By: Guest On: April 13, 2011 In: Starting College, Student Life Comments: 0

Today’s post is by David Cristello, a recent graduate and Manager of Business Development at Go Financial Aid.

Few moments can live up to the exhilaration of being independent for the first time. Scenes from “Braveheart” come to mind, particularly the one where Mel Gibson yells, “FREEDOM!”

Yes, it is wonderful, but we soon find out that freedom brings a bit of anxiety. With seemingly limitless options, we become paralyzed. While I can’t sit here and tell you what to do next, I do have some advice on how you should treat your years ahead:

1. It’s All Right to Be Uncertain, but Not Lazy.

While this one seems like common sense, let me give you a common example. Student A loves their student life, which consists of going to class, occasionally studying, and “taking it easy.” That’s fine, I’m not here to tell you to NEVER enjoy your free time, but here’s the catch. During your free time, become active.

Set aside at least one hour a week to explore your university, the accomplishments of your professors, surrounding organizations and business, and local clubs. Best of all, this could be fun! Don’t be afraid to look around and see what has recently become available to you! Do not count on the university, your professor, or your friends to tell you what’s available.

This doesn’t mean you need to sign up for every event, but the point is to fully explore your community. If you can’t find the activity you like, then start recruiting and start it!  Ignorance should not be an option.

2. Don’t Conform to Your Major.

You’re going to spend enough time with classes and internships, so don’t feel   like anything outside your major is “off-limits.”

If you want to explore business, look for start-ups to work for, or start a small side business. If you’re interested in art but don’t want to commit to the major, start out by offering free work such as flyers for upcoming music concerts, school events, or rallies. If that option isn’t available, start posting your work online.

There is no reason to limit yourself entirely to one discipline.

3. Be Responsibly Impulsive.

Some of the best experiences I had during school started out as an impulse decision. (To be clear, these decisions do not cause any harm to myself or anyone around me. This is what I mean by “responsibly impulsive.”)

The first one was my choice to study abroad. The idea came to mind because it was a very, very cold day in the winter and I wanted to not only leave the city, but also the country. I saw a flyer, decided to attend the information sessions, submitted by application for the scholarship and was ready to go! (Side note: My GPA was technically too low to study abroad, but not only did ONE meeting rectify this, but I still ended up receiving money!)

Many departments have scholarships for students who want to study abroad, so use this to your advantage. Many students won’t apply because they feel they don’t have a chance of receiving money. This is great for you, because now you have a chance to fund your trip!

Another experience was an internship I saw posted on Craigslist. The position was for an online marketing internship for a local start-up. Being interested in entrepreneurship, I decided to apply (having almost zero experience in business and majoring in psychology). To my surprise I was accepted, and I went on to learn a lot about online marketing (a big interest of mine).

Your time at school is largely up to you, and for the first time you can leap across majors, clubs, and occupations. Explore, be creative, and enjoy your time. Yes, you can relax (please do), but part of the relaxation should be actively searching for interesting opportunities. The funny thing about these opportunities is that MANY people want to give them to you!

Don’t regret these years because you assume certain activities weren’t interesting or you weren’t “qualified” to do them. Start being active now. You’ll thank me later.

About David Cristello: David is a recent graduate and Manager of Business Development at Go Financial Aid, a company that consists of financial aid consultants who seek to help students maximize their FAFSA, CSS Profile, and financial aid packages. Find Go Financial Aid on Facebook and Twitter. In his spare time David enjoys reading, skateboarding, drumming, rock climbing, and social work.

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