they’ve learned, expecting to hear what you bring to the table,” says Jean Muhammad, a former visiting professor at Florida A&M University who taught professional development courses until last spring. “It’s that business entity that goes beyond the grades.”
Develop a team of supporters. It’s very important to gather with like-minded individuals, from peers to mentors to advisers. “Surround yourself with achievers — peers who are really serious about succeeding. Share your story with them and vice versa to help you get through the tough times,” says Kim Wells, director of the career services office at Howard University. “You can seek them out just by conversation. You’ll hear the ones who have lofty goals about being a doctor, senator, etc., and then decide for yourself who has the same level of energy that you have.” In addition, meet with your academic adviser to discuss career goals, registration requirements, deadlines, and perhaps, upcoming internship opportunities.
Your adviser can offer academic support throughout your college career, so consult him or her often. It might be prudent to speak to the dean of students and the head of the major and minor academic departments you’re considering. It’s this group that will help you focus on the task at hand — whether the goal is to become a world-famous botanist or travel the globe on a peace mission. Ask lots of questions, pay attention to the advice, and commit to the process, even if you are not clear about the end result.
Put the social scene into perspective. This is a great time to make friends with people who will become lifelong buddies. But you don’t want to become a social butterfly to the detriment of your schoolwork. “Often, it’s hard to make the transition into having that much freedom,” says Carol J. Carter, author of Majoring in the Rest of Your Life, Fourth Edition (LifeBound; $16.95).
“It’s better to be moderate as you enter your freshman year. Don’t skip going to parties; just don’t go to them five nights a week.” For tips on time management, see sidebar “Back-to-School Basics.”
Start small. You don’t have to do everything at once. “You need to take care of yourself first,” says Carter, who is also founder and president of LifeBound (www.lifebound.com), a seminar and coaching company for high school and college students. “For example, instead of taking 18 credits, take 12. Once you’ve proven yourself [and have mastered the amount of work], you can increase your course load.” The idea is to start small so that everything you do builds on each other over the following years.
N. RASHAD JONES, Georgetown University, International Politics, Sophomore Year
Just call him the diplomat. N. Rashad Jones knew that he would pursue a career in international affairs and foreign policy. Naturally, he headed north from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., where he attends Georgetown University. “Initially, I received full scholarships from American and Howard universities, but after visiting campuses and speaking to students, I decided on Georgetown.
The 19-year-old junior is making the best of his opportunities by