Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hacks for an Epic College Experience

It is that time of year again. The time of year when college campuses across our nation, come alive with nervous newbies excited, yet terrified about what lies ahead. Are those movies depicting college life real? Are professors scary? Will I make any friends here?

If you are sending someone away to college for the first time this fall, here are few things I recommend they do to make the most of their college experience. These hacks are not only based on my personal experience as a student but on over fifteen years as a college student services professional. A fun job if you can get it!

College can be an epic experience. Unfortunately, only about half of the people who start college will earn a degree. Researchers who look into how and why students stick around have found that the students who get involved on their college campuses in some way are more likely to finish their college degrees. So here are some hacks to getting involved and sticking around long enough to finish college.

Student Activities and Organizations

Most campuses have an office called something like Student Involvement or Student Leadership or maybe Student Activities. These offices host student organizations and plan campus-wide student activities. Check them out.These days this office - along with many others - will have a presence on social media, if you Tweet, friend, tumble or Snap, look for them. Following their social media feeds is a great way to find out what is going on across campus.

Typically, the office will host some type of organizational fair early in the fall semester. Go to this fair. Every existing student clubs and organization will have a table, this is a good way to meet other students in that group. Ask them about the organization; How many members? What do they do? Are there opportunities for leadership positions? What does the group do for fun? Is this group on social media so you can check them out before deciding to join? If the campus doesn’t have a student organization of interests, starting an organization is often as easy as a filling out a form and getting a few other students to sign up.

Campus Recreation Center

The campus rec center is another awesome place. If your student was an athlete in high school, or enjoys a good work-out, becoming a regular at the Rec is a good way to meet others and feel a part of the campus. In addition to work-out classes, and weight rooms, campus "Rec Centers" typically offer a variety of intramural team sports. Many of these teams are often looking for an extra player or a sub. Ask about signing up for a team.

For those students who are not athletic and not out-going, don't despair. There is something for everyone on a college campus. Here are a few other tips for getting involved and becoming part of the campus; Say hi to the people who sit next to you in class or who stand in the lunch line with you. If they look up from their phone long enough to say Hi back, introduce yourself. This strategy works in the dorm too. Get to know the other students on the floor – ask where they’re from, what they’re studying, what they like to do in their spare time. You might find you have many things in common.

And That School Thing

Getting to know the professors can make campus less intimidating. I know, it sounds like a strange thing to do, I’m not suggesting that anyone ask them to go for coffee. But it's not a bad idea for students to introduce themselves to the professor after class. Ask questions about the class – How can I be successful in this class? This can make the classroom more personal. Professors are people too, they like to know that students are interested in doing. And, believe it or not, they were once college freshmen too! Form a study group with other members of the class. This is a social way to study and will help prepare students for exams.

College is a fabulous opportunity. Unfortunately, almost half of those who start college won’t finish. Don’t let that be you or your student. Making just one friend can be the difference between an epic college experience or an epic college fail.

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