How to Tackle College: A Year-By-Year Breakdown

While college is a fun four years, filled with parties, road trips and some of the most amazing, and even reckless, nights of your life, there’s still business to be handled. It can be difficult to manage coursework, extracurriculars, a part-time job or internship, in addition to having a social life. But fear not! With some planning, you’ll conquer your undergraduate time, academically, emotionally, socially and professionally.

Freshman Year 
The most important tip to remember for freshman year is to start strong academically. The grades that you make this year set the tone for the rest of your undergraduate career. Your first semester grades determine whether or not you’ll spend the next three and a half years playing catch-up. That’s not to say that you should live in the library because life isn’t just about your GPA. It is also important to make friends and involve yourself in student organizations. Time management and prioritizing become key here; freshman year is when you learn to balance. Still, remember why you came to college -- likely, to prepare for a rewarding career. So don’t loose sight of the fact that. At the end of the day, your parents aren’t writing tuition checks for you to wear Greek letters.

Sophomore Year 
The time has come to start thinking about the future. Major declaration season has arrived! The second year of college can be intimidating simply because you are asked to commit to a subject field that will significantly affect your career. Consider what you’re good at, where your interests lie and the practicality of the different majors you are considering. If you haven’t yet established a relationship with your advisor, now is the time to make an appointment. Ensure that you are in good academic standing and on track with your requirements. This would be a great time to finish your four-year plan. Also, start thinking about life after undergrad. Will you want to venture straight into the workforce or perhaps pursue a graduate degree? Both of these decisions require lots of forethought and preparation; sophomore year is the perfect time to get started.

Junior Year
Prepare yourself for the most challenging year of your undergraduate career. At this point, you’ll be taking the bulk of upper-level courses required for your major. Depending on the intended career field, most third-years in college also work or intern part-time in addition to a full course load. While this year may be the most difficult, consider it to be the most beneficial as well. In the real world, your schedule is likely to be packed. Having this trial run will allow you to figure out how exactly to juggle. These skills will come in handy every day of your post-college life. Remember to take care of yourself, though. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, try taking a yoga or meditation class. If things get worse, consider visiting your school’s counseling center. While it may seem embarrassing, you shouldn’t be embarrassed, as it’s important to remember your health.

Senior Year
Congratulations, you made it to the final stretch! But the work’s not over yet. Think of your final year as the time to tie up loose ends. Make sure that you’ve covered all of your course requirements, so you don’t get a nasty surprise come graduation time. All too often, college seniors graduate late due to negligence and procrastination. Don’t let that pesky art requirement that you kept postponing keep you from walking in your cap and gown with your friends! Additionally, at this point, you should be somewhat certain of the career field that you’d like to enter. Start reconnecting with contacts from past internships and conferences. Get your cover letters and resumes out on time; visit the career center for help. Also, see if they can connect you with a professional in your field to review your resume. If you plan to go to graduate school, make sure all application materials and recommendations are submitted by their deadlines -- put these in your planner early in the year. Spring semester is the prime time to determine your living arrangements. Will you be going back home to live with your parents or getting an apartment with friends? Figure out what you can afford, and get to apartment hunting.

On a lighter note, make sure you find time during your four years to cross a few items on your collegiate bucket list. You know the guy you’ve had a crush on since freshman orientation? Ask him out for a drink. If you have some space in your schedule, take a fun elective or even start a club of your own. Go out for karaoke, take a spring break trip, scream yourself hoarse at home games.

By: Adjoa Bruce | Image: Source

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