professors. Don’t overlook what could be amazing, sometimes life-long relationships.

Graduation

3. If there’s room in your schedule, take classes for fun.

Some of my favorite classes in college had nothing to do with my major. For one of my history requirements, I took a class about the history of pirates. I took a class about women in comedy, I even got to write a paper about my favorite comedian Jenny Slate! During my senior year, I took two sign language classes even though I didn’t need a language requirement. Those classes were amazing learning experiences, and made my education feel fun, diverse and rounded out. Go out of your comfort zone to learn something new with your tuition money!

4. Living with your friends is not always the best idea.

This reality can be a tough pill to swallow. Just because you’re good friends, does not mean you make compatible roommates. I’ve seen many friendships completely fall apart from the stress of living together. If you’re considering living with friends, sit down and talk before making any plans. Talk about what matters to you in a living space. Do you like to have dishes done right away so they don’t sit in the sink? Do you care if your friend has a significant other over? It’s important to sit down and discuss major factors like budgets, cleaning habits and pet peeves. No friendship is worth losing over dirty dishes or housing stress, and sometimes it can be best to live separately.

Graduation

5. Take advantage of the opportunities your school has to offer.

Join clubs! New clubs are not just for incoming freshmen, even if you’re a sophomore or a junior, it can be worth it to join clubs or communities. Try volunteering opportunities! I did a lot of volunteering during my time at college, which introduced me to new communities near my school, and I made friends while I was making a difference. Check if your school has opportunities for the summer. I spent three summers working on campus and I received free housing. My school offered a study abroad program and I lived in London for a semester. Use your student discount to see movies, plays or other fun activities while you still have a student ID. Step outside of what you know to embrace all you can while you’re still in undergrad.

Graduation
Trafalgar Square in London, taken during my semester abroad in spring 2017
Graduation is not the end of the world.

While college is a transformative and fun period of your life, it’s not your entire life. Not even close. But the relationships and memories you make in college can last for the rest of your life. Most importantly, you need to take care of yourself. College can be overwhelming and stressful, and it’s important for you to take your time. Your time in college is a time to grow into yourself and learn at your own pace. Enjoy it.

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Also published on Medium.

Mariel Cariker is studying journalism and women's, gender and sexuality...