So You’re Accepted to College: Now Learn to Leverage It!

Career DevelopmentSuccess Strategies

Almost every college applicant experiences waves of excitement, anxiety and even some fear while waiting to hear if you have been accepted to college. Most parents share in their childrens’ anxiety and feel a huge sense of relief when at long last, the thick envelope arrives and enclosed is the golden ticket from college admissions…congratulations, you’re admitted!  You’ve been accepted to the class of 20.. and you know your plans… at least for the next four years.

The truth is that getting into college is an accomplishment, especially for those who have worked hard to achieve admissions but in today’s challenging economy there comes a heavy price tag and responsibility with every acceptance. The days when college was merely a right of passage into the workforce and a time to cultivate one’s intellect without any concern for what will come after graduation are long gone. Today’s college students and parents are well aware that the investment is so great in college that some even question the value of a college degree altogether.

The College Board released its data on the rising cost of college. The numbers were striking. In the past year alone, tuition for four-year public universities rose 8.3 percent for in-state students and 5.7 percent for out-of-state students. Some of those hikes are likely due to state budget cutbacks, but the same thing occurred with private colleges– a 4.4 percent tuition increase in the past year. Matthew Phillips reports in “Freakonomics” that since 1978, college tuition and fees have been getting expensive at a much, much faster rate than even medical care:

So what gives? As far back as 1993, experts observed that tuition was rising so fast because parents were willing to swallow the cost. More recently, a U.S. News & World Report story from 2009 argued that prices were ballooning at elite universities because they’re all in a bidding war for top faculty and better services for students. That competition for students has also forced schools to hand out bigger and bigger scholarships, raising the sticker price of education.

So here’s the point: College is expensive and the most savvy and responsible students will try to maximize the benefits of his/her college education.  The question remains, how to do this?

Start off with a Positive Proactive Approach:  What Can I Do to Make Sure I Get the Most Out of My College Experience?

Establish Relationships With Influencers While You’re In College

  • Seek Out the best departments
  • Seek out best professors
  • Join a social club that suits your personal goals
  • Foster a relationship with career counselors and teaching assistants
  • Seek out peers and upper classmen for advice on best courses and best professors
  • Choose an extracurricular activity that you love
  • Start probing upper classmen about complimentary majors and minors

Majors and Minors

If you’re considering doing more than one major, you may be able to choose from several options.

The least demanding option is to supplement your major with a minor in another a field. A minor usually entails half the number of courses as a major. It’s a mini-version of the major, designed to give you a solid introduction to the field. A minor can broaden your knowledge and help you structure your studies. If you’re wondering what electives to take, a minor can help focus your course work.

The more rigorous options include double majors and dual majors. The exact definition of either choice varies from school to school, but typically a dual major consists of two related and integrated majors that complement each other. Classes overlap between the majors, meaning fewer classes are required than with a typical double major, so it’s easier to finish within your four college years.

Discuss with your career service professionals all the details you’ll need to reach a certain position that you esteem. Ask for suggestions on combining subjects that are complimentary and that will give you an edge upon graduating.

By choosing a double major or a minor you can balance acquiring practical skills with subjects that help you become well-rounded.

For instance, Communications and Computer Science could allow you to explain the programs you create to your company and to investors. Similarly majoring in Finance or Accounting with a minor in communications could prepare you for a position someday as the CFO of a company; You could explain the numbers you tabulate to investors and to the rest of the company.

Depending on your school, you may have more options than you think. Adding a minor or a double or dual major can enhance your academic experience and give you an advantage when job-searching after graduation. Ask upperclassmen and career service counselors for advice on complimentary majors and minors that can prepare you for a career that interests you.

Don’t be intimidated to seek out help and advice as a freshman. You are the consumer and are paying for this advice!

See which subject appeals most to you and by all means, don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone to try a subject that interests you and will help you acquire marketable skills.  College is the time to explore subjects and open your mind to possibilities for future career choices.

Plan your degrees carefully to minimize your completion time, pick a major that compliments your first degree for hirability, and you’ll worry more about which job offer to accept after graduation instead of who will hire you.

Manage Your Time Carefully!

 Consider taking fewer classes your first term and starting college early:  Taking a course or two during the summer can lighten your load the first semester and allow you more time to excel in your coursework. Once you acclimate to the rigors of college and develop a study routine you can take on a full course load.

Meet with career service professionals for guidance early in the semester to discuss your schedule and how you can best use your time. It may be that you can schedule classes at a certain part of the day or of the week that will enable you to use your best hours for studying. Tune into yourself.  Create a schedule that works for you so you can thrive.

How Can You Maintain a High Grade Point?

 1. and both offer outstanding, free online tutoring in a wide variety of subjects. The tutoring can help you learn the material at your own pace, which is especially useful for reinforcement in your most difficult subject.

2.  Seek out assistance from teaching assistants on your more difficult subjects early in the semester.

3.  Find out where you can receive assistance in editing your papers.  A well-edited paper can radically improve your grade point. Everyone makes occasional careless mistakes and many schools offer support for students in proofreading and editing papers at either a designated writing center or in an office where graduate students meet students upon appointment for supplemental help in their coursework. Don’t be intimidated to ask for help in any subject!  There is no shame in having someone edit your paper or for added help in learning any subject.  In fact, it’s a shame not to do this since many of your classmates will be using these services raising the expectations from your professors in all subjects.

4. Think of yourself as a savvy consumer and remember that seeking out help is a sign of someone who is resourceful!  This character trait will bode well for you both in college and in the real world so start developing it now.

5.  Choose a field of study that excites you so you’re passionate about your courses.

6. Research the best professors; handpick teachers that come highly recommended and that have a reputation for inspiring students. Many schools have student ratings for professors. Keep in mind that you may hear about a famous professor who has privileges for their prestige in their industry but that doesn’t necessarily make them great educators!  Ask other students who have taken their course before enrolling so you don’t get stuck with a big name who rests on their laurels but is a poor teacher.  I’ve heard this complaint from students far too many times to not mention it here. It’s a big hassle to drop a class and at the last-minute scramble to find another suitable one to fill the requirement. Best to do this research ahead of time.

7. The converse is also true; some professors only teach and have no or limited real-world experience. Seek out professors with real-world experience and connections to industry who are also known for their finesse in the classroom!

How Do You Choose Extra-Curricular Activities or Volunteer Work?

Identify a cause that matters to you and find a way to make a contribution to the cause using your unique skills.  I call this smart volunteering.  If you are strong in computer science then help the organization improve their website; If your strength is in public speaking/communications become a spokesperson for the cause; If your strength is in writing or PR help form a newsletter to increase membership.  The idea is to leverage your volunteer experience so it helps the cause while simultaneously bolstering your resume. A little bit of strategizing can go a long way if you become a dedicated volunteer while improving the skills needed through your academic training to add value to their cause.

How Can You Leverage Your Volunteer Work For a Job?

Request recommendations from your superiors and from your peers and become active on LinkedIn. Build up your LinkedIn profile so when it comes time to apply for an internship, you’ll have real experience and connections to leverage to get hired.

So now that you’ve been accepted, enjoy some celebratory time for your accomplishment and then get ready to jump-start your college career!  The opportunities ahead of you are fantastic…just remember, it’s up to YOU to leverage the experience so you get the most out of your college years!  Good Luck on this exciting next stage….and don’t hesitate to write me if you have any questions along the way!