By Rosa Conrad
As a new academic year begins, I am reminded of my own college journey. Looking back, I wish I was aware of the different resources and opportunities offered to students before I started college. I want to share 10 tips that I learned along the way, hoping that they may offer you some ideas and assistance.
- Read your school catalog. This may seem to be unimportant at first glance, but it will be crucial to your academic progress. The catalog lists classes offered but some classes may not be offered in the semester you wish to take them. Other classes may require a prerequisite class or the class may no longer be offered, you may end up needing to look for alternatives. More importantly, the classes you choose will prepare you for your major and or graduate school. This is not to say that you cannot or won’t change majors at least you’ll have explored your interests and it can help you decide if you should continue focusing on your chosen discipline.
- Get to know your counselor. For the next four years, they will guide you in your academic future. Your counselor can advise you in class choices, academic options and can get an educational plan started for you. Your counselor can also inform you where to find information on financial aid, scholarships, grants, fellowships, and internships, which leads me to my third tip.
- Apply for financial aid, scholarships, grants, and fellowships. There are various options to apply for funding for your academic journey. If you don’t understand your options, ask your counselor or financial aid advisor on campus. Many students do not apply for scholarships, thinking it may be competitive, but the reality is that other like you do not apply for this same reason. So chances are that there is money available to help with college expenses.
- I recommend visiting the writing center, and have someone look at your work and assist with editing. Take advantage of your professors who have offered to read and comment on your work as well. Visit them during their office hours, many of them are really interested in helping you become a successful college student.
- Build relationships with professors. If you decide on pursuing graduate school, you will need reference letters. This is important because professors can’t just write on demand. It will help if they know more about you other than you were in one of their classes among hundreds of students. Go to their office hours, email them questions you have on class assignments, and engage in class discussions. These things will help your professor write a better letter about you as a student and a scholar in the making.
- Do research on money available to attend conferences traveling opportunities, internships, and student employment. Schools have money to help with traveling expenses and opportunities to attend professional conferences. See what work study programs are available, they can range from domestic to international opportunities. School organizations sometimes offer educational experiences with all or partial expenses paid. For example traveling to your state capital to learn about lobbying. Explore your discipline and ask your professors of any opportunities.
- Academic conferences are great to present projects you’ve worked on. Many conferences have sessions for undergraduate students to do poster sessions and for presenting your work. Conferences provide a chance to meet people in your discipline. You will meet other students with shared interests, professors, from other universities, and people who are employed outside of academia.
- Network with the people you meet. You can do this through students, professors, internships, volunteering, and conferencing. You may find that after graduation, you end up applying for graduate school or for employment. Through networking you may hear about a great school to apply at or job opportunities.
- Make sure to keep track of the different conferences, workshops, internships, and other academic events you have attended, this will help build your resume. Include committees you were a part of, as well as any organizations you’ve participated in. Don’t forget to include conferences you were invited to present but couldn’t attend. This demonstrates your work was highly regarded. If need be you can explain the reasons why you were not able to attend the conference.
- Presentations and group projects are an essential part of your college journey. You will be asked to participate and to present often during your four years of college. These will prepare you for life after college or graduate school. Learning how to collaborate with others becomes important in your career and in graduate school.
One last essential piece of advice: visit your academic library. Librarians are a wealth of information and can be helpful with learning how to research effectively and give you tips on how to begin a project. There are often librarians specifically assigned to your discipline. Enjoy your semester and if you need academic tools or help, be sure to look at links on our website for helpful resources!