College Advice from a Recent Graduate

I stepped foot on Indiana University’s campus in the fall of 2011 a shy, intimidated and wide-eyed 18-year old. I ventured away from my hometown of St. Louis, and I knew exactly two people on campus. My best friend and twin brother were all the way in Colorado.


At times, I felt lonely, lost and unsure. I considered transferring. However, through time, I found my place at Indiana. I made friends, found my passion, went out of my comfort zone and made memories to last a lifetime.
It took time, but eventually I felt at home in Bloomington. Four years later, I can happily say my time spent there was the best four years of my life. Here’s my list of advice to ensure you do the same:

1. Get involved.

I can’t stress this enough. The best way to make a large campus feel smaller is to make friends and discover your passion and join an organization on campus. Whether it be writing, dancing, hiking, acting or sports broadcasting as IDS editor Evan Hoopfer wrote, "you have to find your something." If you find yourself unhappy like Evan and I were early on, join a club. Heck, join multiple clubs. Take a chance, go out and meet people and stick with it. Evan found his place at the IDS. I found mine with sports broadcasting, serving as a tour guide and my fraternity.


2. Take on leadership positions.

In whatever organization you choose to get involved in, make it a choice to make an impact. Don’t just be a member of the group, be a leader. You’ll develop leadership skills and a feeling of accomplishment. Taking on a leadership position serves as an avenue to help others and make a difference in someone’s life. The decision will also reap future benefits, especially in the job search. Employers will hire someone with a 3.5 GPA and multiple leadership positions over someone with a 3.9 GPA and no campus involvement every time.

3. Don’t play it safe, go for your passion.

College is a scary, yet exciting time. It’s a time to try new things, step out of your comfort zone, and most importantly, find your passion. I entered college and originally opted to play it safe: Attend a top-10 business school, major in accounting/finance and graduate with a good degree and high-paying job.
I have several friends that are passionate about those areas of study. Many are now making very good money right out of school working for Fortune 500 companies. However, that path wasn’t for me. Accounting and Finance bored me. It seemed to too professional, uncreative, and only an avenue to a future (and probably good) paycheck. Instead, I changed my major to marketing, a more creative and dynamic discipline of study. I earned a certificate from the journalism school. And…I found sports broadcasting as a passion.
My freshmen year floor-mate and now good friend Adam Cohen introduced me to WIUX, the student radio station. I saw Adam chasing his passion and sophomore year I decided to do the same. I had always been interested in sports broadcasting and marveled at the work of Dan Schulman, Mike Tirico, Joe Buck and others. But could I really turn that into a career? At first it seemed silly. Initially I looked at it as just a hobby. But as time progressed it turned into a passion and a possible career. I then interned for a professional baseball team as the broadcaster and director of Media Relations after my junior year and am now currently working in the same capacity for a professional baseball team in St. Louis. Chase the dream. It can, with hard work, turn into reality.
I hear several of my friends say all the time, “I wish I was going into something I actually enjoyed.” Don’t let that be you. Chase a dream, not money, status, or a job title. I challenge you to be more like Rob Sherrell: he majors in stand-up comedy.

4. Always have a back-up plan.

With all that being said, always have a backup plan. Things don’t always work out as planned, so it is important to have a Plan B. Diversify yourself with another area of study. I earned degrees in both journalism and marketing. Should the whole broadcast thing not work out, I can rely on my business skills I’ve gained to mold into a new career path. A back-up plan gives you another career path option, but also allows you to expand your knowledge and horizons by becoming an expert in another area of study.
Final tip: a second, and different, major or area of study will give you an edge in the job hunt. Earning degrees in marketing, Spanish, and graphic design? That gives you an edge. It differentiates you. Same goes with a journalism major minoring in business.


5. Earn degrees in more than one area of study.

Once again, this expands your knowledge and helps you develop new and alternate perspectives. It also differentiates you from others and gives you an edge.


6. Don’t be afraid to be different.


Be different. Be weird. In my mind, someone telling you that you’re weird is the biggest compliment you can get. It means you’re different. It means you aren’t boring. It means you bring a different flavor to the table. Find something you really love and don’t be afraid to embrace it. That could be an organization, a charity, a class, etc.
It sounds strange, but I almost didn’t become a tour guide because of this. Among my friends, it was seen as weird and different (at least that’s what I thought). Nobody I knew wanted to be a part of the organization with me. Luckily, I stuck with it because I knew it was what I wanted to do. I had a passion for helping others and this positon allowed me to fulfill that.


7. Use common sense to stay safe.


Safety is a very important issue upon college campuses. My biggest advice in regards to staying safe is using common sense. Know and take advantage of all the safety features your school offers. Always let your roommate know where you are, don’t walk around by yourself at night, etc. Using common sense can help you avoid most safety concerns.


8. Get to know your professors.


Getting to know your professors helps ease that transition into the sometimes very large lecture halls that you will encounter early on in your college career. Meeting them will help them get to know you, help you get to know them, and therefore allow you to feel much more comfortable in class. The teachers can also serve as valuable resources whenever you may need a letter of recommendation sometime down the road in order to get that job you want or in my case, study abroad. All teachers are very accessible and want to get to know you and help you. However, you as the student must take initiative to go and get to know them.


9. Consider studying abroad.


With only eight semesters in college, I didn’t see any reason to spend one away from Bloomington. I wasn’t all that interested in learning another culture overseas and just didn’t see the time. My perception of studying abroad started to change throughout the course of my college career and I decided to spend four weeks during the summer to study in Oxford, England.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It changed my outlook on life and opened me up to new adventures and experiences that I never thought I’d have. I met 24 best friends along the way that joined me in immersing myself in the England culture. We saw Shakespeare plays, punted on the river, took trips to local businesses and weekend trips to Dublin, Paris, and more. It opened my eyes up to a whole new world and after initially being hesitant to go, it’s something I recommend to everyone.
Go for a whole semester if you have the chance too. Academic advisors make sure the classes you take go directly toward your degree and there is plenty of financial aid out there for support.


10. Consider going Greek.


Joining the Greek Community was one of the best decisions I ever made at IU. It’s not for everybody, but I recommend everybody go through the process. I truly believe there is a fraternity or sorority out there for everyone. Joining a fraternity gave me a brotherhood. It gave me lifelong friends and memories that will also last a lifetime. I benefited from joining the Greek Community both socially and academically. When making academic decisions, I had several older brothers in the house there to recommend certain teachers, classes, programs, and many other things. They help serve as a network that I can fall back on now and years down the road.


11. Go to class.


Have you ever paid for a movie and not gone? I sure hope not. That’s essentially what you are doing by skipping class. You (or your parents) paid for you to earn a college education. It a privilege that many people simply can’t afford to do. Take advantage of that privilege to learn something new, gain a new perspective and have fun. Yes, class can be fun! Make sure to enroll in classes that interest YOU, not the easiest classes or the ones your friends are taking. Plus, going to class leads to higher grades (yes, it’s true).


12. Sit in the front of lecture halls.


400-person lecture halls exist in college. Does that scare you? Chances are that it very well may. In order to combat that, sit in the first few rows of the lecture hall. This allows you to make your own class of 30 and will help you pay attention. You’ll find out that many of the others behind you will be sleeping, on Facebook…and flunking out! Yep, many won’t be back the next semester.


13. Do something to get involved with the local community.


Volunteer at a local school, check out a play, a festival, or even attend the weekend Farmers Market. There are so many ways to get involved in whichever school you choose. Find something you enjoy and go for it. Make a difference and get to know the place you’ll be calling home the next four years.


14. Once you find your passion, don’t be a dabbler. 


Once you find your passion, my biggest advice is to go all in. Take Sports Broadcasting for example: join the broadcast club, take broadcasting classes, and get to know your broadcast professors. Once you’ve mastered that, become a leader in the broadcast club, start finding broadcast opportunities, network and search for internships. Make sure to start that internship search early! Even after freshmen year…nothing beats experience in the job hunt.


15. Take classes outside of your major.


Remember broadcast student: don’t just take broadcast classes. Take an acting class. Learn about The Beatles or about Rock N’ Roll. Take an Art Class, a class on coaching or even dive into Psychology. It doesn’t matter what classes you take. Make sure to keep learning every day and take classes that interest you! Take that leap of faith.


16. Break out of your comfort zone.


College is the time to experiment, try new things and discover your passion. I’ll use myself in this example. Upon entering college, I was extremely shy and deathly afraid of speaking in front of others. However, I always loved helping people and I was especially interested in helping prospective students make their college decision.
In other words, I wanted to be a tour guide, but as strange as it seems, I was too scared. So what did I do? I took steps to build confidence. I took two public speaking classes. I worked with my professors on speaking techniques. I learned to effectively incorporate humor into my speeches.
What happened next? I became a tour guide and made my tour the best one out there. That involved researching about the University, knowing my stops perfectly and learning where to incorporate humor. Slowly but surely, my tours became better, I became more confident and started to love being a tour guide. All because I took the time to step out of my comfort zone!


17. Make friends with everybody.


One thing I learned in college is that you can never have enough friends. Be nice to everybody and be friends with as many people as possible. Yes, it’s important to build close, meaningful friendships too. But outside of that, make friends with that random kid in your class, or that girl on the bus or someone you meet at the bar. You’ll find the more people you know, the happier you’ll be.


18. Do your research about certain academic areas of study.


Choose your major wisely. Enjoying it is a good start. Outside of that, look at the opportunities available to students and what past students have gone on to do. In terms of academic growth, opportunities and job placement, some academic areas are much better than others.


19. Constantly network.


The saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is and always will be partially true. In other words, the more people you know the better. Constantly attend network events and get to know people in your desired major/career. At the very least, you’ll learn advice and have a possible connection down the road. It’s amazing how willing people are to help out eager, ambitious and likeable students.


20. Complete an internship.


Completing an internship is extremely important. Start this search as soon as possible! While internships are most commonly offered to juniors, some still are available to freshmen and sophomores. Most companies will not hire a student full-time without prior internship experience. Plus, internships help you learn about your desired career path (what you like AND don’t like) and provide an opportunity to put your skills learned in the classroom to real-life!


21. Find a mentor and commit to a plan of action.


“How do you get from where you are to where you want to be? I think you need a dream, a goal, and you have to be willing to work for it?” I think you need all that and a mentor too. A mentor can use his/her past experience to guide you toward a certain dream. It’s someone that can help outline a plan of action and help you complete it. A mentor can be anyone: a professor, a parent, an advisor, or even a friend.


22. Save time for fun.


Getting good grades in college is very important. The better you do in school, the more opportunities there will be. For example, many businesses won’t look at a candidate with a GPA below 3.2.
But outside of that, make sure to have fun too. Dress up for themed parties, tailgate, go on dates and dance all night. You’ll learn more outside the classroom in college than you will learn in it. College allows you to meet people from all over the world. You’ll discover your similarities and differences, all while going to school away from home for (probably) the first time.


23. Participate in class.


Don’t be that kid that hates going to class. Take classes you enjoy and bring energy! You’ll find that participating will help you enjoy the class more. Embrace the learning environment and work on learning something new each day.


24. Develop good study habits.


Stay on top of your studies and develop good study habits. School favors the one that is the most prepared. Start studying for that test five days in advance instead of five hours. Divide the test into sections and tackle one section each day.
For a test over three chapters on Thursday, I had a routine: Chapter 1 on Sunday, Chapter 2 on Monday, Chapter 3 on Tuesday and bring it all together Wednesday night. You’ll find out that making the final day a review day will give a huge boost to your test scores! Is it more work? Yes, but you’ll feel more prepared and it’ll be totally worth it.
Also, always make sure to study in a good environment. I preferred quiet areas with little distraction. Whatever your preference is, make sure to always study in that environment! Finally, always do your homework. You’ll find that homework is usually worth up to 20 percent of your class grade. Simply completing each small assignment goes a long way.


25. Learn to balance academics and a social life. 


Your schedule will soon get hectic. There is always something to do and something going on. Now, the key is learning how to prioritize all these activities and learning how to say no. Between school, extracurricular activities and a strong social life, you must decide which is most important. Believe me, you will have a test on Friday and your friends will be going out Thursday night. You need to learn to say no and make sure academics are your number one priority.


26. Go out on a Tuesday.


…Or a Sunday, Monday, Wednesday or any other uncommon “going out” day. This comes with limits of course, but if you have the time it’ll be well worth it. Whether it be at a bar, a theater, a park, a sporting event, or even your own living room, always find time to go out and spend time with friends. These unexpected nights out usually turn out be the best and ones you won’t forget.
Get a call for a spontaneous mid-week date party? Always say yes. Pacers are in the Finals and you’re offered free tickets? Go for it. Camping on a Tuesday? You betcha.


27. Go to the gym.


A healthy you is a better you. Going to the gym and exercising regularly helps relieve stress and will also help you feel better about yourself. Take advantage of intramural sports and the (mostly) free gym access! Most importantly, it will help you avoid the infamous Freshmen 15.


28. Diversify yourself.


Are you analytic? Develop soft skills. Learn how to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. Learn how to construct an argument and work with a team. In other words, don’t be one-dimensional. The opposite is also true. If you are already a strong communicator, challenge yourself to become more analytic and well-rounded overall.


29. Remember where you came from.


Always take time each day (or at least each week) to stay in touch with those you care about. Call and thank mom and dad every now and then. Keep in contact with hometown friends. Never forget where you came from because that experience shaped who you are today.


30. Apply for scholarships


Help yourself (or your parents) out by applying for scholarships! Many require little to no effort and can go a long way in terms of easing the load on your family financially.


31. Consider doing something before school starts.


Many schools offer programs prior to the start of freshmen year. Look into taking a class or going on an outdoor adventure. Whatever path you choose, these programs will help you become accustomed to the campus quicker and allow you to build friendships before school actually begins.


32. Schedule your classes effectively.


Unlike high school, you’ll be able to schedule your own classes in college. Take the time to do research and map out your schedule effectively. Pick classes in buildings nearby and close to each other. Avoid awkward gaps between classes. I’d also suggest avoiding 8 a.m. classes if you aren’t a morning person.


33. Have a positive attitude.


This can relate to everything you’ll face in college and life in general. Stay positive and upbeat! Everything will always work out if you maintain a positive outlook.


34. Create a resume and get career advice.


Always live in the “now” but also start to think about the future. The earlier the better and it all starts with creating a resume. Seek advice on creating that resume and seek out help on landing your dream job.


35. Keep your door open.


This relates to the dorms freshmen year. Keep your door open and be nice to everyone! Sure, you won’t be best friends with everyone you meet, but at the very least, be friendly with everyone and don’t close yourself out to those around you.


36. Drink responsibly.


Drink…or don’t drink. It doesn’t matter. No one will judge you either way. However, if you choose to drink, do so responsibly. Learn your limits and how much you can take without doing things you’ll regret. Drinking too much can lead to several negative side effects, both on your body and with personal relationships.


37. Spend time outside.


Learn the campus you’ll be spending the next four years at both inside and out. Go hiking, biking, camping, check out the local lakes and quarries, etc. Spending time outside is always good for the soul.
38. Take fun weekend trips every once in awhile.
Channel your inner adventurous spirit and find time to get away for a weekend. Find some friends and go explore another college town, big city or anywhere else you can think of! It’ll be worth it and a ton of fun too.


39. Ask for help.


College is full of new experiences. You’ll encounter difficult along the way, so it’s important to utilize all the resources the university has to offer and to always ask for help. This can relate to difficulty with school work, illness, class scheduling, picking a major, choosing a club to join…anything! Remember that people are always there to help you through tough times, you just need to ask!


40. If you're homesick, give it time. 


It’s okay and very normal to miss home during your first few months at school. Things are new and different and that can be scary. If this happens to you, remember to give it some time. Friendships and bonds take a while to form and school may not seem like “home” until a semester or two has passed. Have the courage to accept that times are changing, things are different and that it may take time until you feel completely comfortable in your new environment. You may find that some of your high school friends will make friends at their school quicker than you. Don’t let their supposed happiness and success bother you. Focus on you own happiness and things will work out.


41. Remember that you’re not in high school anymore.


When you enter college, nobody cares how cool, uncool, or popular you were in high school. It’s a fresh start. So leave everything from high school in the past. You’ll be better off for it.


42. It’s never too late to make a change.


It’s okay if you don’t know exactly want to do with your life. If you don’t know that, just find a direction. Find your intended direction isn’t working out? That’s fine too. Always remember that it is never too late to change your major or career course. College will open your eyes to many new experiences and you’ll discover a passion for something you didn’t know you had. Whenever you find that passion, go for it.


43. Spend a summer on campus.


The town of Bloomington shrinks in half during the summer when all the students leave. Things are quieter, more peaceful, and absolutely beautiful. Spending the summer is a unique and wonderful experience because it makes you feel like the campus is yours. You’ll get the luxury of attending classes during days of perfect sunshine and explore parts of campus and the city when things aren’t loud and overcrowded with students.
44. Attend as many sporting events as you can
I’m probably showing bias here, but sporting events are just another way to get involved in the community and on campus. Oh yeah, and they’re fun too!


45. Volunteer.


Always find time to give back! You as a college student are extremely fortunate and it’s important to remember that and help out those in less fortunate positions. Volunteering is fun and can be done in a variety of ways. Always look for ways to


46. Spring break. 


Make the most of spring break. Spend the time giving back, catching up with hometown family and friends or going on an adventure with newfound college friends. Travel somewhere and make memories to last a lifetime.

Final College Tip


Have fun! Meet new people, try new things, and above all else, enjoy the experience! The next four years will turn into the best of your life if you focus on doing so. You’ll learn more about yourself than you ever thought you would and have the time of your life! I’m jealous and excited for all the wonderful possibilities your future holds.

Kevin

Want to ask Kevin a question? Contact him at kevin.schaefer07@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at kevin_schaefer7. He’s always available to help!
 

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