About a month ago I graduated from Purdue University, my home for the last 4 years. It feels like just yesterday I was packing up my bedroom and moving 140 miles away from my family. Leaving the life I knew in a small suburb of Chicago was scary, exciting, and a plethora of other emotions. My parents moved me into a dorm, to share this tiny space with a stranger. Yikes! I cried as I said goodbye to my family (and my dogs), a bit nervous to embark on my new journey. But I swiftly swept these tears away as I begun my orientation program and started making Purdue my home.
Now, fast forward 4 years and I’m a Purdue graduate. I maintained an A average at one of the toughest engineering university’s in the country. I earned a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering, landed my first job, and moved back home to that small suburb of Chicago. In the blink of an eye, it was all over.
I cried again on the day I graduated (yes, I cry a lot). This time, I cried for different reasons than when I left in August of 2015. These tears were a combination of emotions I felt knowing I was leaving Purdue. I felt proud to have succeeded at the 3rd best Industrial Engineering university in the Nation. I was feeling blessed to have had the opportunity to attend such a prestigious school. Both of these things in combination with the memories, friendships, and the home I established finally, left me feeling sad. I knew I’d miss Purdue and the people it brought into my life.
How did Purdue end up having such a large, positive impact on my life?
As I reminisced over the past 4 years, I realized there were key actions I took (without knowing it) that lead me to enjoy my experience as much as I did. There were things I did that anybody can do to make the most of their 4 years. Like anything, there will be hardships. Trust me, I dealt with a lot of unforeseen, unnecessary drama…the perks of being a girl, right?! But in general, I’ve compiled a list of things anyone can do to make the most of their college experience that I wanted to pass down to younger generations. Those who will be moving away from home, just like I did in August of 2015.
My Tips to Make the Most of Your College Experience
1. Put your studies first
This one should be a no-brainer. After all, you’re in college to get an education. But I include this because in college, you have your independence. Your parents are no longer there to tell you when to do your homework, how to manage your time, checking on your grades, etc. All of this is now in your hands. If you don’t put your studies first, you won’t do well in your classes. Unlike high school, that won’t fly in college. They will send you home if you aren’t performing to their standards! So prioritize your studies, I promise, you’ll have plenty of time for other things too.
2. Get involved!
After your studies, this is probably the most important thing to do when being away at school. This is how you meet people, build memories, expand your learning, all while building your resume. Getting involved is like a package deal, buy one get one free. If you join an organization, you will have fun with the people you meet, the events you attend, etc. Joining an organization is like “buying” what you need in college – a support group. What do you get for free? A talking point on your resume. You now have an organization holding you to some standard, as any company would, and making you attend events. These events will help you learn, grow, and succeed. These are the things companies will be looking for when it’s time to recruit you! It does not matter what organization you join, JUST JOIN ONE! (Or two, or three, or four…) This could even be a job if you need to make money while being in school.
3. Hold at least one leadership position
Now that you’re in an organization, run for a position. Any position, big or small, will enhance your experience in that organization. Even the smallest position in an organization comes with extra responsibility and extra time devoted to that organization. You add those two up and what do you get? You get MORE involved in that organization. Deepening those relationships, building more of those memories, and increasing the amount of events you attend. You will grow more, learn more, and experience more through all of these things. Not to mention, all of these things teach effective time management! I balanced a job, leadership positions, and school work which kept me on my toes, but taught me time management skills I’ll bring with me to my future job.
4. Seek out internships
Even if you don’t land an internship, look for one. Chances are you’ll at least get an interview or experience talker to a recruiter and that’s more valuable than you know. The ability to talk to professionals and begin getting comfortable with that process will help you when you look for you full time job. If you do get an internship, that could turn into a future job! If you don’t, any work experience is valuable work experience (even if it doesn’t have the title “internship”). Work over the summer somewhere else. Not only will you find out more of what you like/dislike, you will begin building your professional bucket of skills. All which will help you in the future.
5. Say YES
My final tip was the hardest to sum up in words. On Instagram, I asked what advice people had to make the most of your college experience. Every response fell into this category, making it hard for me to summarize. Say YES to going to school if you have the opportunity. If that opportunity includes moving away from your family, say YES. Say YES to doing things with your friends, seeing a movie, going on a trip, spending the night hanging out, etc. Obviously, you can say no if it goes against your morals and values. But to the things that don’t, say YES.
Say YES to the friendships, leadership positions, the jobs, and the new adventures college will present to you.
That sums up my advice to those opening this new chapter of their life. Enjoy every moment because it will go by in the blink of an eye. When I left people told me the same thing and I didn’t believe them. Here I am now, 4 years later, telling you what everyone told me. It goes quickly. Be grateful for each day you have in school and make the most of your experience.
Please share this with anyone starting college! I hope they can make the most of their experience as I believe I did for my own. Hopefully, we can help them be comfortably them while they are away at school 🙂