Most of us grew up listening to parents and grandparents (or cheesy TV shows) repeating to us that college would be the best years of our life. Now that I’ve completed my transition from college student to full-time worker, I can say that that’s TRUE, at least in part. (Although college years are pretty awesome, all of us have still so much time ahead and the chance of making our lives beautiful.)
Being in college gives you that mixed feeling of being able to be irresponsible but at the same time being proud of growing up. But while you should enjoy your college experience, it’s also important to focus on what will help you after you graduate.
Here are five must-do items for your college to-do list:
1. Get a job
Jobs aren’t just for after college. You’ll want to get a job during college, too.
Why? Because whether it’s a summer internship or a part-time job, having a few relevant working experiences will always make you more appealing to employers—and that will help when you start searching for a full-time job after graduation.
Even better, if you’re part of that group of students who have not quite figured out what they want to do in life, trying a few significant job positions can help you figure out what you don’t want to do for a job.
Knowing what you don’t want to do is a step forward in discovering what you would like to do for a living.
2. Build relationships with your professors
Stick out from the crowd!
Establishing a relationship with your professor (especially for those classes you really like) can help you not only during school, but also afterward. If that professor knows you, they’ll be more willing to help.
They’ll be more engaged when you do your master thesis, they’ll keep you updated if they hear of a conference or networking event they know you would be interested in, they’ll happily write a recommendation letter for you and they will give you useful tips on how to reach your objectives after graduation.
These are just some of the positive benefits you can receive by just going that extra mile in and outside your classrooms. It might take some extra effort to get to know a few professors who value and appreciate you, but it’s totally worth that effort.
3. Learn a language
Especially if you want to work in an international environment, knowing at least one other language is a must. By learning one or more languages, you’ll qualify for jobs that require that ability, as well as putting yourself ahead of your competitors for jobs that don’t.
Language skills are unique, especially for Americans, so being able to communicate in Spanish or Mandarin or whatever language you choose can only help you later in life. And once you’re out of school, it might be difficult to find the time to dedicate to learning this skill.
4. Participate in an exchange
A semester abroad isn’t just a good excuse for a prolonged vacation; it’s one of the best experiences you can get in life. Experiencing a new culture, traveling, meeting new people, studying in another country, possibly learning a language—it opens your mind and adds to your knowledge, not to mention helps you learn about yourself and grow up in ways you would have never imagined.
Study abroad is also an awesome experience to put on your resume. Hiring managers are often impressed if you have an international background, mostly because putting yourself in a situation that’s outside your comfort zone takes initiative and courage. You’ll develop intercultural communication skills, adaptability, sociability and the capacity to analyze things with different perspectives—all valuable skills in almost any kind of job.
5. Don’t focus too much on grades
After a four-point list of things that require hard work and commitment, it’s equally important to stress that you should also enjoy life. Grades are important, but that’s not all there is.
Take time to party (yes, party!), cultivate your hobbies, sleep, visit your family and hang out with friends. That last point is especially important because friendships acquired in college will often last you for life.
What would you add to this list? What else should college students focus on?
Sara Coppola is an aspiring freelance writer and a creative content writer for Miinto UK. Sara has a background in economics and international business with a focus on social media and online marketing.