I am still in denial. Do I really only have one year left? Is this really the last time it will be perfectly acceptable to order pizza at 3am? Is this the last time I will unpack my belongings into a tiny, over crowded and run-down college apartment with five other roommates? Doing all of these things my last year carries a sentimental note. But the real question on my mind at this pivotal time is – Am I prepared to enter the “real world” and will I be hired to work at a company and in a job that I love?
Right now, above all, I’m feeling anxious. The upcoming career fair where recruiting companies are stationed for interviews has made me completely nervous. I can’t help but feel a bit lost and even though I have spent the last 4 years doing my best to prepare myself for a bright future, I am not sure how I will come across to a future employer. Madison, WI has so many intelligent, assiduous students that really set the stakes high for the next candidate. How do I compare against them and what can I do to set myself apart?
Reflecting on the past few years and embarking on the next phase, I have 3 pieces of advice that I think are crucial for building a foundation to enter the real world I am about to face. It starts simply:
1. Get Involved
This is something that I still don’t think I did enough of, and to be honest it’s my biggest regret. Join university clubs, student orgs and join activities to start building your resume and preparing for presenting yourself to future employers. Universities are full of knowledgeable people that provide great connections and networking opportunities for eager students, so take advantage of them! Sign up, speak up and build connections starting your very 1st year of college. Interviewing for jobs now I have found that having a diverse set of interests and involvement in school activities is a point of major interest with companies. GPA and field of study are definitely important, but my ability to multi-task and be part of the bigger college picture have been even more impressive.
2. Do What you Love and Resist the Temptation to Follow Others:
I know this may sound cliché and parents/coaches have told you the same thing before, but I think it’s essential to stick to your guns in college. You are going to meet so many people who will try to change your mind or influence your decisions about who you are and who you will become. Coming to Madison, I didn’t know a soul and felt like an insignificant number in a huge pool of people. Swimming around, I second-guessed all of my decisions and took people’s opinions for my own. At some point, I realized that if I didn’t take my own opinions seriously, I was going to struggle at such a large school. That’s when I took the leap and joined my sorority, decided that I would go into Journalism because I loved to write, and dropped the rowing team that my roommate was pressuring me to sign up for. Three years later, I’ve met lifelong friends through Greek life, found a major where I can relate to my professor and peers on a personal level, and picked up marathon running because it’s one of my passions. I am on my self-designed path and I couldn’t be happier.
3. Expect Nothing and be Grateful for Everything
Remember, you are fortunate to be at a university receiving an education. Many people don’t have that luxury in life. Don’t take your privilege lightly and lose your focus. You are a student first and foremost and you have certain expectations to fulfill. Go to class, foster relationships with your professors and set academic goals. Trust me, I’ve met great people at school that just couldn’t handle the responsibilities and ended up having to drop out due to alcohol abuse or complete failure in classes. It can happen to anyone, no matter how dedicated you are. All it takes is a series of wrong decisions and multiple missed wake-up calls. Always remind yourself of what you want to achieve during your lifetime, because college is such a vital chapter in evaluating your priorities and character. Future employers will see through your character, which is tested in the moments when we truly become independent as college students.
College has been and continues to be an incredibly fun ride. Like any other life situation, it requires balance and cannot be abused. Take opportunities and run with them, follow your intuitions, and be prepared to feel shock as you stand in my position your senior year and face the wide open job market. The time really does fly by, eventually encompassing a series of experiences that represent a four-year window of your life. Get excited; you are about to embark upon a journey in which you have the power to paint every experience. Choose your colors wisely, be bold and vibrant, and don’t forget to take a step back and assess your work along the way – your future will thank you.
Senior at University of Wisconsin-Madison
Studying Journalism and Strategic Communication with a certificate in Global Cultures
Lauren is a dedicated marathon runner, writer and avid reader. She loves staying active, has an appreciation for traveling, and a strong passion for eating and cooking healthy. Very driven, talkative, detail-oriented and upbeat, Lauren is now Head of her Sorority’s recruiting process which is well underway at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.