The word “upperclassman” is often thrown around heavily and with disdain by college students, often as a looming threat. At this mid-point in a college career, it’s time to buckle down and narrow your goals definitively so the journey post-college is a pleasant one.
The second year student braces themselves to feel the wrath of the sinister 400 level course. The third year student feels a gradual shift in the dynamics of an existing social life….from seeing it thrive initially to slowly become obsolete. But most of all, the fourth-year student reflects on the experiences that could have been or should have been, if only they had been more responsible about their choices.
Bringing you the mid-college crisis checklist, to introspect on your goals, visions, and aspirations and keep them in line with a college past that may not have been as rosy. From one college student to another, here’s a checklist of things you should be ensuring to optimize the rest of your college career:
1. Quality Over Quantity Friendships
While it’s great to have several options for people to turn to when you’re bored on a Friday night, keep your friends circle tight. Find people you can count on to keep you in check when your life is derailing, people you could bet on who are doing productive things with their time and people who you can ultimately learn from. The beauty of Rutgers is that you never have to limit yourself to the same group of people because on any given day, you are sure to be surrounded by a diverse body of people. Time is of the essence, so using it judiciously in spending time with people who bring out the best in you is crucial to your own well-being. Don’t be afraid to cut out toxicity from your life. You don’t owe anybody your effort, energy or time if the friendship is not benefitting you anymore.
2. Extend Your Network
Running parallel to the above point, attend as many networking events as you can. On a weekly basis, there are dozens of events that call upon distinguished Rutgers alumni, leaders in your field and even Rutgers faculty with a wealth of experience whose talks you could benefit from. Post-college, these resources and tools to track down successful people significantly reduce. This is your time to join clubs, organizations, professional societies and meet people who are radically different than or eerily similar to you with regard to interests and backgrounds. Keep your acquaintances close, and constantly follow up with them every semester. Set up informational conversations with people who inspire you, because despite how crunched for time they are, everybody loves taking time out to discuss their journeys. Who knows, maybe someday the Rutgers alumna you took time out to meet over breakfast has a position waiting for you that they think you might be interested in.
3. But Don’t Forget Where You Came From
The people who have been instrumental in helping you get to college should continue to be a priority in your life. Whether that’s family, high-school friends, teachers or other mentors from school, don’t forget your roots. Make it a point to not lose yourself so deeply in college life that you forget to spend the occasional weekend back home. As important as it is to envision yourself in the future, hold on to your happy place. There’s nothing wrong with returning to your comfort zone every once in a while and basking in the warmth of familiarity. Chances are that the same people who have been anchors in your life before you got to college will continue being monumental support after college too.
4. Make Your Mark in College
Rutgers can leave students feeling overwhelmed for its “small fish in the big pond” effect. However, don’t let that stop you from doing more. Identify what you bring to the table from your unique background and experiences, and capitalize on it by starting something. Whether that’s a club, a program or an initiative, there is no place like college to be aspirational and entrepreneurial. The existing support you have for ideas you generate in a college setting will be tremendous, the resources plentiful and there is no better place to experiment with your projects and ideas than in a college setting. In the real world after college, the competition increases and you would much rather have had the experience of trying and failing earlier than later. Additionally, there’s nothing like returning to campus years later with your legacy living in through the mark you left.
That’s a personally established mark to have left on the university: something nobody can claim or take away from you in years to come.
5. Take Care of Yourself
A simple but serious tip to your well being that college students overlook. As important as it is to prioritize and get that dream G.P.A, nothing is worth compromising your health for. Whether that’s mental health or physical well-being, the four years at college should be about learning how to strike an ideal balance between academics, a social life, food, and sleep. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, or admit to yourself that the weight of your responsibilities overwhelms you. Getting a solid 8 hours of sleep to function optimally is essential to writing a quality research paper and ensuring balanced meals at the right time is essential to not having a breakdown during an intense Orgo exam. There’s nothing wrong with taking a semester off to take care of your health. Knowing your triggers, your limits and what works best for you to work productively.