As I near the end of my college career and graduation, I have a lot of things on my mind, and advice to share. Here are some of the things and lessons I’ve learned my last three and a half years at Oswego.
On Freshman Year
Fresh out of high school, college seems like the coolest thing ever. And it is. But with all of the freedom, comes immense responsibility. In high school, my mom would often ask me if I finished my homework, and my house was usually a quiet environment where I was able to study. There is nobody in college to encourage you or remind you to do your work and study. There’s always something to do in college; whether it be a program in your dorm, a party, or hanging with your friends down the hall. While this is a great thing, it also means that there is always something distracting you from your studies. There were many nights during my freshman year where I stayed up until three a.m. hanging out with friends, and avoiding homework.
Setting up a study schedule and sticking to it is crucial. Want to go out on Friday night? Force yourself to spend a few hours in the library getting your work done for the week. Take advantage of the study carrel rentals in the library; they provide a secluded and quiet area to study. Also, GO TO CLASS. I repeat, go to class. Again, there is nobody to tell you to go, it’s up to you to do it. When you think about it, you are paying to go to colleges to go to classes, not to sit in your room. Sure, it can be tempting to skip class when it’s snowing so hard you can’t see out your window, but missing class causes a snowball effect (no pun intended). You’ll be missing notes, assignment information, and more. Falling behind, especially early on, will continue to haunt you as deadlines approach and quickly pass you by. You must be extremely self-motivated and responsible in your freshman year, because mathematically, these grades are the most important to your GPA.
Don’t avoid buying your textbooks. I’ve rented most of my textbooks online through Skyo.com and Chegg.com, and it saves a ton of money, especially on books for my non-major classes that I know I won’t need in my professional career. If possible, make sure you have your books by the second of third class meeting day, because teachers usually assign reading at the very beginning of the semester, and you’ll end up far behind.
Get involved in clubs early on, so that you can continue to expand on your involvement throughout your time at Oswego, and run for executive board positions. These positions will not only look great on a resume, but allow you to advance your leadership and team work skills. I’ve been in PRSSA for a few years now, and have made a lot of amazing friends who I know will be great contacts in the PR world in the years to come.
Passionate about a certain field? Not sure what you want to major in, but you’re interested in something and want to give it a try? Then an internship is right for you. As a Public Relations major, I’ve had many internships working with social media, non-profits, agencies and media firms, and I have been able to really hone in on what I’m not only good at, but am passionate about. Internships allow you to try on your field of choice, and see if you will enjoy doing it as a career. They give you the opportunity to figure out what you don’t like, which is also very important. You may think that you want to, for example, be an accountant, but after crunching numbers all day, you learn that it’s not right for you. This is completely fine, and as they say, college is the time to figure out who you are, and what you’re passionate about.
Internships are resume builders, and allow you to expand your network while gaining real life experience. SUNY Oswego allows students to get academic credit for internships too, which you should definitely take advantage of.
On Relationships with Professors
One of the great things about SUNY Oswego is the class sizes. Most of my classes averaged around 30 students or less, which really allows for the ability for the professors to get to know you by your name and face. Raise your hand in classes and establish a relationship with your professors. Attend their office hours if you need help or have questions, or if you want to talk about professional topics. I’ve become very close with a lot of my PR professors and have benefited from their mentorship over the years. Especially during my senior year, my professors have been a huge source of advice and someone to vent to. By cultivating relationships with your professors, you will have people to ask for references when it comes to job hunting and grad school applications.
On Finding a Job
After my internship this past summer, I set out to expand my network on LinkedIn and meet people at different types and sizes of Public Relations agenices in New York City. Starting in September, I began researching different agencies, and finding employees who work there on LinkedIn. For those who don’t know, this is really simple (even though it might seem like stalking…) to do on LinkedIn. Simply type in the name of a company in the search bar, and it will say “people who work at X company” – click this, and begin searching through the results. After this process, I began sending short messages (make sure they’re professional!) to employees at the companies asking for a few minutes of their time to do an informational interview, as I was very interested in their work at X company. You’d be surprised how many people responded. People love talking about what they do, and were happy to speak with m. Take your time to research the companies, and be well prepared with questions on the company, and the person’s work. Try to figure out what they specifically work on. After hearing about what they do, many people asked me what I am interested in and my experiences. When it got to be closer to graduation, I sent my resume to my connections asking if their company had any openings. All of the job interviews I did were a direct result of my informational interviews. Responding to job postings on Indeed or Monster is often unsuccessful, due to the sheer amount of applications companies receive. I’ve personally had more success trying to establish direct contacts within companies and their HR departments.
On Graduating Early
Due to taking Spanish courses in high school and receiving internship credits, I have enough credits to graduate a semester early. While at times it seems that my college career is being cut short, it’s an accomplishment that I am very proud of. To me, it seems that the job market is better for December graduates, as there is a much smaller amount of recent grads job seeking. Graduating early is something you must be committed to, and is not for everyone. It’s a choice that you must be sure of, or you will end up with regrets.
On Studying Abroad
I had always wanted to be able to experience a different country, but didn’t want to be away from my friends and boyfriend at Oswego for an entire semester. Up until my end of junior year, I had no idea that Oswego offers quarter classes that provide an opportunity to study abroad for a week during either Spring Break, or during Winter Break. I participated in the GLS 100 course Spring 2015, and learned about London for the first eight weeks or so of the semester, and travelled there during Spring Break. The trip was very inexpensive; thanks to grants the school had received. Getting to travel abroad and experience an entirely new way of life for a week was an absolutely incredible experience. After learning about the history of London and the famous landmarks, it was awesome to be able to see these places firsthand. I really believe that studying abroad, even for just a week, gives one an entirely new perspective on life. I have never experienced being a “foreigner” before, and it was really interesting to get stared at when I spoke, because I was clearly not from there. Exploring a foreign city and experiencing all it has to offer is amazing, and really gives you a new frame of mind. Sometimes I feel that we get too consumed in our everyday lives in our school, town or city and don’t actually realize how large the world really is. I would definitely recommend the GLS quarter classes to anyone with the desire to travel.
- Have an open mind about anything and everything.
- Take new experiences as they come and don’t be afraid to try new things.
- Appreciate your friends and family, and remember to stay connected to those back home.
- Don’t think that college will last forever. It doesn’t, and you’ll always miss it.
- Be yourself, and stand up for your beliefs. Don’t worry about other’s opinions of you. Be yourself.
- Don’t try to do laundry on Sunday nights.
- Don’t be passive aggressive with your roommate(s). Open communication is key and crucial.
- Invest in a large winter coat, and snow boots with intense treads.
- Don’t ever try to use an umbrella. Think Mary Poppins.
- Go to hockey games, even if you aren’t into sports. They’re a great way to get some school spirit.
- Go to Mackin and have the mac and cheese and chicken tenders.
- Watch every sunset you can, and take lots of photos. You’ll miss the sunsets come November when you hardly see the sun anymore.
- Take advantage of the resources Oswego has, whether it is the Center for Experiential Learning, tutors on campus, or Disability Services.
- Go to the library to study. You’ll get a lot more done, I promise.
- Enjoy every last minute of it, because it truly does fly by.