You finished high school and finally made it to college! The end of your education is in sight – only four more years until you move into the workforce and officially become an adult.
Then something happens… You start to consider getting your graduate degree and attending MORE SCHOOL! But you’re still young, and if you’re anything like me, unsure of what you want to with your life. So, it’s important to “shop around” and see what truly interests you before you make that extra commitment.
Here are some tips I picked up along my undergrad to graduate school journey that will hopefully help with yours.
Find a cause you’re passionate about – and if you’re not quite sure, explore a few different options to find what suits you best. Are you good with a hammer? Then you might love volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and helping to build homes for those less fortunate. Another great way to give back is volunteering at a food kitchen and helping to feed the hungry.
Or, start small and donate old clothes to a local shelter while you’re trying to find your passion. Here’s a list of community service ideas to help get you started.
Community service looks great on a grad school application and can help you find a different path or learn something new about yourself.
Join Some Clubs
It’s great to get out of your comfort zone to meet new people or find new interests. I’m guilty of being a creature of habit – I find one thing I like, and I stick with it. So, it was a little difficult for me to put myself out there and try something new.
I decided to join a sorority, an Italian club, and a community service club. In the end, I’m glad I did it. I loved the clubs I picked, so I stuck with them throughout college.
I didn’t know this at the time but staying dedicated to the same groups actually helped with my grad school application. They like to see students with dedication and plan (even though it started out as an experiment).
Start Thinking Ahead
Create a Resume
Not only is a resumé an important part of the grad school application process, but it’ll be incredibly helpful in many aspects of your life. Plus, writing a resumé is a skill that takes time and practice.
Starting early will make the process easier by simply adding accomplishments as you go. You can use your college’s career center to help you get started, or you can search the internet for a great how-to guide.
A resume should be a single page that makes your greatest qualities and accomplishments shine.
Get a Part-Time Job
I know this is easier said than done. School, homework, and trying to have a social life are already keeping you busy enough. But getting a part-time job can be beneficial if you can manage it.
Not only will you get some extra cash in your pocket, but getting a job can help build important skills and build up your resumé. If the job lines up with your future goals, great, but even a job at the diner down the street can help you.
Although working in a restaurant doesn’t sound like the most glamorous job, I can tell you from experience it can be really great. I also added skills like multi-tasking, interpersonal skills, time management, communication, and attention to detail to my resume!
Apply for (and Get) an Internship!
Internships are a great way to get professional experience while getting a peek at careers that interest you. For example, for as long as I can remember, I saw my future self carrying a briefcase, wearing a suit, and doing something in the business world. After a few internships (and the economics classes I HATED while in business school), I found that this actually wasn’t the life for me.
Luckily, I had those internships and was able to find my path, even though it deviated quite a bit from the future I had originally imagined.
Find a Mentor
When applying to grad school, you’ll need letters of recommendation – and your mom and neighbor don’t count. Take advantage of your professors’ office hours and build relationships with them. Some of your lecture classes are going to have hundreds of students in attendance, so those professors may not have the time to build personal relationships.
Once you get passed 100-level classes, the class size will shrink significantly, and you can start to make connections.
In addition to letters of recommendation for grad school, your professors can also be great mentors. They’ve walked in your shoes. They have the knowledge and experience to get you where you want to be.
Take the time to enjoy your college experience. Test out different career ideas and find what makes you happy. As they say, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confusious