5 pieces of advice to succeed in college

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Photo credit: Christina Ding

Now that I only have a few months left before I graduate, I’ve realized a few things that have/could have helped me a lot in my college career.

#1 – utilize the career center

The NCA is a WONDERFUL resource that offers so much to students beyond resume building and cover letter reviews. Primarily, the marketing career trek introduced me to marketing and PR. It put me in front of people who worked in the industry I was interested in and gave me the opportunity to ask about their every day lives and all of those small questions that the internet couldn’t really answer for me. Moreover, it was a chance that most people have to put in the effort to seek out. Meanwhile, Northwestern created its own programming.

I did it twice – the first year, I was introduced to 9 companies, two of which I ultimately ended up interning at. I wouldn’t have known about either if I hadn’t gone on the trip, and being able to talk about the visit helped differentiate me from other candidates. The second year, I was more experienced and could ask more specific questions to discover more about different types of organizations and work.

Overall, NCA is a wonderful resource that many students forego because it’s a long walk or because they just don’t know about all of the different programs and events the office organizes. Just dig around the website and learn for yourself!

#2 – make some alone time for yourself

I don’t think people prioritize this enough. Take time to be alone, whether that’s taking half an hour to clean your room, cook a meal, or pick out a book from the library.

I’m absolutely one of those people who really likes spending time by herself. I also like hanging out with people one on one, though occasionally I thrive in group settings.

I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school, I often spent weekends staying in. Staying in isn’t antisocial, it’s necessary to decompress, withdraw from your social life, your friend drama, etc.

Read: “Autonomy” – 3/24/16

#3 – take notes by hand

I have found that in classes when I’m required to take notes on paper, I tend to do better for a few reasons:

#1 – I have no distractions – additional note: put your phone away during class, just please.

#2 – Studies show that you retain information more effectively if it’s written by hand.

#3 – There is some sort of correlation between taking notes by hand and receiving a higher participation grade, because of #1, #2 and because of professor perception.

Even though I type more and faster on my laptop, if I could go back, I’d do it all over again in my notebook!

#4 – save money by meal prepping

If an average meal when purchased on campus costs something like $7, and a cup of coffee is $2, let’s say, then meal prepping (and perhaps investing in a coffee maker) cuts those costs in half. You could easily prepare meals that cost $3-4 each, and spend less than $1 on coffee if you just buy a $15 or so mini coffee maker and a large Costco-size container of coffee grounds ($10).

For me, cooking is a soothing, therapeutic activity. And to all of you nonbelievers who think that cooking ends only in catastrophe and hardship, I say, meal prepping helps balances the time and effort invested for the financial (and health) return.

Read more about meal prep on my food blog, Cat the Critic!

#5 – get a part-time job

I think that working at Phonathon made a huge difference for me, maturity-wise. I had many reckless moments of just throwing money away, but also many jolts of reality whenever I’d check my bank account and consider the money that was flowing in and out. In that way, I see in a lot of my friends who are also working part-time jobs the development of a sense of financial responsibility that only a part-time job can give.

It’s the notion of making sacrifices to be responsible about your role, whether it means missing time to hang out with people, or balance it with your schoolwork, etc.

Having worked there since freshman year, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that I dedicate 2 evenings per night for the job. It’s etched into my schedule at this point.

I also got to work up the ranks in an organization, touch a bit of fundraising, manage and recruit and train people for shifts…it’s a consistent post that I’ve grown very familiar with.



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