- Step 1: Choose a Major That Interests You
- Step 2: Get Involved Early
- Step 3: Follow Through On Commitments
- Step 4: Be Willing To Receive Help
- Step 5: Create Experiences
- Step 6: Make the Most of School Events
- Step 7: Don’t Keep it All Inside
- Step 8: Don’t Take College Too Seriously
- Step 8.5 – Ask Others What Helped Them in College.
College is a time of big changes and new beginnings! However, it can also be frightening to leave home and everything you’ve known, venture out on your own for the first time, and start to find your place in the world. The challenges of college life often stress out college students and have led to a huge spike in anxiety and depression.
Don’t worry, though!
There are plenty of things you can do in college to ensure both your social and professional success, no matter what subject you plan to major in or career you want to pursue after graduation.
Here are eight ways to succeed in college socially and professionally, so you can begin building the life you want from day one.
Step 1: Choose a Major That Interests You
Choosing a major that interests you is a good first step toward succeeding in college socially and professionally.
Classes are easier to get through and students typically get better grades when you like what you’re learning about. However, in many colleges–especially four year universities–you will spend the first semester or two getting your “basics” out of the way. This means lots of general classes in science, math, and english, not to mention some health and extracurriculars. So even though you pick an exciting major, you likely wont take many classes in that area of study right away.
This is an excellent time to explore other options you haven’t considered as a career field, and still leaves you with plenty of opportunity to change your major without losing credits or money for classes you’ve already taken that don’t apply to that major. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter too much what degree you end up with unless your desired career field absolutely requires it (such as the medical field). So if you’re struggling to pick a major going into college, just pick one and do some research and reflection on what you really want to do in life.
I also highly suggest testing your chosen career field. I can’t tell you how many college graduates get their degree in something specific only to discover they HATE that field once they get some real world experience. If you aren’t totally certain what you want to do after school, try out as many things as you can by shadowing a professional, taking a temporary job in that industry, or having a long conversation with someone in that field where you ask every question you can think of about what it’s like.
When it comes to picking a college major, don’t be afraid to consider all your options, even while you’re taking classes in another degree. Worst case scenario, you can always get a general degree like business or communications which leaves a wide array of options available to you after graduation.
Step 2: Get Involved Early
Get involved as early as possible. If you can, try out a bunch of clubs and activities and join some that interest you. The sooner you start meeting people and participating in things on campus, the easier it will be to make friends your first semester – or find something new you’re passionate about.
My very first week in the dorms at college I wanted to hang out, walk around campus, and organically get to know people. Thank god an older friend of mine all but signed me up himself for a new student camp centered around college ministries on campus. I hated that I was wasting my first week at a camp with Christians, but ultimately, I met dozens of incredible people that were a blast to be around and I made lifelong friends on Day 2! When we got back to campus everyone that hadn’t gone looked at us like we were crazy because everywhere we went, we already had friends and we already had plans filling up our social calendars!
If you aren’t sure where to start, try joining a club like Student Activities Board, which allows you to meet tons of other students who are invested in getting students involved on campus and engaged with one another.
Whatever you do, DO NOT sit in your dorm room or apartment waiting for your life to start. College is just as much about growing as a person as it is about getting good grades (if not more), so put just as much effort into trying new things, meeting new people, and getting involved in things outside of class, then you can succeed in college socially as well as professionally.
Step 3: Follow Through On Commitments
It’s easy to give up on that extra study session or skip your weekly workout with friends. But if you want to succeed in college socially and professionally, it pays off big time when you show up every time.
The more reliable you are physically and emotionally with people, the more they will trust you (and like you!). They’ll be much more likely to confide in you, turn toward you for help, invite you places, remember your name—you get the idea. There are a lot of factors that make a person memorable and likable; that make you someone people want to be friends with and/or reach out to with exciting opportunities. But one that NEVER fails to leave a lasting impression is dependability.
Do your best not to show up late or skip out on classes, appointments, projects, or practice sessions. Of course it’s okay to do so from time to time. Life is about balance after all, and sometimes you just need to sleep that extra 10 minutes or skip a class altogether for other priorities. Just make sure you aren’t making a habit of it. Instead do your best to make a habit of showing up and being present no matter what you’re doing.
Also, attending your classes may not be required in every class, but research shows a huge correlation between class attendance and higher grades. Plus, showing up (even for 8:00 am classes) creates great habits that will serve you after college. And lastly, it shows that you’re responsible and can be counted on as an adult making adult decisions – which gets you points from teachers and other professionals when it comes time to look at internships, grad school, recommendation letters, etc.
Step 4: Be Willing To Receive Help
As a life coach for college students, I’ve had many students and parents alike tell me they think they should be able to figure out all of college on their own. These kind of students won’t reach out for help when they need it, which leaves them frustrated and defeated when they start to fall behind. Instead of keeping everyone at arm’s length and trying to go it alone because “you can do it,” don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!
Lots of professors, teachers aids, and advisors are always happy to lend a hand if you just reach out. If none of these sound good to you, always check your university for helpful services like college transition classes, career counseling, and free therapy. These are often free services that are available to you so use them!
If you’re looking for more consistent guidance, consider hiring a life coach for college students. Life coaches are becoming more common on college campuses, especially for students who don’t have a lot of guidance at home or whose parents aren’t able to give much advice about how to succeed in college. Life coaches are great options to help you with your social life (not something you get from your typical high school guidance counselor) AND with your personal and professional goals while in college.
Step 5: Create Experiences
By now, you know that succeeding in college is more than just classes and grades. It’s an opportunity to prepare you for life just as much as for work. Yes, you are there to get an education that will hopefully help you in your future career, but grades are only a tiny fraction of what makes you successful after college.
Becoming successful in any industry also involves the right personality, maturity, critical thinking, networking, and the ability to get along with a team. These skills aren’t developed in a classroom but out in your everyday life making memories that will ultimately shape you as a human being. So don’t pour yourself so much into your classwork that you forget to create memorable experiences that will last you a lifetime!
While you’re in school, make sure you take time out of your schedule to hang out with friends, go to fun events on campus, participate in extracurricular activities and make other lasting memories. My top two pieces of advice for students entering college is to get connected with good people and go on a trip any chance you get. The people you spend your time around and the experiences you gain will have a far greater impact on who you are than your GPA.
Remember, life will go on after graduation—and looking back on your college days and wishing that you had done more is not how anyone wants to start their career! Go big or go home!
Step 6: Make the Most of School Events
Take advantage of all that your college has to offer.
You likely already pay things like an athletic fee that gets you into sporting events, or a recreation fee that grants you access to exercise and entertainment facilities. If you are already paying for this with your tuition fees utilize them! There will never be another time in your life where you are this connected to a large group of people based on one common thing, so take advantage and make the most out of school events that you can only go to while you are a college student!
Whether it’s your first week or you are about to graduate, school events are a great way to meet people, network, and become a well-rounded person. Getting involved and making friends at college is one of the most important things you can do to succeed in college and after graduation. It keeps you from the epidemic of loneliness plaguing young adults, it makes going to class a bit more exciting, and it opens up opportunities for internships and jobs after graduation.
Step 7: Don’t Keep it All Inside
As we discussed earlier, students sometimes feel uncomfortable asking for help from friends or professionals. This is a big contributing factor to high rates of depression and other mental health problems for college students.
There are always people willing to help whether it’s a parent, an advisor, a campus minister, a therapist, or a life coach. The very best thing you can do for yourself in college is find someone older than you with experience to talk through your struggles with. To learn more about how you can get help at school please contact your campus counseling center or your university’s mental health service department.
Step 8: Don’t Take College Too Seriously
Enjoy yourself. Succeeding in college is about discovering what kind of person you want to become. Ask yourself what you want out of life and start doing things to pursue that. But I will tell you, after asking hundreds of people what they want most in life, the answer I get time after time is,
“I want to be happy.”
It’s not to get good grades or make a lot of money.
It’s not to marry the hottest person on campus.
It’s not even really to change the world or leave a legacy.
People want to be happy.
And happiness is not something you just get one day. Happiness has to be practiced. So yes, show up, study hard, get involved, narrow down your desired career field, and do a good job.
But more than anything, practice being a happy person. I have a whole list of 1 minute simple ways to be happy that will help you get started if you’d like, but ultimately you will have to navigate what makes you a healthy, happy person. Have fun, meet new people, work hard…and chill out.
With a healthy balance of work, play, and rest, I guarantee you will succeed in college and do great after too!
Step 8.5 – Ask Others What Helped Them in College.
Often, the best way to learn something is simply to ask someone who has been there before you. Here is what one college life coaching client of mine said about succeeding in college after working with me for a few weeks:
“Life coaching with Kurtis has really helped me through college life. He helped me process and work through emotions and life experiences that had been plaguing my life for a while. Ever since I started, I saw myself enjoying life, and making healthier choices to improve my quality of life. Kurtis is amazing. He taught me how to not be so hard on myself and give myself grace the same way I show others grace. Since working with Kurtis, college has gone from lonely and stressful to fun and exciting again!”
In conclusion, remember that you’re at college not just to get a degree but also to form your identity and network. Being and becoming a whole person is more important than developing just one area of your life. So if you’re going to succeed in college socially and professionally, make sure you have time for both fun and homework! And don’t worry too much about the future. If you take care of business professionally and socially, you will do just fine!