College years are times of discovery, and of transition. You undergo change from being a school kid free of worries, to become a responsible adult.
You learn to juggle your own studies (and for some, even part-time jobs) without parents’ control or teacher’s strict supervision. And for the majority who do not live on a trust fund, to learn to manage your own budget as well.
At the same time, you also learn more about yourself – your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.
The more adventurous amongst your peers may go backpacking; the studious may score perfect grades; the athletic may participate in national or international tournaments; whilst the romantic-at-heart may find their potential life companion.
In this hodgepodge of expectations and endless possibilities, how should you spend your college years?
Well, here are five tips from someone who had once walked the path that you are on right now. These by no means should be held as absolute truth, but merely what I feel strongly looking back at my college years, along with the benefit of hindsight thrown in.
Tip #1: Get good grades
Getting good grades opens doors of opportunity for you. Many employers will screen fresh graduates by their academic grades first before deciding whether to interview them. Hence, to get a chance at landing your dream job, you ideally would need to have decent grades.
Why are grades important to employers? It is because potential employers do not yet know you well enough, and as such grades become an indicator of your ability to work hard, your discipline and your determination.
Although there are stories of people becoming successful despite failing or skipping college, those stories are really the exception rather than the rule. There is also an inherent problem of survivor and selection bias in those stories you hear about. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook despite dropping out of college, but what about the many dropouts who didn’t make the news?
Put in the effort to get good grades, and while you are at it, do not just memorise and regurgitate the answers during exams, but also to appreciate and apply what you learn.
Tip #2: Make new friends
College makes for a great time in building friendships. Friendships made during college may well turn out to be lifelong friends.
Having good friends not only helps you in your studies, but it also makes your college journey more interesting and enjoyable. A caveat here is to choose your friends wisely, as you would want to avoid those who could influence you negatively.
The best way to make friends during college is to be friendly and participate in class and college activities. There is never a short supply of college clubs and societies that you can participate.
Tip #3: Explore different experiences
College years are a great time to explore and find out what you like or dislike. Step out of your comfort zone every now and then to try out new things – be it a new hobby, picking up a foreign language, or even volunteering for community work.
As long as you do not neglect time for your studies (see Tip #1), you should try out as many new experiences as you can while in college. This will broaden your horizon, help you pick up new skills, and also make new friends along the way.
During college, you have little commitments in terms of family or mortgage, so do participate as much as you can. Remember, time and tide wait for no men, and some of these experiences may be out of reach once age sets in.
What are you waiting for? Go ahead and explore what your youth and life have to offer.
Tip #4: Learn financial literacy
College is also the time where you build up your spending habits. Whether or not you learn to spend within your means, or go into debt, chances are those habits were formed during your young adulthood and college years. Although retirement may seem like forever while you are still in college, it is never too early to start putting aside money for rainy days.
Learn to spend within your means. This can be accomplished by planning your budget accordingly. Also, learn to distinguish between needs and wants.
More importantly, is it worthwhile to go into debt to acquire those ‘wants’? These are important questions to ask yourself whenever you are tempted to splurge on material things. Learn to spend wisely and this habit will serve you well for years to come.
Tip #5: Pay it forward
The fact that you are in college means that you are already in a very fortunate position, because there are many others who do not have the opportunity to attend college.
Thus, return the favour to the world by helping others to succeed with you along the way. This can be through simple acts such as helping your classmates in their studies, or volunteering as a tutor in refugee shelters.
The world needs more kind souls. Besides, helping others also brings much joy to yourself. So, go out there and help others in any way that you can. Your kindness will make this world a better place.
Enjoy your college years as you only get to experience it once. Decide to make the most out of it. Bon voyage!