Five Uncommon Ways to Prepare NOW for an Extraordinary College Experience
The summer before entering freshman year of college is especially valuable… if you know how to use it. Of course, some of those summer hours might be needed for your job, travel, organizing and shopping for the upcoming most exciting moment of your life. Agreed. But, as engaged members of this self-taught, online course-savvy generation, all of you can learn college life-saving skills by spending a couple of hours a day in the summer practicing these steps (with a cup of your favorite coffee in hand!):
- Research Writing Skills
- Computer Skills
- Time Management Skills
- Networking Skills
- Public Speaking Skills
(1) Research Writing Skills
Action Step: You’ll want to set up some after school sessions with your English teacher in June. Lobby for a brief Research Paper Crash class in your English department when exams are over. Explain that you and a few fellow seniors would like to know the essentials and important tips on structure, citations, and, of course, figuring out your voice for an assignment. Are you summarizing, persuading, or analyzing? Responding or observing? Each of these would give a different purpose and voice to your writing. If you can’t arrange some extra help time with your English teacher, meet with a college student for a session or two during the summer on the most important things to know about writing and formatting a college research paper.
(2) Computer Skills
You want to teach yourself Microsoft Office Suite, if you haven’t already. You probably know a good deal of it now having gone through high school. It is important to be familiar and capable with Word, PowerPoint, and Excel—at the minimum—for college work, as well as for internships during college. Every summer internship interviewer with whom you meet during the winter of freshman year will ask if you already have these skills.
Action Step: There are tutorials online to give you enough familiarity with these capabilities. There is no substitute for working with the program and teaching yourself, a little bit each week. You will be so happy to have this competency for classes, and will feel more at ease landing an internship knowing you have command of some basic office computer skills.
(3) Time Management
Well, hopefully you have all learned a great deal from managing your senior year schedule and staying on top of your grades. But if you thought it was a hefty task to maintain your academic and social schedule during high school, just wait till every fascinating club, lecture, party, theatrical performance, political debate, athletic event, coffee meet-up, professor’s office hours, and career services meetings is offered over the same few days. You will need to come up with a calendar system that works for you, so that homework and daily study do not suffer.
Action Step: Set Alarms on your phone/computer calendar for: waking up in the morning, or waking up after a study nap; for classes (always determine the number of necessary minutes to get to and from class). Have alarms set a day before a test, and a week before a major paper is due. The minute you make a meeting with a professor or club member, put it right into your phone calendar that syncs to your computer.
Print out your weekly calendar and tack it to the wall (or to a cork board) in your room—just because it’s a good idea to have back up. Occasionally, our electronics fail us. Put all assignments on your calendar the day you get them. Don’t wait. Waiting is the enemy of good grades in college. If you leave assignments to the last minute, you will most likely pull grades below your ability level—unless you are very lucky or very smart!
Tackle the most difficult projects early in the day so you do not feel overwhelmed in the evening.
Set a couple of hours every single day that are Facebook/phone/email/twitter/Instagram FREE times. Just go dark and do your work. You will feel refreshed; and there will be much more to see when you return—so visiting your social network will feel like a little vacation.
Additionally, during exam week, set two alarms for yourself if you’re going to take a power nap: one alarm on your phone and the other on your alarm clock. It’s very unsettling to fall asleep with your Calculus in the middle of the afternoon, wake up at 7pm, and know that you still have eight hours of material left to study.
(4) Networking Skills
To know how to network involves practice
Action Step: You will need to practice: a 30 second elevator pitch that can lead into a one minute expanded story, if requested; the hand/eye coordination of looking someone in the eye, stretching out your hand, smiling, and saying “Nice to meet you”—all at the same time! Not necessarily a skill that’s a given among text-happy high school seniors. Think about the number of times you will need to use these skills: at college acceptance receptions; all during the first month of college at mealtime, and for meetings with advisors, RAs, house masters, and career service representatives. By early winter, you will need these skills for internship recruiting season (there are two to three interviews before decisions are made—that’s a lot of communication/networking skill needed). This is the beginning of understanding that you will always be selling yourself—professionally and socially. The time to learn how to do this elegantly and adeptly is now.
(5) Learn to Speak Persuasively
Public Speaking is not something that is on every senior’s mind, but whether you’re:
- an engineering/tech/entrepreneurship student who wants to land in Silicon Valley and needs to learn how to pitch unabashedly
- a business development or marketing major who wants to score the right product development team with which to work in college
- a go-getter looking for the best internship opportunity to inform your future career choice
- a science researcher who needs to be dynamic at poster sessions in order to catch the ear of important researchers and scientists
- a legal or public service advocate who needs to be persuasive on the big stage
- a student who is nervous about answering or asking questions in a large, lecture hall setting
- or someone who wants to learn how to lead (since the ability to communicate and the ease with which one can speak publically are largely intertwined)
…picking up some informal practice in crafting a short talk, and speaking in front of an audience will be of tremendous value to you for college.
Action Step: Research the nearest chapter of Toastmasters near your city. Here is the Toastmasters club database. Determine the best club for you based on hours of meetings that work in your schedule. This is not a huge time commitment—1-2 hours weekly. But it is an activity that will change your life. The agenda is similar at all clubs:
Delivering Prepared Speeches – Members learn how to prepare, rehearse, and present their speeches in front of their club members.
Evaluations – After every presentation, you receive professional and constructive evaluations.
Speaking Extemporaneously– Members practice speaking about general conversational topics for a couple of minutes each week. The practice makes you a more confident networker.
Sign up! Dues are inexpensive.
As for the coffee creamer…I don’t know about you, but I love Hazelnut!
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