Before moving into full-time clinical work, I was a professor at Northern Illinois University in the Psychology Department. I really enjoyed teaching and mentoring, and at the same time, I realized how much I missed doing direct clinical work, which is why I moved into full-time clinical practice and was fortunate enough to join EDGE Counseling Solutions. As some of my rising college freshman clients prepared to leave for school recently, I was reminded of the information I passed along to my undergraduate students to help the newer students adjust to college, and to the older students to help them prepare for the next phase in their academic and career lives (e.g., jobs, internships, graduate school). I wanted to share some of that information in these posts in hopes of helping more students maximize their college experience.
College is an amazing, challenging, dynamic, and, in the grand scheme of things, short period of time. The hope is that you love every minute of it and get to enjoy the flexibility afforded by being more independent, pursuing areas of study and extracurricular activities and groups about which you are passionate, and making great friends. Although that is not always the case, and certainly is not consistently so, it is hoped that you do what you can while at college to truly enjoy this unique phase of life.
With respect to academic work, there are a lot of resources available to students that I encourage you to check out. These range from tutoring (either receiving it, or working as a tutor) and resource centers to help with testing accommodations (e.g., test anxiety, learning challenges) to subject specialists at the library who can help you do research for, and complete, class assignments. I am also a big proponent of going to your professor’s office hours. It is easy to be in a class without ever being more than a name on the roll sheet if you never interact directly with the professor. Creating a relationship with your professors is as easy as asking for some of their time to ask questions and get help on classwork, as well learn more about their career paths if you are interested in their field. Developing these relationships is particularly important if you may later want letters of recommendation (e.g., job, graduate school) so that your professor can speak about you as a more complete person, in addition to just your grade and performance in a specific class. You may even get the opportunity to work on a research project or in a lab with a professor, giving you valuable hands-on experience.
Taking advantage of the other resources and activities available on campus is also a great way to maximize your time at school. Keep an eye out for programs and performances that will be occurring on campus, as well as groups related to specific interests you have. In addition to formal organizations run through the school, you may see informal activities (e.g., book club, rec. sports) that you want to check out. Getting to know new people through shared interests is a wonderful way to diversify your peer group and enjoy some fun with new people. Remember that you can try a range of different college majors, classes, activities and groups, and that part of the excitement and freedom of college is checking out many different options to see what fits best for you.