Getting the Most Out of Your College Experience

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
By Anna Pierce

It’s nearly September, which means classes are beginning and college students will have to face the realities of school once again. As a recent graduate of DePaul University, I remember the pressures I felt while in school to make my experiences count so that I would be prepared to enter the real world. While these pressures stressed me out, they were healthy in aiding my development and pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Months after graduation, I still feel that I took advantage of all DePaul had to offer and do not regret any of the risks I took. However, I meet fellow graduates all the time that say, “I wish I had done this…” or “I should have done this differently…”. Because of this, I want to share some of my recommendations to making the most of your college experience to prepare yourself to enter the professional world.

1) There is always a lesson to be learned.

In high school, I didn’t understand why I had to take math classes if I wasn’t going to work in a field that used math. After complaining about geometry and trigonometry for months, my dad gave me a new perspective. He told me, “you might not need to figure out what the angles of triangles are at your future job, but you will be faced with problems that need to be solved. Use this class to help you look at problems differently and learn how to solve them.” When I changed the way I thought about math, I realized that I was learning critical thinking and problem-solving skills that could be carried into discussing communications strategies in my current work. No matter what class, job or activity you are in, reframe your thinking and see what lessons can be learned.

2) Be strategic when scheduling classes

While Drawing 101 and the World of Wine are great classes, and I will admit to taking the wine class, college is a time to expand your knowledge in ways that prepare you for a career. Plus, we are paying far too much for school to NOT be taking classes that invest in our own professionalism. Because of that, I recommend filling your electives with classes that help you gain insight into diverse areas that are useful for your field of study. For me, that meant taking change management and public relations courses. I knew that as an organizational communication student I wasn’t gaining the technical skills that I may need for a career in communications with the classes under my major requirement. I wanted to be able to not only understand the best ways to communicate but also understand how to carry out those communications. By thinking of classes as an actual way to grow your knowledge, you can begin scheduling classes differently.

3) Say “yes”

Before I left for college, my older sister told me to say yes as much as possible. Say yes to joining clubs, say yes to hanging out with new people, or say yes to professors that want to invest extra time in you. I am very much of the mindset that you never know what could happen. Because of that, I ran for student government, met one of my best friends, and created long-lasting friendships with my instructors. College is a time in your life where opportunities are sitting on a silver-platter just waiting to be grabbed. Never in life will that happen again. The reason I got both my internships was because I said yes to phone calls and conferences that I knew nothing about. And I am so glad I did because the opportunities I gained have been irreplaceable.

People are quick to offer recommendations on what you should be doing during your time in college. The amount of times people told me to get an internship and fill my resume made my head spin. At the end of the day, though, college is about developing yourself so that you are prepared to enter the next stage of life. As someone that recently graduated and has had time to reflect on my experiences, I believe that what I’ve said will help other students excel in their final moments of school. No matter what you choose to do, continue to invest your energy in bettering yourself. I promise it will pay off!

Anna Pierce is a 2019 graduate of DePaul University, majoring in organizational communication. She currently serves as a corporate communications intern at United Airlines.


4 thoughts on “Getting the Most Out of Your College Experience

  1. Hi Anna,

    I am a student at Southeast Missouri State University and your entree was very help and put things in perspective. My question is, what would you suggest to other students like me practical ways to not get worn out or being spread to thin when saying yes to these opportunities that are going to pay off at the end>\?

    1. During the early stages of your career, focus on the job and don’t worry much about “work/life balance.” Your career will be defined by how hard you work, the attitude you bring to what you do and how you impress your supervisor and peers. Once your career gets launched, you’ll figure out ways to not spread yourself too thin. The most successful people in this profession found ways to get it all done without stressing over not having enough balance in their lives.

  2. Hello Anna,

    I am a student at Southeast Missouri State and I was wondering if you had any tips on getting the most out of your college experience and still being involved after Covid-19? Due to the guidelines in place it’s hard to make strong connections with people that you have never met when everything is virtual.

    Thanks for your time,
    Emily Quinn

    1. I’m sure you’ll get the same advice from your amazing professor, Susan Gonders: Network. Network. Network. Find as many ways to engage in your desired profession as possible. PRSSA chapters are meeting virtually, and are a great place to build your network. Be sure to send personalized LinkedIn requests to speakers, fellow students and each of your professors. Shoot for a goal of having at least 500 LinkedIn connections before you graduate. Yes, that’s very possible. One of my students who had only 33 connections reached the goal in the remaining two years of time at DePaul. Now working in a full-time PR position, she has over a thousand connections. Her last job came about by someone contacting her through LinkedIn–not a job posting.

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