New College Students: Make The Most Of 'Diet' Real Life

April 24, 2009
Estimated reading time:
3 minutes

Charlie Hoehn has just written a fantastic post with some great advice for those about to graduate from college:

You don’t have to walk down the path that everyone else takes. If you haven’t realized it by now, there is no such thing as job security. You’re fooling yourself if you think a steady paycheck will ensure a safe future.

The only real form of security is working on yourself. Read as much as you can. Put experiences under your belt that can open doors in the future. Meet smarter people than you and do some free work for them. These are the kinds of things that can help mitigate your risk against a bad job market. And in the long run, you’ll be in a far better position than everyone else.

That seems great advice as far as I can tell, but I'm not entirely qualified to say, as I'm still at university (and will be for a couple more years yet). And I didn't want to just quote and link his post, as there's not much value in that.

Instead I wanted to write about something that I am qualified to write about. While Charlie's advice is great for those just leaving college, what about the incoming freshmen and first years? That's what I want to write about today.

College is a fantastic place. I've been here almost two years now, and I've loved every second. But it's not all as Asher Roth would have you believe. Sometimes you will have to work your ass off, grinding away for maybe even a couple of months at a time, especially if you leave all your work until the all-too brief period just before exams, like I've done in the past.

Nothing in life comes without a tradeoff. But the tradeoff in college is that if you can get the work out of the way, you have an unbelievable amount of free time, and an outrageous lack of responsibility. You're young, your parents love you and your student loan is yours to do with whatever you please.I can't remember where, but someone I once heard someone describe college as 'diet' real life - you have all the freedom to essentially do whatever you want to, but you rarely have to personally deal with all of the consequences if you screw up.

So make the most of it. Try everything and anything you can. If there's something you've always wanted to try, just give it a shot. That library has a lot of books that you don't have to read for your course -- read one of them anyway, and see if you like it. Go to all your classes, sure, but go to someone else's as well -- you might learn something interesting.

Google give all of their employees 20% of the week to work on their own projects, and it doesn't have to be directly related to their core business. That has produced phenomenal results like Gmail and Adsense. Not all of the projects come to anything, but a couple are huge.

As a student, the amount of time you have to work on your side projects is probably closer to 40% or even 50%. Imagine what you could do with it.

I'm not just talking about businesses, or societies or sports teams. Use some of that time to get some experiences -- everyone loves to have a few cool stories to tell at the bar. What I'm saying is, in the downtime between handing in your last essay and starting on the next one, don't sit down and see if you can top your best score on Halo 3. Go and experience as many different things as possible, and just see where it takes you.

Your free time in college is an incredible gift. Don't waste it.

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