Failing to plan, as the saying goes, means planning to fail, and this adage holds truer than ever at the beginning of a new school year. When everyone returns to campus in the fall it can be too easy to neglect your goals and slip back into unhealthy, even unsafe, habits that keep you from reaching your professional goals.
Because September is a month for seasonal change – as well as National Preparedness Month – as you think about your classes, your living arrangements, and post-grad plans, think critically about the small choices you make every day to boost your success. Make a plan before classes start to not only survive but thrive this year on campus. Here’s a back-to-school preparedness checklist to get you started.
Post-grad plans shouldn’t begin when you’re already at senior level. You might not have the clearest picture of where you see yourself in 10 years after entering the workforce, but regardless of your enrollment status, thinking about the next stage of life will serve you well as you rev up for the yearly back-to-school transition. Start by considering the following:
It’s okay to wait on declaring a major, but don’t wait on taking classes that combine professional skills with critical thinking. A liberal arts degree, such as English or philosophy, can improve your communication skills. Employers look for candidates who can communicate effectively and work well under pressure. If you’re undecided about your future, try business. Even if you don’t dream of becoming a CEO, having a business education and training will open doors into different areas, including innovative brands and campaigns for social change.
Don’t underestimate the power of making the right connections. If you’ve got a clear career path already, take the time to talk to professors in that field. Find out what they did after college, whether they always wanted to teach or if they chose it after working in the field, and how they’ve used their skills in the real world. Attend conventions, area business meetings or even local chamber of commerce mixers. The wider your network, the easier it’ll be to land a great employer once you graduate.
Turn your textbook education into a hands-on application by applying for a diverse range of research opportunities and internships. This is where you’ll benefit from your school’s on-campus career center. Talk to the counselors there to learn how to connect with local professionals and apply for extracurricular activities that fit in with your career goals. How do you show employers that you can do the job you’re applying for? Let your resume – filled with hands-on experiences – speak for itself.
Now’s the time to think hard about your financial future. Don’t neglect your credit card statements or your bills. Building a good credit score now and learning how to handle your finances will set you on the right path for future employment. Your would-be employer might run a credit check because it can be an accurate gauge for how well you handle different responsibilities. You may also be subject to a background check, so clear up any college shenanigans now.
Preparing for Campus
Planning for life after graduation isn’t the only prep work you need to do as you head back to school this season. Personal safety should also top the list. Here’s how to stay safe on and off campus this year.
Watch Where You’re Going
Criminals discriminate, meaning they look for easy targets who aren’t aware of their surroundings. Get to know your campus and the nearby area well. Map out the routes from your living space to your classes, avoiding poorly-lit areas or those unfrequented by other students. In the case of personal safety, taking the road less traveled is a bad idea. Walk in groups when possible, and park your car in a well-lit space close to your classes.
Sharing is Caring – Except When It Isn’t
Add the campus safety department’s number to your phone, and read up on the resources available to you. Some schools, for instance, will give you a lift across campus if you’re uncomfortable walking home alone. Map out what to do in an emergency, whether it’s a natural disaster or an unexpected attack. Downloading personal safety apps for when you’re walking alone or at home alone could help you in a pinch and contact the proper authorities automatically. Along the same lines, don’t keep to yourself when it comes to your schedule. Let your roommates or friends know where you’ll be so they can expect you at certain times. But be careful with what you post on social media. Disable your location services, and be intentionally vague with your whereabouts.
Be Proactive About Safety
Taking a self-defense class might seem like overkill, but you’ll learn good tips from professionals, often police officers or local safety experts. Men and women alike benefit from expert advice! Keep in mind that campus safety is a team effort – if you witness a situation that could lead to violence or an assault, you can step in and defuse the situation before it escalates.
Each year back on campus will present many unforeseen challenges, and the best way you can deal with them is simply by being prepared. Professional development and personal wellness go hand in hand; take some time to consider what helps you stay focused, motivated, and safe – so you will be ready to make informed choices when the new school year begins.
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