Make the Most of Any College You Get Into

How to enjoy the college you attend, even if it wasn’t your first choice.

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Jeshoots / Unsplash
Jeshoots / Unsplash

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Next month, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors all over the country will know which colleges have accepted them, and which have not. While we do congratulate those who are offered acceptance to their first choice(s) of colleges, not getting into the school of your choice may come as a blessing in disguise. You may indeed wind up being the “big fish” at another school and graduate at the top of any other institution you attend. Sometimes, not getting in at one point may inspire you to work even harder down the road. Failure today will pave the way for success tomorrow. Your worth is not determined by one test, one application, or one interview, but rather who you are as a person, your morals, your values, and your work ethic.

No matter where you are accepted, make the most of your time there and shine. This journey is yours. Develop yourself into the best version of yourself that you can possibly be. The school you ultimately attend will be lucky to have you, not vice versa.

There are several ways you can find success at the college you’re planning to attend. Here are five ways to make the most of any college you get into:

Take classes that genuinely interest you

For many, college is the first time you’re going to be able to choose your own classes. This is a very exciting prospect and it is a huge opportunity to explore your interests in a classroom setting. In addition to taking classes towards completing your major (or finding your major through exploring classes), it is important to take “out-of-the-box” classes. Pick up a history of jazz music or Social Media class. College is a time to explore; you’ll never have the opportunity to do this so freely and without consequence again. Not only do these classes give you the opportunity to open your mind and understanding of the world but they can often serve as a break from some of your mandatory courses.

Develop your social circles outside of the classroom

Many primary and secondary schools are zoned or local, meaning that up until college many individuals have never interacted with people with radically different experiences and backgrounds. College is the perfect opportunity to get outside of your social comfort zone and meet people through extracurriculars that you may not have met otherwise. Forging these relationships not only gives you a support system with which you will thrive, but through them, you will learn more about how the world works and expand your understanding of other people’s perspectives. As you go through your college career and towards your professional life, these friends will also serve as a network that will help propel you in your life and career, well beyond graduation.

Take advantage of student opportunities

No matter what university or college you attend, your student status has added benefits. Your student ID can take you anywhere––from community and cultural events to theatrical shows and art exhibits, your ID can open doors to new experiences on your campus and around the city. There are also countless discounts and programs afforded to students to help enrich their free time. Websites like UNiDAYS are designed just to give students with .edu email addresses access to promo codes to their favorite stores! In some cases, these opportunities are not well advertised so always ask.

Go to the career center

In general, students often underestimate the resources colleges offer to help them make the most of their undergraduate years. This is especially true for the career center. Although it may seem intimidating to talk to someone about steps to take towards your career when you’ve just graduated high school this is actually the best time to do so. Career counselors can help you line up your interests with your curriculum and seek out appropriate internships and programs. They can help you bolster your resumes and LinkedIn profile and connect you with older students or alumni who might have the same experiences as you. Do not ignore this resource! Guidance from career professionals can make a huge difference in your post-college career readiness.

Start planning

Whether you plan to head to graduate school or jump straight into the workforce, college is the time to plan your next steps. Of course you want to be present in the moment and enjoy your 4 years, but you also want to keep your goals in mind. This is important so that you can be sure you’re taking all of the necessary steps to get you where you want to be. For example, if you plan to go to law school or medical school or get your MBA, you need to plan out your time so you can allot resources towards studying and taking exams on your preferred timeline. It’s incredibly easy to miss deadlines and get caught up in what you’re currently doing, but being prudent and taking the time to plan your next steps is vital.

Your four undergraduate years are yours. No matter which college you attend, you have the power to get from the experience what you want. College is a time to explore, to find out who you are and what you want and who you want to be. This process looks different for absolutely everyone. Every student must take different steps, but these aforementioned five steps are important ways to utilize your undergraduate experience to set yourself up to thrive!

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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