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5 Things You Should Know Before Enrolling In College

five things you should know before enrolling in College.

5 Things You Should Know Before Enrolling in College.

1. Pursue a major you find interesting. 

Maybe you know you want to be a doctor, an accountant, or an engineer but most people don’t know what they want to be. There are countless majors out there now and it can be very stressful checking off the dreaded box on college applications. However, answering these 3 questions can guide you to the right major. 

-What do you want to learn more about? 

4 years is a long time so the major you pick should be something that interests you. If it changes over time, that's okay. If you find yourself down rabbit holes on YouTube watching Egyptian civilization videos, consider studying history. If you love shopping and follow the new trends at Zara and H&M, consider a fashion degree. Follow your interests not dollars, you will be a lot happier.  

-If I pick this major, what skills will I gain? 

If you want to learn how to code, computer science is the major for you. If you want to learn how to dissect things, biology is the major for you. These majors offer specific skills whereas degrees like political science and history offer general ones such as critical reading and writing. If you want the most “employable skills” I recommend picking a program in which you will read, write, and collaborate with others. 99.9% of jobs require you to do one of if not all these things. The sooner you can practice and grow these skills, the better. 

-How much do I like school? 

Some degrees are more valuable after 4 years whereas others will require a master's or Ph.D. You can work in sales after 4 years, but you can’t uncover archaeological sites or perform a heart transplant with a bachelor's degree.

And just because you have a master's or Ph.D. doesn’t mean it will lead to a great job. This is because job markets are constantly changing due to external forces outside of your control. In sum, unless you are obsessed with a specific research topic, you can steer clear of grad school. 

2. Knowing how to write a great essay can save you thousands of dollars. 

Most scholarships require you to write an essay. These essay prompts are usually about yourself or how you want to impact the world. Here are a few: 

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

So, now knowing what to expect from a scholarship essay you should practice writing one and have someone you trust review it. Pick someone that won’t hold back and will give you actionable, quality feedback. Reaching out to a former teacher you had a good relationship with can be a great place to start. 

After you have received the feedback and made the necessary changes, start applying. You may need to tweak the essay for special scholarships but that is okay. 

Scholarships are free money but they take some time to apply for. However, you should put in the sweat equity required as it can pay off big time. Even if you won a 1,000-dollar scholarship and spent 3 hours applying for it, that is 333 dollars per hour. Not bad for a college kid.

3. Get a wide range of experiences. 

There is going to be a sea of opportunities and it’s hard to justify one over the other. But there are different ways to get experience so I will outline 3 ways to get a well-rounded college experience. 

Experience #1: Clubs 

The number of clubs offered at college depends on the size of the college. For example, a big public college like Indiana University with about 30,000 students has over 750 student ran clubs and organizations. A small private school like Butler University with roughly 4,000 students has over 130 student ran clubs and organizations. Whether you go to a huge university or a tiny one, there will be several clubs you can choose from. Choose 1-2 clubs you are deeply interested in so you can extract the most of them. 

Experience #2 Study Abroad 

Studying abroad is one of the easiest ways to see the world. The best part is colleges will throw money at you to do it. In most cases applying for study programs will require a 2.5 GPA, and a simple essay on why you want to do it. If you do receive a scholarship for the program, you will likely have to write a 500-1,000 word essay on what you learned from the experience. 

Experience #3 Internships 

Most colleges will require internships now, but the term “internship” can mean a lot of things. Most people think it means sitting in a cubicle from 9-5 for the whole summer. However, there are many options. For example, you can work abroad and explore a new culture. I went this route, and it gave me a new perspective on work and life in general so, I prefer this option. You can also get a taste of the real world and apply for internships with companies that interested you. There are internships out there for everyone whether you want to intern for a local radio station or a national park

I completed two internships in college, one in Washington D.C., and one in Barcelona, Spain. I did learn a hand full of skills but what I remember the most from these internships were the people. I still keep in contact with some of them today, and I don’t regret these internships one bit. If you are looking for an international internship program, I recommend Absolute Internship. ( I have no financial affiliation with them).

I am a little biased here because I completed my internship through this program. But it is a great option because they handled everything from housing to internship placement. So, this is perfect if you are a first-time traveler or just want the peace of mind of having everything planned for you. 

4. You don’t need to go away to college.

Movies like Animal House and Neighbors portray college as a time for beer bongs and house parties. Our society promotes going away to college while ignoring the fact this is not possible for everyone. Maybe you want to stay closer to home to save money, or just to be around family.

Regardless of the reason, don’t feel like you NEED to go to college hours away. Ignore the negative comments surrounding local colleges, it doesn’t mean you are dumb, immature, or poor. Looking back, if I didn’t have the scholarships I did, I definitely would have stayed home for school.

3 pros of staying home for college:

-Save money.

This is a no-brainer. You will save loads of money on rent and even a little on tuition depending on the satellite school you go to. If you decide to go to community college instead, you will save thousands of dollars on tuition.

-Develop stronger relationships with faculty.

When you go to a university of 20,000 students, developing meaningful relationships with faculty is difficult. It is not impossible however it is more competitive. Going to a local university means fewer students and the faculty tend to care more about students as well. Many professors at local universities are there to teach whereas professors at big universities are there for research. With that being said, local universities set a nice stage for meaningful relationships between students and faculty. 

- Local internship opportunities.

Parents, students, and professors stress the importance of internships, and being local year-round can increase your chances of landing a solid internship. Everyone talks about summer internships but staying home for college enables you to intern for 6 months or a year. You can work over long holiday breaks and hit the ground running in the summer while other students are just starting their internships.

This route works better if you are a part-time student, but ambitious full-time students can manage a few hours a week if they are dedicated. Oftentimes, companies will be flexible with interns who are takes classes during the internship. 

5. If you want to wait, that's okay. 

There is no written rule saying that you need to attend college right after high school. When I was in college, I met a few people who were in their later 20s and even 30s. Some of them were military and others wanted a career change.

I found that these people were not interested in partying and playing games. They came to college to work. A lot of them did well in classes as they brought a unique “real life” perspective to the classroom. If you think it’s too late, a Japanese woman took 11 years to finish her degree at the age of 96. Talk about bad*ss.

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Written By: Nathan Payonk

Author of Newsletter: Nathan Payonk