While you’re mostly just thinking about attending orientation, setting up your dorm room, and hoping you’ll get along with your roommate, keep in mind that this first year of college is a year of exploration. It is never too early to start preparing for your career - and for your life after college. While students need to acclimate and transition to college life, try to complete your curriculum requirements efficiently so you have more time to sample different courses and experiences. This helps you to stay personally connected in this transitionary time and see where your tastes may lie. It is important to get involved in your campus, meet new people and make friends, and learn to advocate for yourself.
- Be inquisitive. Join clubs; volunteer. This could relate to your high school passions, or new interests that provoke curiosity. Fraternities and Sororities can also provide a sense of community, and often can offer connecting opportunities for internships or first jobs via alumni.
- Acquire skills that align with employers’ needs today: problem resolution, collaboration, curiosity; critical thinking; technical abilities (e.g. Microsoft excel, social media). Look for opportunities to learn and build these in and out of class.
- Explore majors early. Many have requirements that start as early as freshman or sophomore year, and some are prerequisites for summer internships.
- Develop mentor relationships; with faculty, advisors, peers, alumni and industry managers. This helps keep you on task, focused and makes you goal oriented; not to mention building your networking foundation. Make scheduled appointments with professors and faculty advisors during their regular office hours; they are often the first connection to the real world.
- Create your first college resume. It is not your common application activities list or CV. You will add to and refine this throughout your college years. It will come in handy as you seek out meaningful internships, activities, research projects and more.
- Get on LinkedIn or complete your profile fully, and periodically update it throughout your college career. This is the largest professional network in the world; students should be able to be found as early in their college years as possible.
- Think (next) summer. Yes, early planning yields the best opportunities. Think first about skills you need for the future, that can be learned online or in person; including completing early any upperclassmen courses that may be required, to enable you to take employer-appealing and major focused courses earlier in your collegiate years. As well as consider a job shadowing or initial internship. Attending an internship fair at your campus or virtually can open ideas and opportunities. And being a camp counselor offers you a peer-social environment that can build skills in many core areas of competency and responsibility.