Everyone asks, “What are you going to do when you get out of college?” I always have some long-winded, complicated answer about philanthropy, grant-writing, and changing the world. I say, “I want to make the greatest impact on the largest number of people that I can.” It’s all true, but what it actually means is that I am trying really hard to figure everything out.
Students do so many things: class, leadership positions, work, internships—I’ve done them all, too. It’s teaching me what I like to do and what I absolutely, unequivocally, don’t.
I don’t expect that all students have the same experience, but this is my advice on making the most of your time as a student.
My first visit to campus was idyllic: it was a beautiful fall day, warm sun and gently crisping leaves. I thought I loved it then, and I didn’t realize how much more I would love it as time went on. I also didn’t realize how little sleep I would get or how many things I’d want to do. Now, I know what’s important about my time at Denison.
- Get involved, maybe even take a leadership position. I am president of Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Honorary. I can’t help but feel a little geeky, but I’m proud to represent my major and my fellow students. I love planning events and getting to know the other LPE officers, and being in a leadership position enhances my experience in my major and teaches me serious time-management.
- Get some sleep. In the one psychology class I took, I learned that without enough sleep, the brain can’t properly process what it has learned. (Thanks, Dr. Matthews.) So, no all-nighters, and at least 6 hours of sleep a night. (Not enough, but at least it’s something.)
- Find a mentor. Approach professors you admire and tell them so. Dr. Katz from sophomore-year political science gives me advice on what to eat for breakfast and listens to me whine; Dr. Russell in communication validates my personal stories; Dr. Gillespie in women’s studies taught me what privilege really means. Keep up with your mentors; they care about your academic, professional, and personal success. Don’t forget to write thank-you notes, and make sure they know how important they are to you.
As a communication major, I have, of course, taken many classes in the department. I’ve also taken psychology, photography, feminism, and many other courses. But only now that I’m a senior am I realizing what I actually want out of a class.
- Personal growth, even if it’s hard. I had to write two autoethnographies last semester that were incredibly emotionally challenging, but so fulfilling.
- Don’t overdo it. Don’t stay up until 4 a.m. trying to read 600 pages. Trust me, you won’t remember a thing.
- Relax. The first course I registered for this semester: Yoga. I turned relaxation into a class because I have so little time to do it!
At Work and In Internships
Since sophomore year, I’ve worked about 20 hours a week off campus during the school year and at least 40 hours during the summer. This summer, I had two internships: one as a grant-writer and social media manager for Bad Girl Ventures, a nonprofit that helps women start small businesses; and another as office manager for International Financial Group. I also worked as a concierge at New Albany Country Club. Combined, I worked about 55 hours a week and took one week off. During senior year, I’ll continue working as a Communication Fellow, as the social media manager for Bad Girl, and as a concierge. I’ve learned an incredible amount from all of these positions.
- Figure out what kind of company culture you like. Do you want to work with a team or alone? Small company or large? Need freedom to work outside of the office? I’ve found that I like to be around four or more people and don’t always work efficiently from home. Knowing this will help you choose your career.
- Take time to yourself. Even though I work a lot, I make time for weekly yoga, read for pleasure often, and spend time with friends. I found that to be happy I need at least one full day off every week.
- Don’t worry about it. I keep wondering what my title will be, what company I’ll work for, and where I’ll live. My internship boss gave me the best advice: “Don’t spend 50 percent of your time doing 5 percent of the work. Worry about the big picture.” Now, I’m focused on doing what makes me happy and trusting that my experience will find a home in a great career.
So yes, you’ll sometimes have a class you’re not crazy about, and you’ll sometimes be annoyed by professors and students alike. But if you embrace the challenges, you’ll come out knowing what you love. Bottom line: find what you’re passionate about, and go for it.