Junior year is here! Congrats, you’ve made it half way through college. I’ve talked previously about things to do during your freshman and sophomore years. Chances are that by now, you’ve got a solid group of friends, feel well adjusted, and have adapted to the challenging college workload. So now what? Don’t get too comfortable! It’s time to ask yourself how you can grow further into leadership roles, and into yourself.
Here are five tips to help you excel during your junior year:
1.) Read More
No, I’m not kidding. I know there is a ton of assigned reading already on your plate. It can be borderline overwhelming and almost impossible to read everything you should read for your classes. But, it’s very easy to get caught in the “college bubble,” particularly if you live on a secluded campus. Make it a habit to spend 15-20 minutes each day on top news sites like: The New York Times, The Economist, CNN, Reuters, and BBC News.
As you develop your career interests, subscribe to industry-specific news sites. For instance, I knew I wanted to work in the media industry post-graduation, so I subscribed to Mediabistro’s daily news feed. If you are interested in advertising, Ad Age is a must-read. If you want to work in finance, subscribe to The Financial Times. And, if you are interested in having up-to-date news on particular companies, events or people, set up daily or weekly Google News Alerts.
In addition to getting your news, pick up a good book whenever you can. Academic literature is great, but don’t forget to keep reading about other things you are interested in, like political biographies, business books, or the classics.
Reading more news, fiction and non-fiction will keep you informed and intellectually stimulated. You’ll be better able to contribute and tie current events to what you are learning in class, or talk about interesting books you’ve read recently during networking opportunities or formal job interviews.
2.) Start a Company
I know what you’re thinking, but…yes you can! There is no better time to start a small business than in college, when you have the resources and a nearby network (i.e. your friends) to help you build something great. First, figure out what interests you and what your strengths are. Then, create something special!
For instance, if you like sales, find other students on campus who want to sell something that they create, like their artwork or delicious homemade (ok, dorm-made) chocolate chip cookies. Then, create a “one-stop shop” student website where all of your peers can go to support their classmates by purchasing student-created art to decorate their dorm rooms, or cookies for a birthday party instead of buying snacks at the supermarket off campus.
Maybe you are great at taking notes during class or developing tips to help people study more effectively. If so, create a presentation and work with the career center at your school to host seminars for underclassmen on how to succeed academically.
Be creative! You can spend as much or as little time as you want on your company or side project. It allows you to take on an entrepreneurial role at a time in your life when you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
3.) Be the Mentor
During your freshman and sophomore years, you probably found professors and older students to mentor you. But, now that you are an upperclassman, it’s your turn to be the mentor. Obviously it’s a little bit odd to go up to a freshman and say, “Hey! Can I be your mentor?,” and I’m not suggesting you do that.
But, look for built-in opportunities on campus to take on a mentor role. You might look into being a freshman orientation leader or an RA. You could also try looking for volunteer opportunities on- or off- campus with programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Having a hard time finding mentorship opportunities?
Well, since we were just talking about starting a company, you could be the one to start a group on campus that pairs underclassmen looking for mentors with upperclassmen who want to be mentors. The best opportunities to start new organizations often arise when you find a need that has not yet been met on your campus.
4.) Be Random
It is easy to form habits by the time you reach your junior year. You may find yourself hanging out with the same people each weekend, going to the same types of parties and events, and taking the same route to and from the same classes. Don’t fall into the college rut- add randomness to your life!
Take a look at what is happening on campus this week. Never been to the art gallery? Make a trip to see recent art installments. Is an interesting speaker coming to campus that you’ve never heard of? Make it a point to stop by during your study break. Tired of doing the same thing every Saturday night? Introduce yourself to a few new people in one of your classes and get them to help you host a class party in your room.
Mix it up, because college is too short not to experience as much of it as you can. In the process, you’ll make new friends and may just develop a newfound appreciation for modernist art or the rugby team.
5.) Get Healthy!
Oh, yeah. An extra fifteen pounds may have found their way to your stomach. Whether you are a varsity athlete or someone who has never stepped foot in the campus gym, the dramatic change in eating and drinking habits during the college years can have a huge negative impact your health.
But, your health is the most important thing! Spend some time figuring out how to be healthier. Go through the dining hall and try to be creative at the salad bar or sandwich station. Cut back gradually on how much liquid courage you’re consuming. Make it a habit to spend at least 30 minutes at the gym each day- even walking on the treadmill is helpful.
If you like being outdoors, explore the running and hiking trails around your campus. Become a member of the ski team or play an intramural sport. Also, look into any fitness classes that may be offered on your campus, like power yoga or kickboxing. And, bring a friend along with you to make it more fun,
Taking care of your health will help you be more productive in the classroom, and will help your body function better- so you’ll have the extra energy to be a great mentor or focus on growing that company of yours!
Bonus: If you are studying away…
Spend an entire day or weekend exploring a nearby city or town on your own. Don’t bring a map, and leave the guidebook at home. Just allow yourself to get lost and experience the beauty of a new place on your own. Take time to window shop, linger in a hidden café for a drawn-out lunch, take dozens of pictures from unique angles, and stop to chat with locals.
These are the moments you’ll remember for the rest of your life. When you allow yourself to explore and get lost, you may just find a part of yourself that you never knew existed.
Stay tuned for your checklist on making the most out of your final (tear) year in college!