Life Skills Milestone

The New Adult’s Guide to Finding Your Way

Getting into college or a professional program is a huge first step. Enrolling and showing up for the first term is the next one. Graduation is still a ways off: What can you do to make sure you thrive for the years in-between?

Here are some things you can do to set yourself up for success as you continue your education:

1

Find your people. These years are about building your own community. One of the most exciting parts is meeting people who are different from you, but also share interests or experiences in one way or another. Affinity groups, athletic teams (including casual or “intramural” ones), clubs, arts activities, and on-campus jobs are all great ways to connect with other students outside class.

2

Understand the graduation or certification requirements and any requirements of your major. Students have to be proactive about getting the help they need after high school. To stay on top of your coursework, start by learning what courses you must take in order to graduate on time. An academic advisor, who is typically assigned to support first-year students, can help you understand these requirements—but you might need to ask first. For students in professional training programs, it’s important to know what courses from your high school transcript count toward your certification, and what else you need to take to complete the program.

3

Keep an eye on that work-life balance. Yes, it’s important to stay on top of coursework. It’s also important to take advantage of opportunities outside the classroom. Make sure you have an organizational system that works for you so you can look ahead to upcoming assignments and plan time in your schedule to work on them. (Most college courses will provide a syllabus at the start of the semester that lays out all the assignments.) Seek out a study-buddy in tough classes so you can help each other manage the workload. And when you’re studying, turn off social media and avoid other distractions so you get the most out of your work time—and maximize the time you have for other activities. 

(Here are some apps that can help block distractions while you’re studying.)

4

Look out for hidden opportunities. While you’re studying, there will also be tons of opportunities for getting in valuable work experience or apprenticeships, earning (or saving) money, building connections, and having fun—but sometimes you have to know where to look for those things. If you’re a college student who wants to save on your housing bill, for example, becoming a resident advisor to first-year students is a great leadership opportunity. If you’re becoming certified in a trade, micro-internships or apprenticeships are valuable ways to build your skills on the job. Whatever you’re working toward, connect with a career advisor for help finding job opportunities, scholarships and grants to pay for internships, and job-seeking support.