Upon my arrival at my college campus four years ago, I was not thinking about writing the perfect resumes and cover letters. I was wide-eyed and excited to start my learning experience in an entirely new environment, surrounded by many new potential friends and possibilities. That’s the first thing I would like to emphasize.
As college students, we are all pursuing higher education so that we can find a career or our respective place in the world, but college is not just about the academic opportunities. It is also a place to foster new relationships and learn more about the person you want to become.
Losing sight of this can often lead to too much stress, so it is important to take a step back and remember that as students we are all on a journey of growth and becoming.
Looking back, this is something that I wish I had known as a freshman. Now, as a senior, feeling reminiscent of the times when I was not threatened by a looming graduation date, my hindsight is 20/20. Here are five tips I wish I had known back then:
Although it sounds cheesy, good things DO take time...be patient!
My personal journey consisted of both academic and personal broadening. Ever since I was a child I knew I wanted to write. I loved reading books as a young girl, and as I grew older that hobby turned into a passion.
Writing is a nuanced and unique form of expression, so I decided I wanted to inspire others the way that authors’ pieces inspired me. This is just something that seems like it almost was ingrained into my personality. As I grew older, other subjects interested me, but nothing lit that fire inside me the way words on a page did. So naturally, I enrolled in college as an English major. My university, UC Santa Barbara, is situated on the coast of Southern California. The beautiful scenery right in my backyard ignited a curiosity within me, and in my sophomore year of college I enrolled in my second major: environmental studies.
In telling this story, I wanted to emphasize the fact that not every person has to have things figured out right away. I thought I knew all my life what I wanted to do, until I learned that there was even more out there to discover.
I utilized the tools around me and learned that my interests were not limited to one subject. Most students may not even know what they want to do before they arrive at college…and that’s completely okay.
Comparison is only detrimental to yourself
The current world we live in is so comparison-driven that I found myself discouraged at times, thinking, “Why am I not doing that? How did they get that internship?”, but these are exactly the types of ideologies that distracted me from pursuing my own personal achievements.
If I had spent more time focusing on myself, and not on others and their pursuits, I may have discovered my career path even sooner.
Although it can be difficult to avoid comparison in a college setting, putting your time and energy towards your own endeavors will pay off much more than spending time on the pursuits of others.
Have fun! One bad grade does not determine your worth as a student
When I was a junior, I spent six months studying environmental science in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was a big decision for me because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave my beloved college campus for half a year! But I finally decided that it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I could not pass it up. That is my first bit of advice when it comes to this topic: accept all of the opportunities that come your way.
During my time abroad, I had so many life-changing experiences and I also learned so many new things about other cultures and ways of living. My semester in Copenhagen ended with 3 oral tests. The classes I took were graded based only upon my grade on those final oral exams. I passed two exams with flying colors, but in my last exam I blanked and ended up with a grade that was not up to par for me. I was upset for weeks, and so confused why my parents kept telling me that it was not a big deal!
A year and a half later, I was able to bring my GPA back to where it was prior to studying abroad; my parents were right. I do not regret a single thing I did in my time there because the experiences I gained are invaluable.
Make sure to work hard academically, but try to balance your time doing enriching leisure activities as well so that you do not push yourself too hard.
When it comes to jobs/internships, a no only opens the door to another yes
That same year, after arriving back in the states and coming back to UCSB’s campus, it was go-time for me to find an internship. I would like to preface this by saying there is no right or wrong time to find an internship or volunteer experience. I wanted to pursue some career experience my junior year, but I know some people who didn’t participate in an internship until after they graduated. Everyone has their own personal timelines, and that should not dictate yours (remember, “Comparison is only detrimental to yourself!”).
Upon beginning my internship search, I was quickly discouraged when I began to receive “No’s”. Every time I opened an email that began with the words, “We appreciate your interest in our company, but…”, my heart sank. Until one day, I received a “Yes” from one of my dream companies.
I like to think that all of the other denials only opened the door for me to participate in an even better opportunity. As I am now applying to full-time jobs post-graduation, I am leaning into this mindset even more – having faith that things will fall into place.
Keeping this optimistic mindset throughout internship, and eventually full-time job applications, is imperative. Try to remember that there are a multitude of opportunities available and eventually, with some determination, you will end up where you belong.
Take time to develop yourself outside of class
This year, as I am hunting for a career before I graduate, I am beginning to feel just like I did when I first arrived at UCSB. To be quite candid, that feeling is a bit overwhelming.
It’s easy to get swept away in all of the stress of applications and interviews and forget that my time as a college student is dwindling. In order to center myself, I started blocking out some time in my schedule to do yoga or to read.
For others, what centers them may be completely different. But whatever your preferred methods are, make sure to take that time for yourself.
Our time in college is such a transformative period of our lives, and one that we should cherish. If I had known to take some time to decompress before coming to university, I would have saved myself some tears, lots of stress, and instead focused on the great things to come.
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Looking back on my college experience, I feel that I made the most of it, but I can also acknowledge that it was not always easy. Keeping myself centered, focusing on my own path instead of others’, and spending some more time relaxing are definitely some practices I wish I had adopted sooner. Having a strong support system, whether it may be friends or family, also really assisted me in keeping my head on straight and staying positive when I faced any obstacles. Campus resources, such as the Career Center, really impacted my job and internship searches in a meaningful way as well.
Make sure to lean on those around you for encouragement and to use all of the tools available to you – they will come in handy! Most importantly, my last bit of advice is to stay true to yourself in all of your decisions as an undergraduate and to try not take any of it for granted; although it sounds sad, four years in college goes by faster than you think, so take all of it in while you can!