For: college freshmen, or any college student who is looking to create success, build resilience, manage college stress and infuse their life with personal leadership development principles.
1). Build a support network.
College is meant to be a shared experience. You don’t have to navigate it alone. As soon as you arrive on campus and get settled in, I encourage you to visit three offices on your campus with a goal to build relationships with their staff:
- The Career Center. Make an appointment to speak with a career advisor and introduce yourself from day one of your college experience. You can initiate a conversation by saying something as simple as, “Hi, I’m a new student at [your university or college] and I’ve heard that visiting the career center is a must on my “make the most of my college experience” list. Can you tell me about the kinds of services you offer to freshmen like me?” Your career advisor/counselor can help you choose a major that’s the best fit for your strengths and passions, and coach you on how to best position yourself inside the careers that sound most exciting to you. Your advisor can also help you alleviate recession-caused doom and gloom fears about job prospects by helping you think bigger than you ever imagined before while creating a practical 4-year action plan with baby steps to help you realize your goals. I still keep in touch with my career advisors from my alma mater eleven years out of college. The career center staff wants to help you. All you have to do is make the first appointment!
- The Office of Alumni Relations. This advice may sound strange considering you’re a brand new college student but did you know that you can network with your school’s graduates from day one of your college experience? You can tap into your school’s online alumni database and find graduates who are doing cool things that you’d like to learn more about. Say you’re exploring majoring in English, Political Science, Communications or Business but you’re not sure where those majors will carry you. Through the alumni database, you can initiate relationships with working professionals who graduated with the majors you’re interested in. Since the graduates chose to be part of the alumni database they have agreed in advance to being contacted by you! You can request informational interviews, and even possibly job shadow alumni to work. Think of the insider knowledge and connections you could gain before you spend tens of thousands of dollars in a major that may not help you position yourself inside the careers that you’re most passionate about.
- The Counseling Center or Wellness Office. According to the latest available figures from the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, stress, sleep difficulties and anxiety are the biggest life issues that American students say affects their studies. The transition into college can be stressful, just as life can be stressful. There is no shame in admitting it or asking for help. In fact it’s a great act in personal leadership development to take care of your health by reaching out to a supportive community. A recent poll of more than 2,200 college students across 40 colleges and universities found that since starting college, over 70 percent of students have not considered talking to a counselor to help them deal with stress or other emotional issues. You have the opportunity to lead by example to break this cycle.
During your first month on campus, I also encourage you to stop by your professors’ offices during their posted office hours to say hello and introduce yourself. Initiate a relationship with your professors because they will be your greatest mentors, allies and advocates while you’re in college if you choose to let them get to know you.
Finally, consider getting a work-study job if you’re eligible, or join one or two extracurricular activities that sound exciting to you. That way you’ll meet your support network in other students whom you share interests with.
All of these things are free part of tuition opportunities that are available at most colleges and universities so go ahead and choose which ones work the best for you! If you’re a freshman the earlier you build your support network the better. If you’re a sophomore, junior, senior, or even a recent college graduate, relax, as it’s never too late to get started!
*Next week we’ll delve into Part 2 of our 5-part September series on how to Create a Successful & Sane College Experience. Sneak Peak: Ever felt the temptation to “do it all” in college in order to build your success portfolio? Want to know if that temptation is hurting or helping you create a successful college experience? Prepare yourself to hear a calming, fresh perspective on a controversial topic. See you next week!
Founder & President, Campus Calm™
Click here to learn more about Maria’s keynote presentations and workshops for college women leaders, college students and young professionals.