By Anna Pierce

It’s nearly September, which means classes are beginning and college students will have to face the realities of school once again. As a recent graduate of DePaul University, I remember the pressures I felt while in school to make my experiences count so that I would be prepared to enter the real world. While these pressures stressed me out, they were healthy in aiding my development and pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Months after graduation, I still feel that I took advantage of all DePaul had to offer and do not regret any of the risks I took. However, I meet fellow graduates all the time that say, “I wish I had done this…” or “I should have done this differently…”. Because of this, I want to share some of my recommendations to making the most of your college experience to prepare yourself to enter the professional world.

1) There is always a lesson to be learned.

In high school, I didn’t understand why I had to take math classes if I wasn’t going to work in a field that used math. After complaining about geometry and trigonometry for months, my dad gave me a new perspective. He told me, “you might not need to figure out what the angles of triangles are at your future job, but you will be faced with problems that need to be solved. Use this class to help you look at problems differently and learn how to solve them.” When I changed the way I thought about math, I realized that I was learning critical thinking and problem-solving skills that could be carried into discussing communications strategies in my current work. No matter what class, job or activity you are in, reframe your thinking and see what lessons can be learned.

2) Be strategic when scheduling classes

While Drawing 101 and the World of Wine are great classes, and I will admit to taking the wine class, college is a time to expand your knowledge in ways that prepare you for a career. Plus, we are paying far too much for school to NOT be taking classes that invest in our own professionalism. Because of that, I recommend filling your electives with classes that help you gain insight into diverse areas that are useful for your field of study. For me, that meant taking change management and public relations courses. I knew that as an organizational communication student I wasn’t gaining the technical skills that I may need for a career in communications with the classes under my major requirement. I wanted to be able to not only understand the best ways to communicate but also understand how to carry out those communications. By thinking of classes as an actual way to grow your knowledge, you can begin scheduling classes differently.

3) Say “yes”

Before I left for college, my older sister told me to say yes as much as possible. Say yes to joining clubs, say yes to hanging out with new people, or say yes to professors that want to invest extra time in you. I am very much of the mindset that you never know what could happen. Because of that, I ran for student government, met one of my best friends, and created long-lasting friendships with my instructors. College is a time in your life where opportunities are sitting on a silver-platter just waiting to be grabbed. Never in life will that happen again. The reason I got both my internships was because I said yes to phone calls and conferences that I knew nothing about. And I am so glad I did because the opportunities I gained have been irreplaceable.

People are quick to offer recommendations on what you should be doing during your time in college. The amount of times people told me to get an internship and fill my resume made my head spin. At the end of the day, though, college is about developing yourself so that you are prepared to enter the next stage of life. As someone that recently graduated and has had time to reflect on my experiences, I believe that what I’ve said will help other students excel in their final moments of school. No matter what you choose to do, continue to invest your energy in bettering yourself. I promise it will pay off!

Anna Pierce is a 2019 graduate of DePaul University, majoring in organizational communication. She currently serves as a corporate communications intern at United Airlines.