Yesterday was the first day back in classes for my College, and although I have not officially graduated, I finished all my classes that I needed to in the spring. One thing I have been reflecting on more and more is how grateful I am that I did not quite follow all the rules and thoughts of my department.
Don’t let your imagination go wild and assume the worst, I in fact did not break any laws. However, let me state the ideas and guidelines that I was told or felt during my time at school.
1. You cannot have a job while studying for this degree.
2. Student loans are acceptable and required.
3. The older students are better in the position.
4. School is more important than anything.
Again, don’t let your imagination run wild, especially with the last number on the list. Several times in JUST my first year I was told that I should quit my part time job in order to focus on school and the assignments I was given. Many of these were said because my teachers did not know much about me at the time and assumed it would be too much for any student. It was true many times that I felt overwhelmed, but I made it work. I also had teachers tell me that I should take out student loans if I was worried about money. I am extremely grateful that I did not. One teacher mentioned that she has student loans and it wasn’t a big deal. I encourage you reader to do what you can to avoid having student loans follow you around for years! I wanted to have the feeling of being free when I graduated, not feeling the handcuffs of a loan.
The third rule I did not follow was assuming that the students in the year above me were better. WRONG. They are learning as much as I am in their own classes. The older students were great to get some information from, I am not saying any of them were horrible, because I did get a lot of advice from them. In your own classes and paths, take advice from tons of people, but use your own thoughts and ideas to determine the best approach based off of them. When I started my program, I had an older student in charge of me and at the time, I thought this person was fantastic at their job, but as I continued, I saw the flaws I could not see before. I still think they did a good job, but I knew they could have done better. This continued all through my schooling, because we are ALL still learning and lack the experience in order to master our skills.
Finally, the last point, and frankly the biggest change I noticed. Yes, school is important, don’t get me wrong. it was important for me to do well, get good grades and keep my financial aid. It was also important for me to make friends with those in my field, because networking is crucial to my profession. Also, I met incredible people who are smart and know their field like the back of their hand as well as being awesome people to work with. What I did notice is that I did not forget about my friends and connections outside school, that networking in your classes is not nearly as helpful as networking outside classes and in the professional environment. Now that I am outside of school, I hardly talk to many students I saw in the halls, because they are focused on school once again. It is hard to keep one foot outside the school environment, because it requires so much of your time, but it is possible and highly advisable.
for those of us who have finished school, we could tell you the importance of networking and getting to know professionals who could help your future, but it is up to you to start the effort and break the rules.