College move-in day was a total whirlwind; in a span of just a few hours my family helped me move all of my possessions into a tiny dorm room, I met the person I would be rooming with for the next eight months, and my family left to travel back home. I was alone in this strange new place that would be my home for the next four years of my life, the place where I would learn, live, and love. I never doubted that University of the Cumberlands was the place I was meant to be.
I am happy to say that I have grown so much during my time here at college, and while I do not purport to have it all figured out, I would like to take advantage of this platform to share some of the lessons I have learned during my college years.
First, take a moment to reflect on how you want to grow during your time. Maybe you procrastinated a lot in high school, or maybe you wish that you had let loose and hadn’t been so straight laced. For most people, college offers a fresh start. The important thing is to make sure that you choose positive and healthy improvements, and that they aren’t superficial. Wanting to be popular is a very surface-level desire, but wanting to be an encouraging and friendly person operates at a deeper level that promotes long-lasting change.
2. Seize Opportunities
Next, college is full of opportunities, but it is up to you to seize them when you have the chance. From being an RA, serving in leadership roles in my honor society, interning with local organizations, and participating in research with professors in my department, I have been blessed with so many opportunities. I was given a choice to take the easy way out and pass over these activities, but they are exactly what have built my résumé and shaped me into the person I am now. Be aware of what opportunities will be most beneficial to your future and if you can handle the associated responsibilities.
In order to make some of those opportunities available for yourself, one of the best pieces of advice I have is to make yourself a name and not a number. I have been fortunate enough to go to a school with small class sizes where it is easy to get to know my professors and show them the passion I have for my studies. At larger schools, visiting professors during their office hours helps them put a name to your face and establish a more personal relationship. By doing this, you also increase the number of doors that will be opened for you by faculty members who know you and think highly of you.
3. Use Your Resources
You will definitely hit some rough patches during your college years. Whether it is an upper-division class that is going way over your head or a general education course that is way out of your comfort zone, there will be classes that seem impossible to hack. Hopefully, you are attending a school that values its students and wants to see them thrive. Use your resources wisely! (13 Useful Services and Resources You Want Your College to Have) Visit student services or your academic resource center to get connected with a tutor. Often, these are students who have taken the exact course with the same professor before and are in the perfect position to review material with you in an individual setting. Professors, advisors, counselors, tutors—all are available to help you make sense of your goals and academic performance.
Help can also come in the form of mental health treatment. Many college students struggle with homesickness, anxiety, depression, and a host of challenges that can impact their livelihood. If you are ever in a position where you are struggling mentally, there are resources available. My institution provides free counseling services to all students, and residence life is trained to connect students with resources that will create a healthy and safe living environment. There is a stigma around mental health problems, but it is statistically likely that everyone will struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives.
4. Discover New Interests
Just as college will be more enjoyable if you practice self-care, it will also be so much more memorable if you find something you love on campus to participate in. I am not an advocate of over-involvement; I have so many friends who wear themselves thin trying to be a part of every activity. Instead, think about what you really enjoy and what you want to get out of the activity. Maybe you just need something to do to blow off steam. If so, playing an intramural sport or getting involved with your campus activities board might be a great outlet. If you are looking to make a difference in the community, look for community engagement opportunities. My school has several different ministry opportunities that build houses and ramps for impoverished community members and offer after-school programs for local elementary schoolers. No matter what you love to do, your campus offers a multitude of programs and activities that you can be a part of.
5. Be Kind
Above all, remember to be kind. College could be the best four years of your life, but why would you want to stop there? Use your time at your institution as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Take this opportunity to grow into the person you have always wanted to be, and make sure that kindness is part of that. You can spend all your time competing with your peers, or you can show them love and encouragement. I strongly recommend choosing the latter. It will make your college years more fun, more memorable, and more meaningful.
Meet our Ambassadors! If you are interested in getting involved in our Student Ambassador program, contact Erin Pettus at erin [at] collegesofdistinction.com.
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