30 College Accomplishments to Hit Before Graduation
Your college accomplishments will probably be more important to you than high school. That’s rather obvious. But sometimes it’s difficult to gauge just how far they might follow you into the rest of your life.
In other words, the decisions you start making in college tend to hang around when it comes to their impact and ramifications. They matter. Perhaps more than any decision you’ve made — or will make — throughout the rest of your life.
We want you to make the best decisions. That’s why we’ve put together this bucket list of sorts. It will show you the exact things you should be doing before collecting that cap, gown, and degree. Let’s get started!
Ensure You’re on the Graduation Track
Once you have a major nailed down, it’s important you learn the path to graduation. You don’t want to get too hung up on time-wasting electives when there are essential classes you still have to check off the list.
Yet, many students will find themselves during senior year having to cram vital classes into their final 24-30 hours. They may even have to take heavier class loads to make up ground. This can become a real obstacle to graduation as your senior classes are typically your most challenging.
Trying to do too much at once will stress you to the max. It also may lead to some failing grades and mandatory retakes.
Make the Most of ‘Caff Time’
It wouldn’t be original to rip on cafeteria food. Students have been making jokes about that slop for as long as college has been a thing. But there’s a social component to time at the cafeteria that you just can’t deny.
The caff is where you get to explore new relationships and deepen existing ones. It’s a place where you can relax and joke around with friends. It’s also a hub of campus life, and it can acclimate you to the full geography of the university or college where you’re attending.
You can really speed up the time it takes to get comfortable with your surroundings when you make the most of caff time. So don’t let the opportunity slip by you.
Do a Late-Night Meal Run
We would never tell you to go out and get hammered or high. But if you do find yourself in one of those states — or if you’re just the responsible party taking care of your reckless friends — make time for a spontaneous fourth dinner late at night (or early in the morning) after the partying is done.
Late-night eating is fun for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, it’s a rare thing (or should be), so it’s a time when you can splurge and really let your stomach have it. On another, it comes at a time when you’re all a little kooky or delirious, and that can be downright hilarious.
Just make sure you stay close to the realm of responsible behavior. No one wants a rap sheet this early in life. Or at all, for that matter. Steer clear of shady characters as well. Few people beyond the college age who engage in such behaviors are responsible. If they were, they’d likely be getting sleep because they have to go to work in the morning.
Rough It to Class
Some days you should just get up and go. Don’t worry about how you look or what others will say. They do it, too. You shouldn’t have to follow any special standard the rest of the world doesn’t when it comes to the occasional scary-dress morning. Your classmates will forgive you, so go for it!
Choose a Graduate School and Apply
Sometime during your junior year, you should be pulling together a serious final list of choices for your graduate school of choice. You also need to have the program of study you’ll be pursuing in mind.
None of the decisions have to be final. But they do need to be familiar enough to you that you understand the niches in your field of study as well as the application processes of your three favored universities.
Having this information in place now is vital because it gives you the wiggle room to adjust your decisions as necessary during senior year. If you wait until you’re a senior, you’ll be more likely to choose a path (and a school) you hate.
Line Up a Job
Not everyone was designed for graduate school — at least not in the beginning. Sometimes it’s a better idea to get your bachelor’s degree (or technical certification) and step away from school to acquire some work experience before figuring out what to do about furthering your education.
Still others are coming to the end of their postgraduate work, and they have to think about turning their studies into a living. In either case, whether graduating early or late, you will need a job by the time you pass Go and collect the proverbial $200.
Therefore, it’s important to start hitting job sites and to see what is out there. Don’t aim too high at first. Look for positions where you have the qualifications or they’re at least within reach. Once you are employed, you can start thinking about your next move and, more importantly, making those student loan payments.
Explore Classes Unrelated to Your Major
Every college degree path offers the flexibility to explore other interests through electives. Get creative with yours. Use them to explore fields of study that appeal to your natural curiosity. And don’t be afraid or feel guilty picking a class that’s fun to you.
You may not end up ever using it in your professional career, but it could open the window to another field of study you never thought about. This natural curiosity electives can awaken lead us to other opportunities, be it a second degree, a favorite hobby, or something to complement our existing skill-sets.
Start Building Your Resumé
Don’t wait for your graduation day to build a resumé that stands out. Some of you may not think this is possible since you’ll be relatively inexperienced at this point. But you have to start somewhere.
Creating a resumé that is a good jumping-off point gives you the template you’ll need to improve one job or task or additional coursework at a time. The best way to start building your resumé is this:
- Brainstorm a list of everything you’ve accomplished or had a hand in accomplishing
- Assign one of three categories to each accomplishment (skill, education, work experience)
- Reorganize your list under each of these three headings by whichever best describes it
- Write out each one chronologically from most recent to earliest
- Clean up the wording
- Give it to a person you trust and ask them to note anything that doesn’t make sense or that needs further elaboration
- Make any necessary changes and do one final pass
- Save it to your computer in an easily-shareable file format
And that’s all there is to it. Well, not quite. You also want to continually update your resumé. And you’ll want different versions of it that appeal to jobs that differ within your area of expertise.
Just remember: a resumé is a living document. Not only does it change over time. It should change. Make sure yours does.
Have Good Relationships
Don’t waste time on people who treat you like crap. They don’t make good friends. They don’t make good lovers. They don’t make good study group partners. Let them put their poison on someone else.
Start Building Your Credit
When you first get to college, credit card companies will be doing all they can to win your attention. They want to get you young and inexperienced so you’ll start using their card, buy more than you should, and pay 30% interest on anything you can’t pay off at the end of the month.
It ought to be illegal for anyone without a financial literacy course to be awarded a credit card, but alas, it’s not. Therefore, you’ll need to exercise extreme caution when getting a credit card. Start with a secured card that only allows you to spend what you’ve put on the card ahead of time.
This can seem counterintuitive, but use of a credit card means you’re building a credit history. Use of a secured card means you can’t misuse it. That keeps you acting responsibly so your credit will be there for you when you need it to buy a car or home.
Get Your Loan Situation Under Control
There’s no such thing as free money. While interest rates on student loans are relatively low, you do have to pay them back at some point. And they may not be low-rated forever as the fed works to bring rates up across the board.
The thing you need to remember most of all is that you shouldn’t borrow any money that’s unnecessary to borrow. When you’re in college, you have tuition, room, and food to pay for. That’s it. Food and room can be handled through scholarships, Pell grant money (if eligible), or a good part-time job.
Tuition and fees are a bit more expensive. If you don’t have enough scholarship to pay for it, then you might consider a loan. If that’s the route you have to go, so be it. The important thing is that you put every borrowed dollar up to this level of scrutiny. If you don’t need it or can get it through some other means, then don’t borrow it.
Last thing on this topic: you can control how much money you need to borrow by changing the way you go to school. Consider a free or low-cost community college for general education requirements (your first two years), and finish up your bachelor’s degree at an in-state college or university. From there, look for work-study opportunities to explore while you’re pursuing your master’s degree.
Visit Friends at Other Schools
They say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. But there’s no harm in seeing how others live. Visit your old high school friends who are going to other colleges or universities. Stay a weekend with them. Make note of the similarities and the differences. It’ll give you a deeper appreciation for where you are. Or it’ll at least be the impetus you need to transfer!
Hit the Road
The road trip is a rite of passage every college student should embrace. Spring and fall breaks are great times to get creative with your road trip. Just make sure you have a large enough group to make the trip worthwhile. After all, you’ll need to address the following factors before any road trip can be successful:
- Fuel costs
- Spending money
- Special expenditures (i.e., concerts, sporting events, etc.) that you’ll be attending while there
Take care of each other. That will ensure you actually have the fun you plan on having. Without the above components in place, it wouldn’t matter where you went. You’d have a pretty miserable time. So keep these factors in mind before you decide to plan that next big adventure, and make those plans with friends you can trust to follow through!
Find Grade-Life Balance
A B+ you can get with relative ease is better than an A- you have to suffer for. Any. Day. Of. The. Week.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially at the undergraduate level. You go to college to become a well-rounded human being, and it’s tough to do that when your nose is constantly in a book or obsessing over a test grade.
Start Saving Money
High school graduation often gives one a nice starting point for saving money. You get all those gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles, fellow church members, or whoever else you’ve got in your life that cares about you. Unfortunately, that money can burn a hole in your pocket and end up getting spent on some pretty frivolous things.
Don’t let that happen to you. Save at least 10 percent of every dime you get as early as you possibly can. Even if you have to rack up debt elsewhere, the act of saving a part of everything you make will get you where you need to be and help you avoid many of those situations where you’re at the mercy of a credit card company.
In addition to saving your money, you also should be investing it. Now’s a great time because you’re young enough and have all your earning potential ahead of you, to the point that you can afford taking risks in the stock market or with some other security (i.e., mutual funds, commodities, cryptocurrencies).
We prefer mutual funds with an established return rate over the five- and 10-year periods. If the fund has consistently shown growth — and there are many out there that have — then it’s something of a guarantee that your money isn’t going anywhere (but up). This kind of stability also keeps you from freaking out and selling too early when one of your chosen investments is having a bad week or month.
Have Nights You Will Regret
Sometimes you’ve got to purge the responsibility from your system. Of course, you don’t want to break any (serious) laws or do it in a way that puts you or anyone else in danger. But you do want those nights where you do anything except what you’re supposed to be doing.
Why’s that, you ask? Because college can be a really challenging time where it feels like your time is no longer your own. Get used to it. That will only get worse the older you get and the deeper you move into your career. Being able to occasionally step away from it all and “be bad” is energizing. And it can remind you just why you’re doing what you’re doing as a responsible adult.
Networking is how you get the best jobs of the future. Learning how to do it now will give you a leg up on the competition as you all age out of the university system and into the “real world.”
Social media is a great starting point for learning how to network. But nothing replaces the elbow-grease version. You know, getting out there into the world, shaking hands, talking about yourself, asking others what they do.
Use career fairs, job shadowing, and even college parties as a way to hone your skills. When the time comes, this will ensure you’re ready.
Get Some Sleep
Yes, we all like to brag about our all-nighters. We beat our chests and boast of how we pushed our bodies past the normal human breaking point. But all that will ever get you is a temporary gains into a long-term grave.
Sleep recharges the mind. It helps the body heal. And it will ultimately prepare you for whatever a class, instructor, or test can throw at you. Ignore it at your own risk.
If you do have to pull the occasional all-nighter, make sure you’ve got a weekend on the horizon with some solid sack time. Then, do whatever you’ve got to do to ensure no one interferes with it.
Soak Up Your Friend Time
We’re going to share a sad fact of life with you now. The more enlightened among you already know it. But it never hurts to repeat it lest you find yourself taking it all for granted one day.
This is the only time in your life that you’ll have friends who can drop everything and come running whenever you need them. Late-night movie? Beer runs? Crying over a broken relationship at a local coffee shop? You can get them to do anything, and you can get them right now.
That’s because your responsibilities are largely the same, and so are your schedules. That all goes away after you graduate. So appreciate each moment you’ve got now. It won’t last forever. It won’t even last for a fraction of forever. And it’ll be over before you realize it started.
Learn to Speed-Read
Being able to master this skill early in your college career will allow you to better manage the mountains of reading material your instructors (and basic necessity) will give you as your college career path sharpens into focus. It can all feel like too much until you realize one simple reality: you don’t have to read every single word of something to get its meaning.
Speed-reading operates on the assumption that keywords will stand out as you allow your eyes to follow the basic flow of sentence structure. The smaller words will internalize and you won’t really “read” them even though you’ll know they’re there, and you’ll be able to put them in the correct order.
Allow your eyes to race over the text and “ding” only those two-, three-, and four-syllable words that matter. You also will want to engage in “pre-reading.” Before you start reading a block of text, count the number of pages and sections. Read subheaders if they exist. Then, start from the beginning.
It makes an enormous impact on your ability to comprehend dense and complex material quickly. Use it liberally throughout your college career.
Build a Portfolio
Your resumé is a document that records work experience, skills, and education. A portfolio documents your actual accomplishments — projects you’ve finished, honors you’ve achieved, papers you’ve written.
When preparing for a career, it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s a both/and. You’ll want to start putting each together as early as humanly possible. Many are kept digitally, and that’s always a good rule of thumb, though you also may want to print or photocopy these documents so you can hand them to prospective employers.
Embrace the Library
If you had to buy every book or magazine that would prove valuable, you’d never be able to save money. And even if you could, you wouldn’t have a place to store it all!
The library is a great repository of ideas and information, and it can keep the clutter out of your life and your money in your pocket. Learn to use it, and try to support it in any way you can so we have them for some time to come.
Take Advantage of Student Discounts
There won’t be many moments in life where restaurants will throw discounts at you and movie theaters will let you in for free. Check with your student union for any and every program offered at a free or discounted rate. Then, go out of your way to use them while you still can.
If You Don’t ‘Got’ the Spirit, Get the Spirit
“We’ve got the Spirit, yes we do / We’ve got the Spirit, how ’bout you?” While these little repetitive cheers can be annoyingly traditional, the idea of having school spirit is a good one. You should embrace it.
Being able to cheer on your team provides a sense of pride, a social outlet, and warm memories you can take with you the rest of your life. It also creates a bond between fellow classmates that can prove useful in both personal and professional capacities.
There are tons of great music opportunities in college towns — from the latest top 40, to music festivals, to individual concerts in the basements of dive bars. Music speaks to the soul, and it is a terrific unifying channel that can put you in direct link with your next great friend or love.
Take a Chance
Do something completely out-of-character that will make a great story. It could be skydiving, parasailing, riding a motorcycle, or streaking across a football field in the middle of a live game. (Okay, that last one may not be the best idea, but you get the point.)
Taking a chance means ratcheting up the pressure to step outside of yourself and be someone else for a brief moment. In doing so, you’ll achieve a level of growth you never thought possible.
Reveal Your Crush
This was part of our high school list as well. Still a good idea here, because the nature of relationships becomes more complex as you get older. So revealing your crush can have a greater impact on the course of your life than it did in high school. Therefore, we’ve included it here as well.
Let your feelings show, even if it means being rejected. Either way, you win.
Take In Your Campus
Your campus likely has tons of historical and technological perks that get overlooked when you’re around them every day. Take a moment out of your schedule to see everything your campus has to offer. You might start by inventorying a list of the buildings that are there.
From there, spend a full day in each one going floor-to-floor, room-to-room, making sure not to miss anything along the way. If you have friends that use those buildings more than you do, ask them for a tour. They’ll provide deeper insight you may not be able to get on your own.
Seize the Day with Extracurricular Activities
You don’t have to be good at them. You should just be curious about them. And if you get good at them, that’s just icing on the cake.
Extracurricular activities are important because they teach you to explore experiences and skill-sets you might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore inside of a classroom. Take advantage of those opportunities now. You never know whom or what they’ll connect you with that might prove beneficial later in life.
Your College Accomplishments Can Guide the Rest of Your Journey
It cannot be overemphasized just how important your college years are. They’re the beginning of a journey that will take you to the end of your life and ultimately determine the happiness and experiences that you have along the way. You want to avoid taking them for granted. And by following this list, you can rest easy knowing that isn’t going to happen.