9/20/17

The College Quick Reference Guide



College can be hard, and no one really tells you how to do it. Well, your parents might try to, but who wants to listen to them? (Now at 25 years old, I highly recommend listening to your parents. It doesn't sound cool in theory, but trust me, it's worth it). At Smart Money Seed we are both recent graduates, and were both blessed with successful college experiences. While we may have had some luck on a test or two, our secret for success ultimately came down to four major keys.

First things first, why do you even need to be successful in college? Isn't a degree, a degree? Technically yes, but college is your first big step into the adult world. If you don't make that first step firm and solid, you're going to fall flat on your ass.

Why else does college matter?

  • It is a monumental time of your life - you'll take these memories with you forever. Don't screw it up.
  • We all go to college to give ourselves more opportunities, right? A successful college experience is the first step toward landing that internship or job.
  • You're forming habits that will last a lifetime.
But just because college can be hard, doesn't mean it has to be hard. Yes, it is a critical time for personal growth and development, but it should also be one of the most fun times of your life. The key is to strike a balance between fun and work, which is much easier said than done. Based on my own personal experience, I think most of us are naturals when it comes to having fun. I don't remember ever needing to try too hard to play video games or drink beer with my friends. For whatever reason, the work side of college just doesn't seem to come as easily.

To help make college a little easier, here are four guiding pillars that will help support a successful college experience. If you feel lost or not sure how to tackle your semester, give these guidelines a try!

1. Don't lose focus on your grades.

It's the elephant in the room. Everyone knows that good grades are better than bad grades, but for some reason it becomes so easy for us to ignore them. Maybe it's because mom and dad finally don't have to see our report card, or maybe we think we can pull ourselves out of a hole at the last minute. Either way, there isn't a good excuse to lose sight of your grades. This doesn't mean that you need a 4.0 GPA, but you need to consistently work hard to get the best GPA you can.

Achieving your best GPA will improve your chances of landing a nice internship, and more importantly, it will give you a better feeling of self-worth. Don't under-estimate the pride and confidence that comes with accomplishments and achievements.

Here are my top four keys to keeping those grades up:
  • Go to class everyday. Once you miss a class, it turns into a habit that is nearly impossible to break. Missing class is the gateway drug to a very unsuccessful college experience.
  • Don't forget to study. Unless you're unbelievably brilliant, all of us need to study to get good grades. I'm not saying that you have to study every single day, twice the amount of class hours, or any of those other cliche statements, but just figure out what works for you, and just make sure you review class material from time to time.
  • Complete your assignments. Homework assignments are basically free points. If you're lucky enough to have homework (yes, I really mean lucky - some classes don't give away such easy points), take advantage of these open note assignments and be sure to at least complete them. Good grades on homework gives you extra cushion on quizzes and exams.
  • Connect with your professor or TA. The more a professor sees you engaged in the class, the more likely he or she will be willing to help you out. Be engaged during class and don't be afraid to talk to the professor after class or during office hours.
If you're not familiar with college these keys might sound like no-brainers, but when you have a PS4 staring directly at you, they become very easy to forget.

2. Keep an eye on your spare time.

If there is something all college grads can probably agree on, it's that spare time is time for fun. Being over two years removed from college, I couldn't agree more. The flexibility and free time that comes with a college schedule is amazing, and it's something you probably won't get back until retirement. Most of my spare time included hanging with my friends, playing countless hours of video games, and practicing trick shots on a Nerf basketball hoop. If you know my good friend Derek, ask him about his awesome dunk during our sophomore year. If you don't know Derek, let's just say that jumping into a wall didn't end very well. Thank goodness for the Chis Weber poster that hid the damage.

There's an old saying that says too much of anything can be a bad thing; unfortunately this holds true for spare time. Although there were times that I wished all I had to do was go to class and play video games, I knew that lifestyle wasn't going to help me achieve my goals. While employers may care about your grades for an internship or entry level job, they also want to know what you did with your spare time. Did you booze it up all day long, or did you take initiative and get involved? I think you can probably guess what most companies want to hear.

Here are some examples of ways to get involved while you're in school:
  • Join a club
  • Play a sport
  • Sing in the choir
  • Join a volunteer organization
  • Get a part-time job
  • Play in a band
Getting involved shows that you have other passions, it teaches you time-management skills, and it strengthens your network. I've seen friends that never branched out, and their opportunities have been significantly less than those of my friends who joined clubs, worked a job, or played sports. 

3. Choose your friends wisely

"If you hang out with chickens, you're going to cluck; and if you hang out with eagles, you're going to fly." - Steve Maraboli
I think Steve has a pretty good point; sometimes when Alex hangs out with Mya too much he ends up barking and tries to eat off of my plate. I really wish that was a joke...

Choosing the right friends is absolutely critical to a positive college experience. Whether you like it or not, you become who you spend your time with. The good thing is that you get to choose who you spend your time with. This doesn't mean that you have to completely break off friendships, but make an effort to find people with priorities that align with yours (hint: if you follow Pillar #2 and get involved, you'll find plenty of great candidates). I hate to give my friends too much credit, but I'm certain I wouldn't be where I am today without the group of people I have surrounded myself with. In my opinion, this is far and away the most important pillar of college success.

4. Always stay grindin'

The final pillar of college success is a mindset, and its application spans much broader than just college.

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work." - Colin Powell

There's a reason you don't have to look very hard to find quotes about hard work; it's because they are all true. Hard work and dedication are the common denominators to nearly any success story, and the same is true for college. If you want to be a hustler or grinder, you have to find out what makes you tick; you need to know what motivates you to take action. Do you have a desire to be the best? Do you want power and popularity? Do you want recognition? Do you have a passion? If you don't really care about the degree or if your heart isn't in it, forget it; you don't stand a chance. Be a grinder and work your ass off.

At times college can become overwhelming. Exams never stop coming, assignments pile up, and quizzes keep popping up. You might even think college isn't for you or that you need to change majors. This is normal, don't panic. College is supposed to challenge you, and if you don't ever feel stress, you're probably doing something wrong (that or you've uncovered the ultimate college secret that you need to share with the Smart Money Squad!).

If you ever feel doubt creeping in, take a deep breath, unwind, and relax. You've got this. Believe in yourself, remember the four pillars, and go kick college's ass!


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