This post may be the most anticipated piece I have written in the 3-day life span of this blog. I have set the bar unbelievably low, I know.* This is part two on the topic of school secrets that no one wants you to know (Get Part 1 Here). To protect me from myself, I am going to jump right into the list before I get into yet another story from my past:
6. Choose Your Adviser Wisely
Picking an Academic Adviser to help you select classes and make career decisions is almost as important as picking a seat on the first day of class. It is serious stuff. This person can either help you realize your dreams or veer you so far off track that your only option in life is cleaning toilet bowls.** It is important to shop around and pick someone who you can both relate to and who can help you get to where you need to be. My story is one where I did absolutely everything wrong.
My adviser and I did not really speak the same language. Well, correction, we both spoke English, but a different kind of English. Every time one of us spoke, the other one would have absolutely no idea how to respond. Whenever I said something, he would give me that look as if he was waiting for a wizard to pop out, wave his magic wand, and give him a translation to what I just said. Neither of us were positive that the classes I was taking would help me graduate, but we didn’t really want to know. Sure, I graduated, but even I’m not sure how my adviser aided me.***
7. Don’t Be a Hero
One of my favorite phrases is, “be a hero.” It means that you should attempt to live your life as you believe your hero would live it. However, when selecting classes, the name of the game is not to be a hero. Seriously. Especially when it comes to electives or classes that have nothing to do with your major, take easy classes if at all possible. If you are, say, a Chemistry major, then take an advanced History course at your own risk. No future employer is going to care that you took an easier elective, but advisers and such want you to “challenge yourself” with harder courses. Look, I’ll challenge myself in other ways, like seeing how fast I can spend my money or how long I can make it into a sad movie without crying, as opposed to seeing how challenging I can make my course load. As an additional note on this, make sure during Freshmen and Sophomore year to throw in a couple of harder courses with your Gen-Eds. Unfortunately, many Juniors and Seniors have schedules filled with advanced-level classes because they waited to take them.
Regarding picking classes specifically, I have one important tip, use Rate My Professors to decide which class to take. It shouldn’t be your only metric, but it helps. If Rate My Professors says that your professor likes to bring her grill to class and roast students who get answers wrong, believe it. On the other hand, it might tell you that your professor is that rare combination of cool and hot, as represented by the slightly troubling red pepper graphic.
8. Pick a Good Major
As a general rule, if I have a degree in it or was considering getting a degree in it, you should not be studying it. Make sure to pick a career that, you know, has actual employment opportunities. As a professor of mine said religiously, “don’t choose to study something that doesn’t actually exist anymore.” Getting a degree in anything involving the Soviet Union or any other collapsed government will likely lead to limited job opportunities. Go figure. Think about what your degree will ultimately lead to, and if that is nothing, well, get out of there!
Too many people have this idea that they will be the only one to get a job. “I really, really want it,” they might say. Well, so do a lot of other people. Wonder why no one says that you’ll end up at a McDonald’s asking people if they would like fries with that? Well, getting a job at McDonald’s is harder than it looks nowadays. Some people, who shall remain nameless, applied there three different times and were rejected four different times.**** Think that everyone has the hand-eye coordination to work the fryers? Guess again. If it is so hard to get a job there, well, a field where there is 20%+ unemployment is probably a bad idea. Remember when your Mom told you when you were little to follow your dreams? Heck, remember when I was alluding to that a couple of paragraphs ago? Well those days are over. Do something you love some other time.
9. Connections, Connections, Connections - A.K.A. Make the Most of Your College Time
I was actually considering using only the second half of that title, but I see how that could be misconstrued to mean party as hard as you can for as long as you can. To get anywhere at any point, ever, you’re going to need connections. Alright, maybe you specifically don’t because your dream job has been calling you incessantly for the past four years wondering when you’ll apply, but for the rest of us, it’s not so easy. I went around and asked all of my professors how they got their jobs and I have kept up with a large chunk of my graduating class and asked those who have gotten jobs what they did to get there. In a nutshell, connections. It was some job they had or someone they knew from either a job, a friendship, or a family tie. What does that mean? You must maximize your opportunities to connect to different people. Network expansion is probably the most important aspect of college because most jobs don’t actually care how well you did in Calculus, they care that you graduated. So how does one expand their network?
First, use your adviser. Everything should start with them. If they like you, they automatically become something of a gateway. They can hook you up with employers, people they know, internships, etc. A good adviser should be able to guide you while a sub-par one will keep winking at you and calling you Mortimer. Next, scour the depths of the ocean for opportunities. These include internships and volunteer opportunities. Internships, according to my informal poll, were the best way to get a job, even if it wasn’t with that company. During college, especially the summers, there isn’t much to do. Use that time to intern for a company you’re interested in or volunteer - for free, at some place that is in your field. There is a bit of a double-edged sword for workaholics. On one hand, you are making money to pay off debt and to have a bit of a nest egg, on the other hand, you’re probably not advancing your career any. The former is a short-term strategy while using summers to intern tends to mean taking the long-view. Emailing your Department Chair asking them if there is anything they recommend could also be fruitful. The point of all of these methods is to get to know people and then have them connect you to someplace else. When they need someone reliable for a job, they have you to call. Do this as many times as you can for as long as you can and by the time you’re out of college, you should have places to go and people you can call.
10. Manage Your Time Wisely
What this doesn’t mean is that you should be working surfing the internet and checking your email twice as much with no down time. This also has nothing to do with winning Fantasy Football, Fantasy Basketball, or besting your score at Fat Boy Raids the Cookie Factory,***** I am talking about time spent outside of class on course work. There are basically three types of classes: Cakewalks, Classes you have to put in the work for, and classes where your grade is pretty much predetermined from the minute you walk into the class. Most of your work and effort should be directed at the second type. Cakewalks don’t usually require much effort while the third type is one of those classes where no matter how hard you study, you always seem to get the same grade on each test. Unfortunately, these classes tend to be somewhat difficult. As a rough estimate, I would say this is how your time should be siphoned off for each type of class: Type 1: 15% Type 2: 60% Type 3: 25%. What kids tend to do is spend an excessive amount of time on the classes they’re best at while avoiding the ones they are treacherous in. It’s a nice ego stroke, but a bad overall strategy.
There were multiple ideas that hit the cutting room floor because the list was only meant to ultimately be 10 numbers long, but here were some of the items I was going to use for number 11 if there were actually a number 11: Grad School advice, Dating and Relationships in school, and finally, tips on how to, you know, do well in classes, but I figure it’s time to end this thread.
Hope this either helped or entertained you, ideally both!
* Whoa It’s my first rhyme since that time in 7th grade with that girl and the poetry that I talked about last time. Holy cupcakes, I just did it again!
** Not that there’s anything wrong with that, since, you know, that’s what I do for a living.
*** You are probably wondering why I did not select a different adviser once I realized that the one I had picked was, shall we say, not my cup of tea. The answer is that I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. You see, if I had transferred advisers, my adviser would have realized I had left him since advisers gossip amongst themselves more than teenage girls. He would immediately be struck with jealousy and despair. Whenever he would bring someone else into his office to advise, he would sit there thinking, “I wonder if this guy is going to leave me like Josh did.” It would affect his entire life all because I moved on. I couldn’t do that.
**** You're probably wondering how I, ahem, I mean the nameless person who kept applying to McDonald's, got rejected four times when he only applied three times. One has to take into account the various mediums with which one can get rejected and that sometimes you hit "Submit" more than once.
***** As an aside here, back in the day when I was 85 pounds heavier, I was an absolute beast at Fat Boy Raids the Cookie Factory. I gained weight just watching my virtual character gobble up all of those cookies. When I lost the weight, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.