1. Know what you want to study, or at least have a general idea.
As everyone knows, college in the United States is incredibly expensive. In 2019, the average American spent over $26,000 on college per year. While Utah State may be cheaper than other alternatives, without scholarships, it still costs thousands of dollars per semester. It is common to not know what you want to study. Studies indicate that 20 to 50 percent of college students begin their studies undeclared. However, just because it’s common to go into college without a clear path forward, does not mean it’s a good idea. Knowing what you want to study will help save you time and, potentially, money. You will be able to plan your classes well in advance and chart the most efficient path forward. This is not to say that there are no soft benefits to education. The reason we are all here is to become more employable, and students should take that into consideration before they spend thousands of dollars.
2. Learn what you need to do outside of class to prepare for your career.
To be a marketable candidate in certain majors, there are experiences you need to do outside of class. For example, journalism students should get involved with the university newspaper and start building up their portfolio. This tangible work experience will prove invaluable in helping these students land a first job, post-graduation. Whatever you want to do, make sure you research what you need to do outside of class in order to make yourself marketable. Perhaps you need to study abroad. Maybe you need to start volunteering at Utah State University’s resident elementary school. It will vary from major to major. Do your research!
3. Talk to your professors. You are paying for them to help you.
Most professors host office hours at least once a week, a resource that only a minority of students take advantage of. During the interactions in office hours I had with my professors, I seldom ever saw another student. Professors have years of relevant experience in their fields. They know the ins and outs of their industries and have a bounty of advice and connections. Many of them sit in their office, waiting for an eager student to finally come and talk to them. Yet, for some reason, whether it be social fears or a general lack of will, students rarely make it that far. In my opinion, they are the greatest untapped resource at our university. At graduation, not everyone’s diploma is equally valuable, even if two students have the same major and GPA. The value of your degree is contingent on the experiences and additional skills you pursue outside of class, and utilizing your professors is the best way to ensure that you are getting the most out of your education.
4. Socialize during your first couple of weeks.
Human beings are tribal creatures. We seek out those who are similar to us and stratify ourselves into social groups. Because of our social nature, it is crucial for our mental health that we have a strong social network that we can rely on. When the semester starts, everyone is going to be new, excited, and a little confused. It is a great time to meet new people and establish friendships. The stratification process I mentioned earlier happens extremely quickly and, in college, it occurs within the first few weeks. Friend groups will form and unless someone is incredibly bold and possesses robust charisma, it will be harder to find friends after the first part of the semester.
5. Use DegreeWorks
DegreeWorks is a function of Banner, available through your USU student portal. Once you declare a major, you can plug classes into a plan, by semester, and see which requirements certain classes fulfill. It was the most valuable tool I had in managing my academic schedule and helped me to expedite my degree by a considerable amount. Through using DegreeWorks, you can ensure you’re on track to graduate in whatever time frame you’re aiming for, and you can see what your options are, like whether or not you have time to double major.
Kristian Fors is a student at Utah State University majoring in Economics and is an opinion columnist for the Utah Statesman. He enjoys studying psychology, traveling, and living life as intentionally as possible.