5 tips for college freshmen

academic advice career advice

Freshman year can be a whirlwind. Navigating newfound independence, discovering the best dining hall on campus, choosing the right classes and major…we’ve all been there. It’s important to also remember that your first few semesters on campus lay the groundwork for your professional career as well.

Here are five strategic tips to keep in mind to set you up for success in college: 

1. Explore Extracurriculars and Leadership Opportunities 

Everyone begins college with a blank slate, so take advantage of this opportunity to explore diverse interests and discover your passions. Not only do extracurriculars look great on your resume, it’s also a playground for building transferable skills that will make you stand out in future interviews. Challenge yourself to develop concrete examples of skills like conflict resolution, leadership, problem solving, and communication – and have fun in the process!  

2. Cultivate Relationships with Professors 

College academics is about more than just acing your exams. Seek out mentors within your field who can guide you through your academic and professional journey. This means attending office hours, asking questions about the material, and getting to know your professor while sharing your interests. These relationships will be invaluable when the time inevitably comes to apply for internships, scholarships, or graduate programs and a recommendation letter is required. 

3. Learn How to Network

Networking can sound daunting, but it’s the most important professional skill to have in your toolbox. The advantage that a warm connection can give you for an internship is immeasurable, especially for young students and professionals who don’t have a ton of experience. My recommendation is to reach out to alumni who have jobs that interest you and schedule informational coffee chats, as they know exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes and can offer real insights, advice, or even a foot in the door. 

4. Tap into Career Center Resources 

Do some research and dig into what your college career center can offer you, whether it’s scholarships and funding opportunities to resume writing workshops to professional photo sessions. Many students miss out on these free, helpful resources because they don’t know to look. Through my university’s career center, I funded an unpaid summer internship through a scholarship and discovered a variety of postgraduate programs that led me to the Fulbright Fellowship in Spain. 

5. Research Internship Opportunities

Think of internships as dipping your toes into the professional world to see what you like and don’t like. With internships, it’s very important to start planning early, as many competitive corporate programs (i.e. consulting, finance, tech) start recruiting for summer internships as early as the first month of the fall semester. Otherwise, it’s much more common to start applying in January. While it’s not necessary to pursue an internship your freshman year summer, it’s always important to explore your interests and build transferable skills and never too early to start thinking about building up to the junior year summer internship, the last stepping stone before your post-grad career.  

Start with these five tips to lay down the groundwork for professional success. While graduation may seem far away as a freshman, every investment you make now will pay off in the future. Good luck! 

Cynthia holds a BA in Public Policy from Brown. After graduation, she lived abroad in Madrid, Spain for two years pursuing a US Department of State Fulbright Scholarship and a Master’s degree in Marketing. She has worked in the NBA’s marketing department and now works at a sports agency in brand partnerships.

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