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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of your Degree

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of your Degree
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Many students are experiencing their first semester of college this fall and are discovering many new things at once. First time living on their own, more rigorous course work, living in a new city, and finding new friends are all exciting and sometimes scary parts of the college experience.

As if that weren’t enough, college freshmen also have the daunting task of choosing what they want to study. Some of us are lucky enough to have known years before we got to college, but most of us are less sure, and some of us even switch multiple times. Having been through college myself, these are five of the things that I would have liked to hear at orientation.

1. Diversify your Schedule in your First Year

As I said before, most college freshmen don’t know exactly what they want to major in and that’s completely fine. Freshman year is a great time to get your general credits out of the way and take a wide variety of classes in the areas you are interested in majoring in. This helps to make you a generally more informed individual. For instance, taking a class on WWII or a music class gives you a broader knowledge of the world and you never know when that will come in handy during a job interview!

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Taking a class or classes in something you don’t necessarily want to major in, but you believe will set you apart when it comes to your career, is a great idea as well. For instance, if you think you want to major in Business Administration or Communication and you have an interest in computers it would be a great idea to take a couple classes on coding languages such as Javascript or Python. In taking the classes, you might find out that you want to minor in Computer Sciences. Either way, you’ll set yourself up with skills that will set you apart as a candidate upon graduation.

2. Apply for Scholarships

This is something I really wish I had pursued more actively during my college tenure because, believe me, paying student loans is the worst. Well, maybe not the worst, but it certainly doesn’t add enjoyment to your life. The U.S. alone has 1.3 trillion in student debt, with the average undergraduate carrying $46,000 in student loan debt upon graduation. That is a burden that will stick around with you for awhile. Fortunately, you can mitigate that cost with scholarships.

When applying for scholarships you need to be prepared to write essays, complete projects and pass tests to prove why you should be selected. Make sure to stay on top of deadlines, apply for scholarships that you actually qualify for. Don’t waste your time or the committee’s, and thoroughly follow all instructions for the application so you give yourself the best chance of being selected. Once you’re ready, check out one of these or numerous other sites to find scholarships: Peterson’s, Unigo, Chegg, Scholarships.com, and Niche.

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3. Declare your Major Early

This goes hand-in-hand with the last tip. Graduating as soon as possible will help to cut down on your student loan debt. Graduating in the traditional four years or sooner also shows initiative to employers, proves that you’re focused and can set your mind to a long-term task without getting sidetracked.

This isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing to change your major later in college if the major you’re seeking really doesn’t fit you, but the earlier you figure out your major, the better off you will be in the long run.

4. Pick a Degree in a Growth Industry

Everyone wants to get a job as soon as possible when they graduate. Student loans kick in six months after graduation and you want the assurance that the last four or so years wasn’t a total waste. The best way to place yourself in a hireable position upon graduation is to major in a growth industry.

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I’ll give you an example of both sides: for many years the oil industry was booming, consistently seeing growth year after year and petroleum engineering was a major that would virtually guarantee you a high paying job upon graduation. Recently, however, that has changed. The industry has seen a significant downturn as alternative energies continue to grow, leaving many recent petroleum engineering graduates, like Radiohead before them, high and dry.

The flip side of the coin would be a computer sciences major. As the internet continues to expand exponentially, so does the demand for good coders. A Bachelor’s degree in computer sciences essentially guarantees you a job upon graduation and is the second highest paying undergraduate degree.

5. Complete As Many Internships as Possible

Nothing speaks as loudly as real world experience. The knowledge you gain in the classroom is great, invaluable in most cases, but it needs to be supplemented with actual, on the job experience. According to a study done by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) 62% of undergraduates that were employed upon graduation had completed at least one internship.

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In addition to the experience you gain during an internship, if you apply yourself, you’ll gain a reference as well, which will set you apart when applying for jobs. Even before you qualify for internships, just holding a job during college will help to bolster your resume and shows initiative. Sites like Craigslist are good places to start pitching and advertising your talents. Learn about the top industries hiring in your area to really get ahead of the game.

I know this is a lot to process and you still have 40 pages of reading to do before class tomorrow, but if you start implementing these tips into your college experience, you will have a leg up on the competition when you graduate!

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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