Just do it. Seriously.
During my first three years of college, I kind of stagnated. I took classes, but I wasn’t really doing well in them. I wasn’t a part of any extracurricular activities or anything that would look impressive on a resume. And while I knew that I should probably start to be more involved in my college, I never really got around to it.
I’m majoring in chemical engineering.
One of the great things about my college is that it offers an internship program for engineering students. That program gives students relevant job experience and it pays pretty well too. I signed up but employers weren’t too interested in me. My lack of enthusiasm and engagement in my first few years of college really caught up with me. Luckily I got one video interview for a potential internship, but one of my classmates was picked over me. I felt distraught. Imagine my disappointment when most of my friends secured internships, leaving me alone at school for a year. I wouldn’t even be able to graduate with them because their internships would add an extra year to their degrees.
It was when I found out most of my friends had gotten internships that I knew that I had to make a change.
If I wasn’t even able to get an internship, how would I get a job in my field once I graduated? I didn’t want to work to get my degree only to get a job where my degree didn’t matter. I set out to work hard, with the end goal being securing an internship.
The next year, I got much more involved. I had been doing some volunteering as a copy editor for my school newspaper for the previous couple of years and then I joined the board of directors that oversees the newspaper. About halfway through the year, I became the board’s chair. Trying to become as involved as I could, I then became an undergraduate research assistant, working with one of my favorite professor’s postdoctoral students. I signed up to be a member of the student committee that helps my college redesign its first-year engineering program. Within this committee, I decided on a good health and safety program for the first-year engineering program. I enrolled in classes so that I could finish a communication certificate and the petroleum option for my degree. I hoped that all my hard work would be worth something to employers.
Using what I had done and learned in the first few months of my fourth year, I started applying for internships.
The interview requests and the job offers finally started rolling in. The first time I applied for internships, I got one interview and zero offers. This time around, I got eleven interviews and six offers. Employers were really impressed to see what I had done in college and were anxious to take me on as an intern. I got an internship with a company that I love. My internship will last for 16 months and I’ll be raking in the cash—more than enough to pay for my last year of college. Remember the one video interview for an internship I got last year? Ironically, that’s the internship I’ll be working at now.
My hard work paid off in other ways as well. After I’m done with the experiment I’m doing as an undergraduate research assistant, my supervisor and I will be putting together a manuscript to send to an academic journal. When I first started college, there was no way I thought I would be publishing such high–level work. I got a couple of scholarships, and with the better grades I got this year after putting more effort into my classes, more should be on the way. I’ve developed a network of people that can help me to develop my academic and professional career. I even got to travel to Austria for a week to take a course on brewing and distilling. We distilled our own gin and brewed our own beer.
How cool is that? I made some great friends and had the time of my life.
My advice to all college students, whether they be freshmen, seniors or somewhere in between: take any opportunity that you come across. Join that club. Ask out that cutie you keep seeing in your classes. Ask your professors if you can join in their research. Some of your efforts may not pay off, but some of them will. And the stuff that does pay off will bring you success and happiness both during and after college.