Change sucks. College is no different. Without help or a sense of direction, the world seems to crash down on you. One day is perfect while the next seems dreadful. Some days you just want to go to your room, close your door, crawl into bed and block out the entire world. We definitely get caught up in the busyness of college. So how do we navigate this huge lifestyle change in college?
Accept the Debt
Choose your direction. Why? This maps out the starting point for a race you’ll be running for the rest of your life. “For those who do not know what they want their focus to be, it is likely very important that they find their focus while they are of college age, but not while they are in college,” said Senior Counsel for Florida Department of Transportation District Six Alicia Gonzalez Esq. We just started our journey. With our new responsibilities, it’s good to keep in mind that you don’t want to complete college with a lot of debt.
Finding a sense of direction in your studies can possibly lessen that burden. “College is extremely expensive. If you do not know your focus, you can end up wasting a lot of time and money and never finding your way or getting stuck in a profession you despise,” said Gonzalez.
Pick Your Major Wisely
We search and search to find a field of study, declare it and then hate it. Then we bounce around from major to major only to end up back at square one. “Write down what [you] like to do and what [you] are good at doing, make a list of professions that use [your] skill sets, pick the profession that most interests [you], and work in that field,” said Gonzalez. You don’t need an exact plan just yet, but start to think about a direction.
Finding a career that suits your interest gives you an advantage once registration time comes rolling in. “Even if it is a lower level position, it will give you 1) contacts in the field and 2) a better understanding of what the profession actually entails,” said Gonzalez. “Then, you can decide what classes to take to hone your skills, so that they are marketable in the real world.”
Learn Skills that Work in Any Field
We sometimes think we need to figure everything out all at once. But you don’t know everything and you don’t need to. “No one has it all figured out! We’re constantly changing as people, and our interests, hobbies and long-term goals change as well. Part of life is learning how to adapt to change,” said University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Academic Advisor Nicole Raymond.
Haven’t figured out your next step? Don’t panic. “College is the time to gain all the skills you need to be successful in the future, regardless of what you plan to pursue,” said Raymond. Just remember, your focus doesn’t dictate your life trajectory Make strides to learn who you are first. Gather essential tools while you still have time and opportunity. Use them both the best way you can.
Make the Dreaded Cold Call
As the old saying goes—closed mouths don’t get fed. Sometimes we need to look up and grab onto the hands surrounding us. “Go speak to anyone who has worked in a field in which your major is common. Again, make a list of professions, make a list of local firms/workplaces where professionals in your field work, and reach out to people directly,” said Gonzalez. “You may get turned down a lot, but someone may be inclined to talk to you and help you. Don’t be afraid to cold call people. You would be surprised how many people will be willing to give you direction and take an interest in you if you just reach out.”
Let your networks work for you. Meet people. Stay in contact. Use your connections. Ask for suggestions and direction on what to do next to further your career path.
Meet Your Future Colleagues
Don’t be afraid to branch out and share your knowledge. Join clubs, organizations and societies that appeal to you. “College students can set themselves up for success by taking full advantage of the college experience. There are so many resources available to college students, and I think students get the most out of their time in college when they utilize those resources,” said Raymond.
Finding other people interested in a similar field nurtures the interest within you. You don’t want to look back and hold any regrets. “I would encourage my college self to get more involved in student organizations,” said Raymond. “I think student organizations are a great way to have new experiences and make new friends, and I wish I got more involved during my time in college.” After all, success should be shared, right?
Cross that Finish Line
It continues on after graduation. “In general, college is very different from the real world,” said Gonzalez. “Eventually, you start to understand what you are good at and how to market it. But, you should never stop reaching for better things and that creates unknowns.” Understanding your skills is key. “Utilize the expertise you gained in your subject area, along with the transferrable skills you’ve acquired through your studies, and incorporate both into your post-graduation pursuits,” said Raymond. You’re not done yet, but if you successfully complete college, then you’re already a champion.