10 Ways to MAximize Your College Experience
College is a maze.
According to recent studies, nearly half of college graduates would like a do-over of college, feeling like they haven’t gained the experience, knowledge, or confidence they wanted. Another study, conducted in 2022, revealed that “Only 61% of students are satisfied with their social life, and just 59% say they feel connected to peers at their institution”.
As a graduating senior who lived through the COVID pandemic as a student, the fear of not having a successful college experience has long loomed over me. However, as I look back at my student experience, I can point to a number of things that led me to happiness and success, as well as some things I wish I had focused on more.
My name is Andrew De La Cruz (President of MA), and here are 10 proven ways to MAximize your college experience.
Get involved in extracurricular activities
Participating in clubs, organizations, or sports teams can provide a well-rounded college experience. According to a study by The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), students who are involved in extracurricular activities report higher levels of overall satisfaction with their college experience. Plus, these activities can help develop essential skills like teamwork, leadership, and time management.
In my personal experience, I’ve learned more from clubs and internships than I’ve ever learned in the classroom. Similarly, clubs like SJSU Marketing Association are where I’ve made the most friends, connections, and industry-relevant experience. My only piece of advice: what you put in is what you get out. Be open to new opportunities and step out of your comfort zone, and see what kind of success lies ahead (even if failure gets in your way)!
Build a strong network
Networking can be a scary word. It doesn’t just mean talking to people – it’s connecting with others and making lasting impressions. Our everyday conversations with people are a basic form of networking, and if you have lasting friendships with anyone, you’ve had a bit of networking experience yourself!
Forbes suggests that students should start building their networks early in college to create lasting connections. Attend career fairs, make a LinkedIn, and engage with other students in classes and clubs to expand your network and improve your future job prospects.
I came into San Jose knowing barely a handful of people, but after putting myself out there and working on tough projects with a diverse set of minds, I’ve made connections with people that I see lasting a lifetime – and you never know when & where you’ll come across them again.
Utilize campus resources
Colleges and universities offer numerous resources to help students succeed. Take advantage of academic support services, like tutoring or writing centers, and mental health resources such as counseling services.
SJSU offers plenty of school-funded services meant to help your academic, social, and physical wellbeing. I, as well as many of my friends, have used resources like the MOSAIC Center and SJSU’s Personal Counseling to assist us in times of stress. Check out this link for more details: https://www.sjsu.edu/learnanywhere/campus-resources/index.php
Don’t sleep on these either! That’s your tuition money, so get the most out of it ;)
Seek out internships and work experiences
Internships and part-time jobs provide valuable real-world experience and can increase your employability after graduation. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 91% of employers prefer candidates with work experience (Source: NACE, 2017).
Looking for an internship can be challenging, especially without any experience. However, surrounding yourself with people working towards the same goals can help you excel in your search for experience! Attending club workshops and hiring fairs are a great way to personally meet recruiters and hiring managers. Just don’t forget to get their information and connect with them on LinkedIn!
Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, exposing you to new cultures and perspectives. A report by the Institute of International Education (IIE) found that studying abroad can enhance critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability. Research study abroad programs offered by your college and consider applying for scholarships to help cover costs!
SJSU also offers a Study Abroad program (https://www.sjsu.edu/studyabroad/) that has given plenty of my friends once-in-a-lifetime experiences and new perspectives in countries around the world. They’ve gained new insight on the direction to take their lives through their Study Abroad stories, so consider applying before Senior Year!
Focus on time management
Effective time management is crucial for a successful college experience. Develop a study schedule, set goals, and prioritize tasks to balance academics, extracurriculars, and social life. As expressed by the APA, time management skills not only improve academic performance but also prepare you for the demands of post-college life.
Attend workshops and conferences
Many colleges host workshops and conferences on various topics, such as career development, personal finance, and public speaking. Attending these events can enhance your skills and knowledge, making you a more competitive candidate in the job market.
Our most recent workshop featured a professional hiring manager who shared her insights on the hiring process, which included a live interview with feedback. Events like these can teach you invaluable experience that can lead you to both personal and professional progress.
Again, don’t forget to ask questions and connect with them on LinkedIn!
Develop strong relationships with professors
Building relationships with professors can lead to research opportunities, letters of recommendation, and valuable career advice. The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that students who connect with faculty outside of the classroom are more likely to be engaged and successful in their academic pursuits (Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2020). Attend office hours, ask questions, and show genuine interest in your courses to foster these connections.
Remember – professors are human too! Get in touch with old and current professors to see what value they can bring to you outside of the classroom – they often are more connected and experienced than you could imagine.
College can be demanding. The American College Health Association emphasizes the importance of regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep for optimal academic performance and overall well-being. Set aside time for relaxation and hobbies to maintain a healthy balance in your life.
Work is unavoidable. Make time for friends, family, and hobbies to keep your head on straight. Being stressed out can lead to burnout, and that can destroy your flow of productivity. Finding ways to burn stress and stay motivated are just as important as putting in your daily work.
Embrace lifelong learning
A successful college experience goes beyond earning a degree. Embrace the mindset of lifelong learning, continually seeking new knowledge and skills. This approach will not only enrich your college years but also prepare you for a fulfilling and dynamic career.
Remember – you can learn something from anyone, and everybody has something to teach. Stay curious and imaginative, especially in our world of constant change and innovation. You never know what you’ll learn about the world and yourself with each passing day!
Maximizing your college experience requires a combination of academic, personal, and professional growth. By following these 10 strategies, you can create a well-rounded and fulfilling college journey that will leave you with as little regrets as possible. Embrace new opportunities, foster meaningful connections, and prioritize your well-being to MAximize your potential and make the most of your college experience.