College is a time to experiment. It’s a time to explore your interests, find your tribe, and learn from the people you admire. “Doing college right” means different things to different people, but for me, it meant making the most of my time as a student.
After graduating recently, I spent a lot of time thinking about my college experience and what made it valuable for me. Looking back, I can point to a few things that my friends and I did to kickstart our careers, meet our heroes, and work on some of the most rewarding projects. If I had to do it all over again, these are the eight tips I’d give myself.
1. Show up
If there’s someone you’d like to meet or a company you’d like to work for, do everything you can to make it happen.
This could mean cold-emailing people at companies you’re interested in, scheduling meetings with people you find interesting, or volunteering for a cause that you care about. If you’re young and don’t have much work to show, showing up and expressing interest will get people fired up about you.
Secondly, follow through with your commitments. If you simply do what you say you’ll do, you’ve automatically set yourself apart from the majority of your peers.
2. Rigorously prioritize
Identify the best uses of your time and cut everything else out. This might take a while if you’re just starting out, but you’ll know when you’ve found the best opportunities or the best people.
You’re not missing out if you de-prioritize the less meaningful parts of your life— you’re just making time for what’s important to you.
3. Be bold
Authority figures aren’t always right, so don’t take everything they say at face value. Be respectful, but don’t back away from asking hard questions.
Think for yourself.
4. Walk the walk
If you’re interested in something, the best way to move forward is by doing it. This could mean learning to write, draw, paint, or code. Whatever you want to do, just start doing it.
The more time you spend on the skill, the better you’ll get. In the process, you’ll build credibility and have work to show future teammates, co-founders, employers, or friends.
5. Observe and outdo
A quote from Teller from Penn and Teller: “ Sometimes, magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.”
If you do what others do, you’ll get what others get. The best way to set yourself apart from your peers is to practice your craft, pursue opportunities that others may consider risky, and spend more time than anyone else on what you want to perfect.
6. Build bridges
Express gratitude to people who help and mentor you, and always look out for opportunities to help others around you. People rarely forget a strong introduction or an instance when someone believed in them.
Be the person that connects others with good people or opportunities— you never know how or when it’ll come back to you.
7. Consider luck
Acknowledge that luck plays— and will continue to play— a big role in your failures and successes. A fantastic T.S. Eliot quote that I keep coming back to: “There is only the trying, the rest is not our business.” Once you’ve given it your all, it’s up to the universe to decide what happens.
8. Take care of yourself
Prioritize your health, because you won’t bring your A-game to what you do otherwise. If you want to perform exceptionally, make sure you’re giving your body what it needs to function well.
Even if you think you can “survive” without sleep or food, it’ll affect your performance and catch up with you eventually. It’s a marathon, not a sprint— if you’re doing things right, college is just the beginning of an exciting road ahead.
Above all, surround yourself with good people and make time for things that make you happy. Those are the feelings and memories that will stick with you long after college is over.