How to Navigate College and Succeed After Getting Your Degree

Uncategorized Aug 12, 2022

It’s that time of year when many students go off to college.  I have three students in my life who are going off to college.  I’ve been fortunate that they came to me for a little advice.  I want to share some life lessons that anybody can use in their life.  My job is to write about ideas for life.  Whether you are getting ready for college, graduated years ago, or never set foot on a college campus, you can adopt these principles of life.

 

College meant a lot to me. It really pushed me to find my place in the world.  This was important for me because of the added layers of challenges that my disability presents.  So, when I write about college understand that it was a particularly special time and place for me.

 

These are the nuggets of advice that I wish knew and embraced. 

 

  1. Not vocational training.  A mistake that many people make, and that I made is that college is not meant to be a place for vocational training.  Although there is some semblance of truth to this, college is about learning how to learn, analyze, deal with other people, deal with challenges, and so many other principles of success.  While some majors will directly prepare you for a career, most majors are about getting you ready for life and getting you ready for dealing with life’s realities.  It’s also a place where you can explore and make mistakes.
  2. Avoid the “us vs. them” dynamic. At any stage in your life and your career, it’s easy to develop an “us vs. them” dynamic.  Kids like to rebel against their parents.  Students like to rebel against their teachers.  Employees like to rebel against their employers.  Many see others who give them a little discomfort as “them” and enemies.  They look at them as people who get in the way of their goals.  Understand that teachers want students to succeed.  Parents want the best for their children.  Employers want to develop employees.  By avoiding the “us vs. them” dynamic you are leaving space for the possibility of engaging others during your college experience.
  3. Find a group. Most successful people have a group of people who they rely on for support and advice.  In college, you can find a group of people who have similar goals, and you can get together once a week or ever so often to talk about your goals.  I know this to be true.  I met one of my longest friends during my college years.  In the late ‘90s, I met my buddy, Adam.  We hung out in college, and we still talk about once a month about our goals, businesses, and raising kids.
  4. Be intentional. In college and in life it’s so easy to just take care of what’s on your plate. Oftentimes, college students and people, in general, just frenzy talking about what they need to do and how busy they are instead of just getting by set intentions.  Take a couple of minutes every day to plan what you need to do when you are going to study, when you are going to hang out, and when you are going to take care of yourself.  This is one of the habits that will put you way ahead.  On a big picture level, think about who you want to meet, where you want to intern, and how you can set up yourself for success.  Being intentional about your life and your days allows you to complete more tasks, and ultimately, achieve more of your goals.
  5. Get help. Reaching out for help is one of the most important steps toward success.  Unfortunately, we don’t do a good job. of teaching young people how to ask for help.  One reason for this is that asking for help it’s seen as cheating, but there is a difference between cheating and asking for help.  So, if you need to talk to a psychologist because you are overwhelmed or need to find a tutor, or need to just clarify something with a teacher or a teacher’s assistant, get help.
  6. Build a network. One of the hidden gems of college is the ability to build a network.  Building a network can be as simple as engaging a teacher, talking to a guest lecturer, or reaching out to an alumnus.  It’s never too soon to make a connection and start building your network of people who can help you.  We had so many guest speakers and one of my biggest regrets is that I never engaged and asked questions.  You are there to grow yourself and involve others in that process.  Be sure to take advantage of the opportunities that you are given.
  7. Build your brand. Right now, anything that you post or put out there can be used against you.  Although we have freedom of speech, it’s not freedom of consequences.  You don’t want a dumb post to follow you for years.  Many employers and people who can give you opportunities will scrub your social media accounts.  Offline people are constantly evaluating who they can trust and give opportunities.  So just dress appropriately.  Use appropriate language.  Complain less.  Be optimistic.  Basically, be a good person.
  8. Your parents are still your parents. The older I get the more I appreciate my parents.  I appreciate the sacrifices they made for my sister and me.  I appreciate the wisdom they imparted.  I appreciate how much they wanted the best for us.  I appreciated them, even more, when I became a father.  In most cases, your parents will always be your greatest ally, your greatest cheerleader, and your greatest source of advice.  They may be the only two people who will have your best interest in mind.  Other people will have their own agenda and won’t care about you the way your parents do.  So, I urge you to always remember that your parents will always be your parents and they will always want the absolute best for you.

 

As my two sons, Andrew, 9, and Tyler, 7, grow up these are the principles of success that I want to impart to them.  More important than the diploma the prestige of having a degree is a foundation that you are building.  In addition to building the foundation, have fun, make some lifelong friends, maybe fall in love, and grow into a person that will be successful, happy, and joyful.

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