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Your Turn: A Word to the Freshman Class

A student shares his college search experience.

Justin Ruehs, Grand Valley State University

September 05, 2008

Your Turn: A Word to the Freshman Class
This December, I'll be graduating from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, with a B.S. in Health Communications with minors in public relations and chemistry. It's been a long road but the reward is in sight. It's such a feeling of accomplishment to know you've succeeded in meeting one of your goals and that you're qualified to enter the field you've chosen. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way:
  • Listen to your teachers and older students. They have experience and most want to help you.

  • Gain as much writing and public speaking experience as possible. No matter what field you are entering, you need to be able to speak and write well.

  • Do internships!!!!! You'll hear this often, but it can't be stressed enough. Internships give you valuable experience and insight into a field that you might be considering. Employers take them seriously and will hire an applicant with internships over one without. And with an internship, at the very least you can weed out the types of jobs and industries that you don't want to work for without making the commitment of employment. In the best cases, an internship can lead to job offers after graduation.

  • Travel abroad!!!!! You can travel to far away places through school. Many travel programs are equivalent in cost to attending school in the states for a semester. Seek out information from your school's international affairs office. Learning about a new culture, seeing another part of the world and learning about yourself are only some of the benefits.

  • Have some fun. Take a break now and then to avoid burnout.

  • Having trouble deciding on a college? Share with other students in our discussions forum.

  • Apply for scholarships. The worst thing that will happen is that you get a 'NO' answer. It usually only takes a little time to fill out a scholarship application and the rewards outweigh the effort, even if you just get one scholarship. Start early when applying. It has taken me many years to get the system down, but you need to be thinking about the next school year and how you're going to pay for it by Winter break. Many scholarships have deadlines in January, February and March for the next academic year. You have to plan ahead to reap the rewards.

  • Statistically, students change their majors five times while in college and after college people change jobs/careers as many times throughout life. Feel free to explore.

  • Enjoy the friendships you develop; most will last forever.

  • Network as much as possible. Get involved with on- and off- campus organizations. Volunteer for causes you believe in, join pre-professional organizations and participate in sports and hobbies you enjoy.

  • College is what you make of it. It is worth the effort.

I'm in debt with student loans, but rich with so much else. It has all been worth it. Good luck to you all!

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