I am so excited to have just started the second half of my junior year here in WSU’s Fashion Merchandising program. I really cannot believe I am more than half way done! Reflecting back on the past three years of my college experience I have learned a lot about myself and what keeps me on the right track. I know that college can get rough and it is very easy to get off track so I have come up with a list of all the things that have helped me survive and be successful in college. Enjoy!
1. Pay close attention to what inspires you.
Choosing your major wisely is one of the most important things in college. It is very common for undergraduates to change their major multiple times. It is great to dive into various subjects but being indecisive for too long can set you back by a lot. Two-year community colleges are always a great option if you are unsure about what your focus is and in the long run it will save you a lot of money! The first two years of college are pretty much the same with your general required courses no matter where you go. If you do know what your focus is, do some research and visit (if possible) all the universities that you want to apply to. It is important that you feel your school of choice is fit for you. Discovering what you love to do helps make your career success that much sweeter!
2. Stay focused.
I am not going to lie to you, college sometimes makes me want to go crazy! If I didn’t have ambition or focus I would have given up a long time ago. Staying focused on the future is the main thing that will keep you going and successful throughout your college career.
Maintaining focus isn’t always easy. Luckily there are always resources on campus to help you stay on the right track such as TRiO Student Support Services or the College Success Foundation which I am both a part of and work for. These resourceful programs can provide an academic mentor, help define academic goals, provide you with financial information, and even help search for scholarships and jobs! Student programs like these are always free and offer great opportunities.
Once you get a feel for the career path you envision yourself in I strongly suggest do research on the types of jobs it offers. Doing research on careers within your industry allows you to compare companies, salaries, locations, and the qualifications you’ll need. I call this my career packet. It really helped me discover what I want to focus on within the fashion industry and what I need to obtain those roles. Having a clearer idea of where I see myself (as a catalog stylist) after graduation always helps me stay focused.
3. Use your planner!
The best way to stay on top of your work is to use your planner. I cannot stress how important this is. Write down all deadlines, test dates, study times, unfinished tasks, and pretty much any reminders that will help you stay on top of work. Write down everything! Sticky notes are great for reminders too. I just prefer to have it all in one place. My memory is not as great as I presume it to be… I can barely remember my blog password. Keep your planner updated and be sure to check it everyday. There have been multiple times where I’ve wrote something down and completely forgot about it. Without my planner I would be lost. When you plan better you stress less! In addition to keeping track of your planner staying organizing is very important. I prefer to use a file folder to organize all my work. Binders and single folders work just as well.
4. Go to class!
This one may seem like a no-brainer but in my opinion it’s easier to not go to class then to actually go especially when you know that the lecture is posted online. When I took required coursed that weren’t necessarily as interesting as Fashion Merchandising (i.e. Entomology, Geology, Accounting, Economics) I had to learn self-discipline quickly. I literally had to force myself to go to class sometimes. But I just always remind myself of the bigger picture and focus on doing my best in everything I do. If for any reason you cannot make it to class be sure to have a way to get the material you missed whether that’s contacting a friend or the professor.
5. Always sit in the front & be prepared.
I strongly encourage you to sit the front of every class. If you are like me, anything and everything will distract you which makes sitting in the front even more beneficial. I’ve learned it also allows professors to take you more seriously. It shows that you are more engaged and give more effort. Another really important thing is to always be prepared. Always, always, always bring a notebook and pen with you no matter where you go. You never know what useful knowledge you’ll come across.
6. Introduce yourself to your professors & attend their office hours.
Aside from being seen by your professors, you always want them to know you on personal level. Standing out in a university is important. Freshman year I was lucky enough to have a class instructed by the head of my department and one of the many things she taught me was to always introduce yourself to your professors. It is in your benefit for them to know you on a first name basis. But that will work against you if you decide to repeatedly not show up to class. Also be sure to attend their office hours for any questions or help you need. They are solely there to help you succeed and the best person to advice you how.
7. Go to conferences/networking events.
Most majors offer conferences and networking events to attend and majority of the time they are free. Take advantage these opportunities! This is the best way to get your name out there and learn more about companies within your industry. Since freshman year I have attended several conferences with Nordstrom, Kohl’s, Eddie Bauer, NRF, and benefited from every one. They offer you insight and information that you can’t obtain by just attending class or researching the industry. And you never know who you’ll run into. You may be sitting right next to the president of Nordstrom (true story).
8. Treat your body well.
It is extremely important that you manage how much you eat, sleep, and exercise properly. And yes, the freshman 15 is real so that makes it even more important. Managing your health with so much on your plate can be difficult but your health is just as important as striving for A’s. Not getting enough of either of these things can lead to overwhelming stress or becoming unhealthy. I have just started to get in the routine of taking care of my body better by eating better and exercising every morning. I have recently learned to love yoga! I get stressed out really easily and doing yoga has helps me manage it a lot better. I have honestly done yoga three times in one day before! Take the time to learn what works best for you and make a routine out of it.
9. Wash your hands.
Seriously. You may think it’s a kind of silly tip but when you go to a university people are always getting sick. In a way college has turned me into a germophobe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people cough directly into their hands or not bother to cover their mouths at all. If you live in the dorms I highly suggest flip flops and personal cleaning supply for the shower. Stay healthy!
10. Be open to try new things.
College is all about the experience. This is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity so try to take advantage of it to your best ability. There are so many things to do and ways to get involved on campus. I wouldn’t have met some of the great friends I have if I never got involved with a certain club or event. You never know who you’re going to meet or how they could help your career in the future. This also a great way to build your resume throughout college. I feel your college experience is a perfect time to try new things. If someone told me five years ago that I would learn to be a model coordinator I would never believe them. Especially since I’ve never personally modeled before. But with learning anything new, all it takes is time and effort. You’d be surprised by what you’re capable of!
Be sure to be aware of your limits and avoid overwhelming yourself. I can tell you that from first-hand experience. If you are just starting out at a new school take sometime to get a feel for how things go and where you can make room for free time.
11. Manage your free time wisely.
This skill takes time and effort to finesse. Just be smart about how you prioritize your time and the decisions you make. Don’t think that you can go out every night and still manage to keep on-top of your work. As long as you put school first and know how to manage your time you can have all the fun/lazy-time you want. Otherwise you’ll end up wasting thousands of dollars of tuition.
12. Make time for your relationships.
While you’re away at school it is easy to get side-tracked and forget your family and loved ones. Like anything in life, you get out what you put in. All it takes is effort. I have been in a long-distance for over a year & a half and always managed to find a way to make it work. Thanks to modern-day technology we can easily video chat or even text for the times things get too hectic. I am a very family-oriented person so talking to my family always brightens my day. They are my biggest motivators and help push me toward my dreams. But don’t get me wrong, I am still learning how to manage my time the best I can.
13. Learn how to budget your money.
Being that you are more independent now, managing your money is extremely important. Create a budget plan including rent/utilities (if that applies to you), food, gas, supplies, bills, and miscellaneous expenses. I know how easy it is to make impulsive buys (i.e. makeup, hair products, room decor, etc.) and all I can say is please try not to make too many! It all adds up and the last thing you want is to be away at college struggling financially. Another thing I suggest is to always take the bus or walk. If your campus is like mine there is no such thing as free parking. I live off campus and could easily drive to campus everyday but I refuse to pay $2/hour unless I’m going to be on campus very briefly which is pretty rare.
14. Bring snacks on long days.
In regards to budgeting your money, I found the best way to save is to always pack food for the day. There are some days where I’m on campus for almost 12 hours and the last thing I want to do is spend money on food when I know I have tons at home. Am I the only one who feels guilty for this? Even if you don’t mind getting lunch on campus it is always good to have snacks with you. Trying to fit in breakfast every morning isn’t that likely with my hectic schedule so cliff bars are my best friend. They keep me full and energized until I have the chance to sit down and have an actual meal. Yogurt and fruit is also a good filling snack for the mornings on-the-go.
15. Continuously seek motivation!
While being in college you’re going to meet a lot of great, different people and learn a great deal of new things. Regardless of the people you encounter or classes you take on this journey it is important to continuously motivate yourself. Being a fashion merchandising undergrad I am surrounded by creative and unique people all day just like myself. This helps a lot with staying driven and seeking out for new inspirations. In my free time I enjoy browsing through Pinterest, watching fashion shows, and discovering new music. In a way, staying inspired keeps me sane. I am always searching for new ways to better myself and follow my ambitions of becoming a catalog stylist. For you, fashion may not necessarily be what gets your blood pumping. It may be music, sports, cooking, or learning about historical heroes. No matter it what it is, it is important to always keep those things in mind and further develop them. Take this time in your life to really get to know who you are and what you’re passionate about.
I hope these tips helped you get a better vision of the things you want pursue during and after college! What things have you learned works best for you while being in college?