First, let me tell you about myself so you can decide if you want to listen to my advice. I have never felt comfortable boxing myself into a 5 year plan. I impulsively dropped out of college three times from three different schools before finally sticking at one long enough to get my bachelor’s degree when I was 27. I am 30 years old now with no savings and a pile of student loans. But! My work has led me to several states, even as far as the southern tip of Chile. I’ve been offered many positions over the more educated, more experienced applicants because the interviewers could feel the passion oozing out of me. I have had many rewarding experiences due to my flexibility.
With that, here is what I wish I would have known/done during my undergraduate that will hopefully help some of you out:
- Prioritize classes that give you the opportunity to get hands-on experience – be it lab classes or project-based classes. These types of classes are more work, but they provide you with experience and knowledge that are harder to replicate outside of school.
- Pay attention to your fears and weaknesses and FACE THEM. Ignoring them isn’t going to make them go away. It’s better to deal with them during your undergrad than during your career or in grad school.
- Don’t stress too much about making the right decision. I know my ability to take such a wandering path is rooted in privilege, but still –
you are almost never locked into one decision forever. Relax. Have fun.
- Investigate dream jobs or graduate positions that you’d like to go for once you graduate and note what they’re looking for in an applicant, then take classes that will give you that. If I would have done this, I would have absolutely taken GIS classes.
- Get registered with your school’s disability office if you have any physical or mental disabilities. Traditional classrooms can make you feel like you’re not worth much if you can’t fit in with the mainstream style of learning, but damn it your input into this world is valuable and the world is so much stronger if we have people of all types working together. It is your university’s responsibility to accommodate you.
- Network as much as possible, especially if you are planning on going to grad school. As a socially anxious introvert, I can’t really give much advice on how to do this, but every professor I got to know during my undergrad became invaluable to me.
- Your mental health is always more important than school. ALWAYS. You matter more than any of this.
More advice under the fold!