How to Make the Most of Your Time in College

5 Exercises To Help You Make The Most Of Your College Years

Imagine going to college without a life plan, without one hundred percent certainty of your major, and without a declared career for your post-college life. 

 University of Maine Campus, 2015.

University of Maine Campus, 2015.

For me, these musings were a reality. Paving a definite career path and planning for the future are difficult feats. After all, college is a time of learning, networking and opportunity. Who's to say you can't pursue fresh opportunities because you have already drawn up your "life plan." 

In college, it can be easy to get lost in a sea of opportunity. Paradoxically, slipping into a narrow focus can perhaps blind you to your true interests and capabilities. Whether you're feeling overwhelmed by the many opportunities offered at college, or you're not taking advantage, it is worth your while to find out how you can best use the precious four, five, or six years of college.

I came across an article that outlines how to examine the personal aspects of your life, and align them with your college career, to ensure that it will support your interests and your life goals. (Prepare to test these questions once you're at college)

1:  How do you want to spend your time at college? What matters most to you? 

Examples:  attending class, studying, seeing friends, visiting family, volunteering, getting involved in campus activities, or maybe reading a non-required book.

 University of Maine Campus, 2015.

University of Maine Campus, 2015.

One week has past. Now, examine how you actually spent your time. Do they line up with your original list. Answer:  How well do your commitments match your goals? If your goals and daily activities don't match, find out what you can do to make sure that your activities reflect what you value most highly. 

2:  Decide on the right major.

Choosing a major is an immense pressure. How do you pick between this and that major? How will this salary compare with that one? Undoubtedly, there is much to consider. One of the most compelling deciding factors, should be you. To help make the tough decision less tough, answer:  how do you spend your free time?

How do your extracurricular activities match with a potential major? Do you see a pattern between what you enjoy doing, and what you might want to do? As one student puts it, "interest and success are highly correlated - do what you love and you'll be good at what you do." 

3.  The Broad vs. Deep Exercise

In this exercise, ask yourself:  "If you could become extraordinarily good at one thing versus being pretty good at many things, which approach would you choose?" Answering this questions will help you decide what type of education you are seeking. Think about how you might organize your college life to follow your path with purpose. 

 University of Maine Campus, Fogler Library, 2015.

University of Maine Campus, Fogler Library, 2015.

4.  The Core Values Exercise 

Make a list of FIVE words that best describe your core values. 

Sample core value words:  Dignity, family, love, fame, excellence, wealth, wisdom, useful.

Then, describe how you might deal with a situation where these core values come into conflict. For instance, one student wants to be a surgeon, and also wants a large family. His core values, "useful," and "family," conflict with one another. This indicates that he'll have to make decisions that will affect either his personal or professional life. Decisions like these are some that you should consider before choosing a career, or a major.

5. What's most important to you? 

Consider this scenario: 

You are a fisherman living a simple and relaxed life, on a small island. You are out on the boat for a few hours each day, catch a few fish and sell them to your friends. You then come home to spend the rest of the day with your family, and to relax. You're enjoying the simple life. 

Then, an M.B.A. visits the island, and quickly sees how you can become rich by expanding your work. You can catch more fish, start a business, market the fish, open a cannery, and ultimately, be successful. You could even donate fish to help the hungry. 

Now, apply this scenario to your own life. It will encourage you to think about what really matters to you, and what impact you want to have on the world. It will encourage you to think about what you might owe, or not owe, to the broader community. And, it will encourage you to think of ideas that you may later be able to capitalize on. 

Take care! 


Sources:  "How To Live Wisely:  Five exercises that tackle the big questions." By Richard J. Light, professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. The New York Times, Education Life. 2015.