What to do in college to be successful in your career

For those of you about to start another year at school, here’s a list of things to keep in mind: Twenty things to do in college to set yourself up for a great job when you graduate.

1. Get out of the library.
“You can have a degree and a huge GPA and not be ready for the workplace. A student should plan that college is four years of experience rather than 120 credits,” says William Coplin, professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, 10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College. Many people recommend not hiring someone with a 4.0 because that student probably has little experience beyond schoolwork.

2. Start a business in your dorm room.
It’s relatively easy, and Google and Yahoo are dying to buy your business early, when it’s cheap. Besides, running a company in your room is better than washing dishes in the cafeteria. Note to those who play poker online until 4am: Gambling isn’t a business. It’s an addiction.

3. Don’t take on debt that is too limiting.
This is not a reference to online gambling, although it could be. This is about choosing a state school over a pricey private school. Almost everyone agrees you can get a great education at an inexpensive school. So in many cases the debt from a private school is more career-limiting than the lack of brand name on your diploma.

4. Get involved on campus.
When it comes to career success, emotional intelligence — social skills to read and lead others –get you farther than knowledge or job competence, according to Tiziana Casciaro, professor at Harvard Business School. Julie Albert, a junior at Brandeis University, is the director of her a-cappella group and head of orientation this year. She hones her leadership skills outside the classroom, which is exactly the place to do it.

5. Avoid grad school in the humanities.
Survival rates in this field are very close to survival rates on the Titanic. One in five English PhD’s find stable university jobs, and the degree won’t help outside the university: “Schooling only gives you the capacity to stand behind a cash register,” says Thomas Benton, a columnist at the Chronicle of Higher Education (who has a degree in American Civilization from Harvard and a tenured teaching job.)

6. Skip the law-school track.
Lawyers are the most depressed of all professionals. Stress in itself does not make a job bad, says Alan Krueger, economist at Princeton University. Not having control over one’s work does make a bad job, though, and lawyers are always acting on behalf of someone else. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death among lawyers. (Evan Shaeffer has a great post on this topic.)

7. Play a sport in college.
People who play sports earn more money than couch potatoes, and women executives who played sports attribute much of their career success to their athletic experience, says Jennifer Cripsen, of Sweet Briar College. You don’t need to be great at sports, you just need to be part of a team.

8. Separate your expectations from those of your parents.
“Otherwise you wake up and realize you’re not living your own life,” says Alexandra Robbins, author of the popular new book The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids. (Note to parents: If you cringe as you read this list then you need to read this book.)

9. Try new things that you’re not good at.
“Ditch the superstar mentality that if you don’t reach the top, president, A+, editor in chief, then the efforts were worthless. It’s important to learn to enjoy things without getting recognition,” says Robbins.

10. Define success for yourself.
“Society defines success very narrowly. Rather than defining success as financial gain or accolades, define it in terms of individual interests and personal happiness,” says Robbins.

11. Make your job search a top priority.
A job does not fall in your lap, you have to chase it. Especially a good one. It’s a job to look for a job. Stay organized by using Excel spreadsheets or online tools to track your progress. And plan early. Goldman Sachs, for example, starts their information sessions in September.

12. Take a course in happiness.
Happiness studies is revolutionizing how we think of psychology, economics, and sociology. How to be happy is a science that 150 schools in the country teach. Preview: Learn to be more optimistic. This class will show you how.

13. Take an acting course.
The best actors are actually being their most authentic selves, says Lindy Amos, of communications coaching firm TAI Resources. Amos teaches executives to communicate authentically so that people will listen and feel connected. You need to learn to do this, too, and you may as well start in college.

14. Learn to give a compliment.
The best compliments are specific, so “good job” is not good, writes Lisa Laskow Lahey, psychologist at Harvard and co-author of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. Practice on your professors. If you give a good compliment the recipient will think you’re smarter: Big payoff in college, but bigger payoff in the work world.

15. Use the career center.
These people are experts at positioning you in the workforce and their only job is to get you a job. How can you not love this place? If you find yourself thinking the people at your college’s career center are idiots, it’s probably a sign that you really, really don’t know what you’re doing.

16. Develop a strong sense of self by dissing colleges that reject you.
Happy people have “a more durable sense of self and aren’t as buffeted by outside events,” writes Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California-Riverside. When bad things happen, don’t take it personally. This is how the most successful business people bounce back quickly from setback.

17. Apply to Harvard as a transfer student.
Sure people have wild success after going to an Ivy League school but this success is no more grand than that of the people who applied and got rejected. People who apply to Ivy League schools seem to have similar high-self-confidence and ambition, even if they don’t get in, according to research by Krueger.

18. Get rid of your perfectionist streak.
It is rewarded in college, but it leads to insane job stress, and an inability to feel satisfied with your work. And for all of you still stuck on #6 about ditching the law school applications: The Utah Bar Journal says that lawyers are disproportionately perfectionists.

19. Work your way through college.
Getting involved in student organizations counts, and so does feeding children in Sierra Leone or sweeping floors in the chemistry building. Each experience you have can grow into something bigger. Albert was an orientation leader last year, and she turned that experience into a full-time summer job that morphed into a position managing 130 orientation leaders. A great bullet on the resume for a junior in college.

20. Make to do lists.
You can’t achieve dreams if you don’t have a plan to get there.

Posted in College and grad school, Entrepreneurship, Finding a career, Job hunt, Knowing yourself, Money, No image, Productivity, Self-management
59 comments on “What to do in college to be successful in your career
  1. RP Burke says:

    Penelope,

    Regarding point no. 3, you need to get your facts straight, and indeed to correct this list and send that correction to the Boston Globe, on whose web site I first saw this list.

    A new study shows that the average bachelor’s degree recipient’s debt at a public college is almost as high as that at a private college.

    The study is available at:

    http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/File/State_by_State_NR_FINAL.pdf

    In Ohio, my current home state, the difference is just over $1,000.

    And, considering that at private colleges the typical time to the degree is a year or more shorter, the opportunity cost of waiting another year for a degree eliminates that distinction.

    A little research would have prevented you from making such an embarrassing mistake.

  2. Penelope Trunk says:

    Hi, RP,
    Interesting study. Thank you for the link.

    I don’t think I say anywhere that private schools are, on balance, more expensive than public schools. I say if you are considering an expensive, name-brand private school and a cheaper state school, the cheaper state school might give you more financial space to make career choices.

    A side note for statistics mavens: Something I have learned about statistics is that once people start talking about “averages” they can slice and dice the statistics to mean whatever they want. I know from experience that if I had referred to the study you link to in your comment, I would have received a slew of emails from economics majors questioning the statistical usefulness of the term “average”.

  3. Diana says:

    RP does make an important point, in that many state schools are increasing tuition by leaps and bounds (due to decreased funding and other factors). Out-of-state tuition at public universities is very comparable to tuition at private universities.

    Take my alma mater, for instance: One semester at The University of Virginia in 2001 would set you back around $2100 for an in-state student, $9150 for out-of-state ($7050 difference). This fall, it’s $3900 for in-state, $1300 for out-of-state (just a $2600 difference).

    I had the presence of mind after my first year as an out-of-state student there to take a year off school to establish residency and save close to $10k/yr. I’m still in a cloud of debt, but $30k + interest less than if I hadn’t made that choice.

  4. Meghan says:

    I read this post in the Boston Globe, and I was enjoying it until I got to #6 – Skip the law school track. It seems to me that you’re trying to give the impression that if you enter the legal profession, you will become depressed and suicidal, and therefore should avoid it. I traced back your citation for that statement to the original study, and discovered that there were two other professions with high levels of depression: teachers/counselors and secretaries. Why not tell people not to take up one of those professions? Yes, being a lawyer is stressful, and yes, you do most of your work on behalf of others.. but what’s wrong with that? Acting on behalf of others is the essence of being a lawyer, and I was offended that this post tried to put a bad spin on that. Lawyers act on behalf of many people who need them, and that can be very rewarding. I think it’s wrong to tell future college graduates to avoid the law school track without giving a fair representation of the profession.

  5. MGW says:

    I take issue with point #15, where you say “If you find yourself thinking the people at your college’s career center are idiots, it’s probably a sign that you really, really don’t know what you’re doing.”

    The two times I tried using university career centers, it was an exercise in futility. The first was because I was graduating a science/engineering school with a non-sci/eng degree. The career center had no clue what to do with me, and told me so quite frankly.

    The 2nd time I was leaving a major state university with a masters degree. Again, they didn’t have a clue and said so.

    I certainly hope that things have improved on this front in the past couple of decades. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that all schools will have competent career centers, good as that would be.

  6. Penelope Trunk says:

    Meghan,

    It is true that teachers and secretaries are as miserable as lawyers. But I think people already know not to become teachers and secretaries. After all, we are having a national shortage of teachers.

    It is clear, though, that people are unaware of how unhappy lawyers are once they start working in their field.

    Penelope

  7. finance girl says:

    My stepbrother (from Dad and stepmom,SM) would benefit from heeding “skip law school” and “separate your expectations from your parents”. He is 26 (!) and still living very appended to my Dad and SM. They are laser focused on his every move. He doesn’t know what he wants to do when he “grows up” but the rents want him to know. And, so, he is going to law school. But not because he has a clear drive to be an attorney in x law field, only because the rents are driving him to “become something”.

    I feel for him but it’s it’s own sweet justice seeing him not become the star they always said he’d be, and all those years running me (exMSFT manager) and my sister (Barneys exec) down.

  8. Carrie says:

    I am deeply disappointed in this article. I hold a graduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Library and Information Science. I work at an academic college library and am very happy with my carrer choice. Are you aware of the high job satifaction rate among librarians? Librarians across the world work to encourage the use of libraries because it fosters excellent analytical and critical thinking, especially when one reads extensively. In addition it improves communication skills. We also work to teach students how to use online tools effectively. No, not everything can be found on the internet or the world wide web. Ever heard of the invisible web? And the searching skills of most students need refining, that is part of our job, to make sure they are thoughtful, effective searchers who seek truthful information in the midst of all the garbage out there. If anything, today’s job seekers would greatly benefit from walking into the library once in a while, they would be amazed at what we can offer. And why don’t you stop by as well? As for using the career center . . . of the three academic instutions I have graduated from, none have had a career center that did anything to help me find a job, despite the fact that I have sought their help. Please think twice before writing an article like this again. The “Get out of the library” statement was a cheap shot that unravels years of hard work that many many libraries and librarians have developed, especially since you don’t spend any time justify the statement with any reasons why it might be beneficial. I could go on all day as to why libraries are beneficial to job seekers. And aside from my degree in Library and Information Science, I am extremely proud of my Master of Arts in English. I wouldn’t give it up for the world, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. I have never been sorry I got that degree, especially since it will only improve my career opportunities in the future. Oh, and as for sports, I never had any inclination to play them, but the time I spent out of doors in nature (unstructured play) has had a huge impact on my successes.

    • Justin says:

      Glad your English degree has taught you how to spell

      “my carrer choice”

      I’m glad you enjoy your life of mediocrity, most people wouldn’t find it half as rewarding as you have

      • FashionablyHopeful says:

        RUDE!
        Okay, she made a typo, but she seems quite happy in her career. I don’t care if she was profession dog pooper-scooper, if she’s happy and makes enough money to survive, who are we to say it’s mediocre?

      • Roddy says:

        Agreed. What a total cheap shot, Justin.

        She spelt ‘career’ correctly twice further in, if you’d bothered to have read past the first few sentences.

  9. Cara says:

    While I agree that teachers and secretaries also have high depression rates, the difference is that people think lawyers have no right to complain because they supposedly make so much money. People are so blinded by the money that when a lawyer does dare to mention how depressed they are, family and friends will tell them they’re just being whiny brats because “you’re making a good living, aren’t you?” Lawyers are not allowed to show weakness or uncertainty. Yes, I’m speaking from experience (and Prozac) here. Do NOT become an attorney. There are already too many lawyers chasing too few jobs, and the jobs out there, especially in large firms, are awful.

  10. Dave says:

    I wish I had read something like this when I was a student. But I was just focused on survival at MIT and I didn’t really “think like this.” However, in disagreeing with it, I might have thought a little more about alternative perspectives.

    I can argue against pretty much every one of your suggestions, but doing so would require me to think critically about it which might open up some ideas. As a college student, I didn’t really think much about managing my career; I believed the purpose of my being there was to get an education and learn, not prepare for a job.

    In retrospect what would have been useful is to have learned more about managing a career and understanding what you want out of life. As it was, I had a negative reaction against career/job-oriented thinking; if someone said, “you should take this class because that’s what employers want,” I would have said “screw you, this is not a trade school.” Same deal in law school; I dissed the hardcore students who competed to be in the top 5% so they could get interviews at the law firms. I wanted to believe in a “higher” purpose to my education.

    But it is important to know what "game – €? you are in and not make too many decisions based on your on idea of what the rules might be. For example, if your grades are only average, but you do all sorts of extracurricular stuff, then don’t expect a grade-focused process (e.g. law school admissions, law firms, etc.) to be impressed with. From their point of view, your job in college was to get all As. You failed at that. It’s nice that you were student body president or whatever, but they have plenty of applicants who did both.

    On the other hand, maybe you get really involved in some extracurricular activity that ignites a passion in you and provides a purpose to your education. Armed with that passion, you approach things with a focus. Learning to find that passion is the most valuable thing you could do because when you find it, everything else falls into place. Even if it doesn't, I think it is better to say, "well, all that stuff I did didn't really help me in my current career, but I enjoyed it and am proud of it now, – €? than "I got the job I wanted, now what? – €?

  11. Charlie says:

    You missed the most important one… “Get to know a lot of people who are a lot more experienced than you, and give them the opportunity to get to know you. i.e. Networking”

    That’s because no single list is right. Maybe this list works for you, but saying no to law school and telling people to play a sport? I’m sorry, but such specific advice doesn’t work for everyone. You should be putting the tools in people’s hands to find their own answers… not telling them what their answers should be. The number one thing students don’t do is get a diversity of perspective. They hear one professional bag a career track, or an “expert” and then they make a rash decision. Whatever a student is involved in, even if its law, they need to immerse themselves in it, get to know lots of people in that field and listening–paying very careful attention to who you relate to, what they’re saying, and WHY… that’s how you learn how to navigate, not by using someone else’s list.

  12. Scott says:

    Ummm, you forgot to mention “Drink some brew and hang out with friends.” :) Someone who can pull off 1/3 of this list would be doing amazingly well if still passing their classes.

  13. Michael Lambert says:

    Get out of the library…. hmmm… I think potential employers would actually prefer a well rounded person that actually is aware of best-sellers, fiction & nonfiction, intermingled with a grasp of some of the classics. People who read generally have better vocabularies. You might want to rethink your advice and renew your membership at your local library. Heck you might even learn something there. ;-)

    ML

  14. Penelope Trunk says:

    Michael,
    You are one of about thirty library advocates to complain about this advice. So it seems like a good time to say that:

    1. I adore the library and practically lived there as a kid.

    2. I think well rounded does not mean “reads in a wide range” but “reads and does a variety other things in life.”

  15. Jason Alba says:

    I have to second what Charlie said about the networking, but I’ll do it in a different way.

    I went to two different universities and I WISH I was still in touch with my old buddies. While you are there you think you’ll know eachother forever, but I lost track pretty soon after I got my first job. We had used our school e-mail accounts, which went away, and I have tried in vain to find some friends who were very close.

    These would have been EXCELLENT professional contacts throughout the country and world, and I’m paying dearly for not keeping in touch with them. I’ve even wished that I had their parents home address so I could find their current contact info.

    So, do all kinds of great and fun stuff in college but figure out some way to get and keep (long term) important contact information! [shameless plug coming] I wish I had JibberJobber.com back then, as I would have had dozens and dozens of important contacts at my fingertips. [end shameless plug]

  16. Hank says:

    For those of you screaming about the point on the law school track, here is a question to ponder:

    1. Are your intentions of going to law school based on A) a passion for the law or B) because of the perception that lawyers make tons of money and are high profile?

    If you can’t honestly answer with A as the primary reason, then you shouln’t become a lawyer, at least not right away.

    In general, putting off the professional and advanced degrees in favor of some post bachelor’s degree work experience, gives a person a better idea of who they are and what THEY actually want to do.

  17. Dennis says:

    There might be something you’re missing with regard to attending ivy league schools: Networking on steroids. As you suggest, it’s not so much which school you go to, as it is who you get to know when you are there. Very successful people send their kids to ivy league schools. Very successful people have a certain way of thinking, making decisions and gathering resources that increases the chances of success and degree of success (to include happiness). Look at our leaders and you’ll often see them surrounded by college roommates and classmates. You can achieve this in any school, but is more likely to happen in smaller more exclusive (and expensive) schools.

    * * * * * *

    Hi, Dennis. This is a good point – for people who don’t already have access to those networks. Keith Ferrazzi is almost an evangelist for how an Ivy League education helped him get out of the working class becuase of the networking possibilities. But we know that most people who enter the Ivy League schools come from families who already provide an incredible network.

    I was just talking to Jesse Rothstein, an economist at Princeton, and he says he reserach shows that when people make decisions about schools, they overvalue the importance of the other students and they undervalue the importance of the faculty.

    –Penelope

  18. Dennis says:

    Penelope,
    I could agree with your comments completely if you replace the “But” with an “And” … ‘And we know that most people who enter the Ivy League schools come from families who already provide an incredible network’ … thereby providing the networking possibilities for those who don’t already have access to those networks.

    I am surprised that the research shows that when people make decisions about schools, they overvalue the importance of the other students and they undervalue the importance of the faculty. We are currently at the start of a school selection process, and it seems to us that the faculty make the school.

    Our personal observation is that a small fraction of professors write achedemic papers and publications that reach the public at large, and it seems that the value of the faculty becomes more obvious after attending a school than before. In other words, we know the names of a tiny fraction of the faculty through the media during the school selection process, and we know more about former students.

    I would have thought that people would value the importance of FORMER students more than faculty, because we seem to know more about them than the faculty.

  19. tinny says:

    “Gambling isn't a business. It's an addiction.”

    An addiction to gambling is an addiction. Gambling itself isn’t. Der.

  20. Scott says:

    Penelope:
    If you don’t already, you should work at the DMV.
    You are an embarrassing mistake.

  21. Scott says:

    EXCUSE ME!!
    I meant to say RP Burke – you should work at the DMV. Maybe I need to go back to college. Sorry.

  22. Jerry says:

    First, I'd like to say well done on the list. Secondly, to every asswipe whos reading into this too much, give it a break, it's just somebody's opinions on how to remain vigilant and strive for success. You're not impressing anybody with your big words. It's people like you who look down their nose that get punched in the face for fun. Call me ignorant or whatever. I won't lose sleep over it. Nonetheless, well done – .Cheers!

  23. Darla says:

    Regarding number 5–if a person manages to get through grad school even in the humanities and can’t get a decent job, well that is just pathetic–ABD who had much more fun as a trucker and is thinking that that would be fun again some day

  24. Anthony says:

    To the librarian who is quite indignant over an opinion, a graduate degree in English along with library and information systems got you a job where? In a college library, thank you for confirming the info provided.

    The important thing is do what you are passionate about and enjoy your work. Less stress and a happier life. $$$ is not the answer, the pursuit of happiness is.

    As for career counsellors, I was so impressed with mine, I finished my management degree and then went back and got my Employment Counsellors Diploma. Hated the business shenanigans and now love the people AND my job.

    And of course any list must take into consideration the audience it is addressing. I went to university to gain new knowledge, if a job came out of it, that was a bonus. I went to a private college for a particular program to become a certified counsellor (not a psychologist)and the job to follow.

    My university courses in computing, accounting, marketing, business management may help in running a counselling business, but not in the counselling portion.

    However, the list I think is great, it presents the idea that higher education is much more than just attending classes and studying for marks.

    Team work, leadership, getting along with others are not ‘taught’ in school, you learn those through life…AND these are skills employers are demanding along with specific skills (ie accounting)
    JMHO

  25. Harry Beckwith says:

    My view about choosing a college is shaped by a different experiience.

    I attended a small, unknown and unremarkable private university; a well-known but not remarkable state school, and Stanford.

    I learned dramatically more at Stanford because the teaching was so much better.

    I didn’t incur any debt, but the debt would have been worth the vast difference. I also learned that I could play in the bigs, and that emboldened me–and some boldness is a good thing.

    I enjoy your view and your writing (I learned about you accidentally, from our publicist in common at the Hachette Book Group.) And I share your love of Madison. An October game at Camp Randall is one of the life’s great experiences, with the singing of Varsity the highlight–at least for me–and this was back when the Badger fans were delighted just to score against Michigan or Ohio State.

    Best of luck, I’m glad to have discovered you.

  26. Brian H. says:

    In #3, you don’t give enough credit to the large endowments of many private universities.

    At many public universities, financial aid packages are filled with student loans while private universities often have more aid in the form of scholarships and grants, which you don’t need to pay back.

    For instance, I recently graduated from a private university with a tuition alone at $35k/yr. But this school was by far the least expensive that I was accepted at, including two Big Ten universities (one in-state).

    So you can’t just say, “Oh, this private school is expensive because the tuition is $35k, while this public school’s tuition is $18k.” You need to consider who is actually footing the bill and that will vary greatly depending on your financial position and academic standing.

    You should have focused your debt argument on credit card debt, which all personal finance experts would consider “bad debt,” not “good debt” like student loans. Acquiring large amounts of credit card debt hurts your career because it limits your ability to say no to job offers in favor of better offers. In other words, you lose your ability to leverage employers against each other because you are focused on getting sure money fast to pay off the debt.

  27. boon says:

    Hi,

    I really love your articles about practical career advice. I tried one of your URL links to www [dot] collegestartup [dot] com, on item number 2, but I think you may have really wanted www [dot] college-startup [dot] com. The first one is an ad referral site.

    Boon.

  28. Sean says:

    Penelope,

    An advanced degree in the humanities is very helpful, in fact ultimately required, by the better public high school districts. Since the majority of humanities majors do not become college professors, your scope on this point is too limited.

    Since pay and advancement in the public schools is based on longevity and education, your advice on this point is misleading and harmful.

  29. Mike says:

    regarding point 3 that depends on where you are living. in ohio the difference may be $1000 but where I live in Los Angeles the difference is about $20000 USC vs State.

  30. dd says:

    People can’t see the forest for the trees, I hear your message. I like your message, enjoy life, increase your experiences where you can experience life. Education in the business world matters for about the first 5 yrs out of school. After that it is about getting people to buy into your vision, having a vision, selling a vision, tying it in to what people want out of life. Right now, the only way I am successful, is if I can get others around me to be successful, the Admin staff to handle the clients with profesionalism without me looking over their shoulders, the engineers excited about what they do, the marketers intrested in bringing forth new ideas. It also goes both ways, if the marketers, admin staff, etc want to get their vision fulfilled, they need to sell to me and understand me. I did not go to an IVY league, but went to a school that specialised in field I was in, that had professors who were recognized as leaders, and who could see my passion. I was able to leverage that into internships, jobs, a new company. I am not Bill Gates rich, or hedge fund rich, but I enjoy my life, this only when I stopped cutting my non-Ivy league background. I have a good income, I am lucky I have enough time to voulunteer for causes I hold dear. It is the things outside my job, that help me keep perspective. Help me deal with the condescending banker without losing my cool, (was patient, got him to say things in an e-mail that I used as leverage to lower my intrest in exchenage for not suing). Thank you for your work. I will be buying this book for some relatives going to college.

  31. tjblaze says:

    I have one in State school and one in an Ivy. The difference is about $35K per year.

    It is worth every penny.

    There are exceptional students and people at the State school, but almost all of the students at the Ivy are exceptional. Class size at the Ivy is much smaller, particularly in the first two years. The focus at the State school is laregly preparing for a job or career. The focus at the Ivy is keen self-knowledge and discovery of personal passions.

    I think it is a mistake for any student to forego admission to a top tier school because of concern about the debt load.

  32. Amy says:

    I found this article very interesting and helpful, and although I will be done with school soon, I will pass this blog onto my relatives that are just starting college. Although I have not done all the advice, I agree with what I have personally found true during college. Number 19 is probably one of my favorites, not only has many of the jobs I have had given me experience and taught me something new, but it has also given me a perspective about what my interests are.

  33. Barbara Saunders says:

    For a truly depressing article about the field of law, read this http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119040786780835602.html from the Wall Street Journal.

  34. JD says:

    To the person who said “don’t go to law school unless you have a true passion for the law”– I think you’re way off base. The most miserable people I knew in law school were those who were desperately searching for a personally fulfilling career that would give meaning to their lives. Those with realistic expectations about the work and the lifestyle were the ones laughing all the way to the bank.

  35. george says:

    I was thinking of going the law school route because I enjoy being depressed and have so little going for me in my life that I desperately clutch at things to achieve.

    I’d also love to have a paralegal or a secretary to yell at and I cannot wait to become a dirty old man.

  36. Coach Phil says:

    College is a 4 year paid vacation – so enjoy it! No really… ENJOY every second of it. Don’t rush to get out and don’t take one second for granted. Don’t spend your entire 4 years studying… get out of the books, experience life. Experience social scenes, social relationships, social activities, etc. You will never be able to get away with half of the things you do in college once you graduate. Make mistakes, so that you can learn from them. People are more forgiving when you are a student than when you are an employee.

  37. Brad says:

    That is a very difficult question..What to do in college to be successful? I think that anyone can be successful no matter what they study in college. It depends on how determined one is and whether that person is dedicated enough to create opportunities for themselves. Great discussion by the way.

  38. Cosmic says:

    You forgot to mention the fact that people seek their PhD because they have no viable purpose in the real world. PhD’s are a joke, they are usually the most uninformed, opinionated (usually wrong), people on the planet. The best advice comes from undergraduate and graduate people, who have actually taken ideas from theory to completion, unlike any PhD’s. Does no catch the term “institution”, these are places that opinions are forced upon you until you conform at which time they hand you a degree. As a business owner I have no use for a person with a PhD. Our “institutions of higher learning are outdated and useless in today’s times. Give me someone with a good work ethic and a great idea anytime. Don’t waste your money on the long established colleges and universities. Tech. schools are the best, learn a viable trade and contribute to the world. The only thing a PhD can teach you is someone else’s ideas and methods.

  39. Mike says:

    I have never felt satisfied with any job, ever. I also suffer from major depression and I was never able to finish college.

    In fact, I have difficulty finishing anything. I am now almost 40.

    I contemplate suicide almost everyday now. I know eventually I will die from suicide, I just don’t know when.

    I wish I could say that I have hope, but I don’t.

  40. Danny from baby ear thermometer says:

    Hi,

    Great post. I think that the other issue the subject that you choose as too many people go to college these days without thinking first about what they want to do with their degree or whether it will help them get a job at the end of their studies. Huge problem in the UK at the moment – just too many people going to university.

    Danny

  41. Wilbert says:

    Getting out of the library and meeting similar minded people i think is the most important thing one should do in college. Starting a business can be something useful too because you will learn a few things before you enter the workplace. Meeting people and making friends is the most important. These friends will be around for a long time. I got my first clients through friends i met in college and still hang out with.

  42. Patrick says:

    Regarding the networking discussion. Agreed, Ivy League schools are the acme of networking for careers after college, but for those who didn’t go/aren’t going to the top list schools it is still (one of) the most important thing(s) you can do.

    My lawyer, business partner, financial adviser, architect (and wife – all separate people) are either friends from college or were introduced to me by them. The amount of advice I’ve received from these people has saved me untold thousands of dollars. (Meeting the woman of my dreams – priceless.)

    So, get out of your comfort zone, help out your fellow students in anyway you can, they will remember. Become friends with as many of them as possible. You don’t make any old friends when you get past a ‘certain age.’ Make as many as possible while you’re in school.

    Peter

  43. john says:

    Sounds like you don’t consider science/engineering a viable career option since it requires a fair amount of actual academic work and doesn’t really rely on schmoozing in deference to GPA. Since you dismiss law I gather the only career track is the good old MBA huh?

    Makes sense since we’re living in the last days of the crumbling empire where all we do is sell fricking real estate to each other. Party on!

  44. Todd says:

    Penelope,

    This is a terrific article and I think it’s still pertinent 3 years after the initial publication.

    I read through many of the other comments and really enjoy seeing the different ways that people think about college and university life, and why some points can tend to drive people crazy.

    Item #3 on your list caught my eye as I’ve noticed too many students “give up” on their private school options without even knowing what their financial means will allow them to pursue. It’s sad when families don’t start thinking about the funding of higher education (i.e. “how much they can and should be looking to spend”) before they begin their college search. It’s nice to know that more families are at least considering it with today’s economy being what it is.

    Thanks again for your insightful article.

  45. Italian says:

    In order to be successful in your career you should do the following things in college (it is my opinion, who doesn’t agree, please argument your thoughts):
    1. Prepare for courses(I don’t encourage you to become a geek, but at least know what you are learning in college)
    2. Active social work is more than essential- become a student counsil, or something like that
    3. Science works (prepare for different science conferences)
    4. Art, sport, tourism – whatever you want in order to develop like all round-up person

  46. Free MLM Training says:

    Do NOT become an attorney. There are already too many lawyers chasing too few jobs, and the jobs out there, especially in large firms, are awful.

  47. Nancy says:

    Great tips! I absolutely believe that college is about much more than coursework. It provides us an opportunity to spread our wings and learn new things every day. It's your first taste of independence, of staying away from the comfortable cocoon of your home and parents. You will be required to make your own decisions; meet people from different parts of the world; have intellectual discussions and debates with your classmates and professors; and much, much more!

    All this makes for great exposure, a life enriching experience that should not be missed. I give huge thumbs up to college education. If you are convinced it's for you, then start by exploring the college degree programs that suit your interests and aptitude.

  48. Marie H says:

    Thanks for this post is really helpful, I just starting college and I was looking for a bussiness school and a friend gave me a nice web site to start searching, I found a private school and it is not expencive!

  49. bird houses for sale says:

    Good stuff you have here, I was going to mention this to a good friend of m

  50. beverly says:

    I agree completely with the pros and the cons to your scope on education and finding oneself.

    Now I think I might be even more confused. My thoughts and views on this subject are still untamed. But your idea on this approach to “finding ones place in life” does help me in the final round-up of life.

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