8 Things to Help You Make the Most Out of Your College Experience

Is your dream to become a flight attendant and travel the world, but mom and dad are insisting that you get your degree first? If you’re about to attend college or are currently enrolled in a university, but you know deep down that you aren’t ready to spend thousands of dollars on tuition and hours in the library to learn how to “follow directions for the rest of your life”, here are 8 tips on how to make the most out of the experience outside of the classroom! Who knows? In ten years from now, you might be grateful your parents pushed you.

1. Leadership Positions.  

VCU SGA virginia commonwealth university student government association VCU midnight breakfast, SGA, college, how to learn more in college, how to make the most of college, lisa opie, miracle allums

Start signing up for Student Government elections as soon as possible. There are plenty of leadership positions open, and most Student Government Associations leave extra spots open for incoming freshmen. Being active in Student Government will not only buff up your resume, but it will provide you with real-world leadership experience that no class your university offers could ever teach you! Not to mention, you will build lifelong relationships with ambitious individuals just like you. I started out as a senator in the legislative branch of Student Government, and finished up my fourth year as the Executive Aide in the Executive Branch. I credit most of the leadership experience I’m applying toward my business, Vizcaya Swimwear, to my experience in the Student Government Association.

2. Join a Club. 

Meeting Rand Paul while spending spring break 2010 volunteering on his senatorial campaign in Kentucky gave me invaluable experience, and it wouldn't have been possible without my involvement in Young Americans for Liberty at VCU.
Meeting Rand Paul while spending spring break 2010 volunteering on his senatorial campaign in Kentucky gave me invaluable experience, and it wouldn’t have been possible without my involvement in Young Americans for Liberty at VCU.

Whether you are passionate about quidditch, pancake eating, libertarianism, or simply want to buff up your Spanish speaking skills, there’s a club for anything. If your school doesn’t offer the club you want, apply to start your own! I partnered with a colleague to create Japan Circle at my school, a club for Japanese students and students interested in the Japanese language and culture. Another club I joined was Young Americans for Liberty, where I had the opportunity to travel all over the country attending political conventions, leadership training, and even had the chance to spend my spring break volunteering on a senatorial campaign! Joining a club will keep you on top of your game when it comes to your passions or hobbies, and its also another opportunity to meet more people. Building relationships and expanding your network is crucial during your college years!

3. Study Abroad.

Kissing the Sphinx in the Giza Necropolis, Egypt
Kissing the Sphinx in the Giza Necropolis, Egypt

Oh, studying abroad. Every student dreams of studying abroad but always has obstacles. Your GPA isn’t high enough, they don’t offer the classes you need, it’s too expensive, Amanda Knox… the list goes on and on. JUST. DO. IT. This is the only chance you have to travel while you are young, with no obligations. Traveling the way you would while studying abroad is only possible when you are a student. Once you graduate, you’ll have “grown-up” obligations like families, jobs, and a mortgage.

If you think it’s too expensive, look into school-sponsored programs. They usually cost the same amount as tuition, and some programs even include airfare.

4. Internships. 

Lisa Opie internship college vcu capitol semester internship
A photo with my fellow Capitol Semester interns and Virginia House Majority Leader, Delegate Cox.

What’s the surest way to figure out if you’re on the right career path for you? Find an internship. This is your opportunity to get real-world experience in your field that will set you apart from other candidates when you’re seeking a job after graduation. It may also serve as a way to help you discover if you’re even in the right field in the first place. I had a very successful and educational internship experience as a legislative intern for a Senator, but it also helped me decide that being a swimsuit designer is a better fit for me.

5. Become a Resident Assistant. 

There are tons of perks from being an R.A. Your don’t have to worry about rent or food, you’ll have your own room in the middle of campus, you’re actively involved in creating a positive experience for new students, and it provides you with leadership experience. This is a great way to help you with the financial burden of getting an education because of the amount of money you save of housing and meals.

6. Go Greek.

My sorority's philanthropy was Breast Cancer Awareness and Education
My sorority’s philanthropy was Breast Cancer Awareness and Education

Despite the few cases of bad press that give greek life a bad name, joining a fraternity or a sorority will provide you with a killer network, life skills, leadership skills, etiquette, and philanthropic projects. If you don’t want to be known as “that sorority girl,” take 1-2 years to brand yourself on campus before rushing. This way, your chapter won’t be your life but it you will still have time to make the most out of your greek life experience. As always, take advantage of the leadership positions offered within the chapter to maximize your experience.

7. Become a Mentor

As you get closer to graduation, you will realize that you know everything about life as a student! Don’t let that experience and knowledge go to waste. Sign up to become an Admissions Ambassador or an International Student Buddy. This gives you the opportunity to share your invaluable knowledge and experience with new students.

8. Study Groups

My GPA would be lacking several A’s if it weren’t for study groups. From late night library crunch sessions to writing and resume building workshops, take advantage of all of the academic resources your school has to offer! Your transcript will thank you later.

Trust me, it's all worth it!
Trust me, it’s all worth it!

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