This week, I participated in a panel discussion for new students beginning their college careers at my alma mater, Ball State University. I shared my experiences on campus, talked about leadership, how to find the right job after graduation, and what I am doing now with The Advocates for Self-Government with the Class of 2021 C.L.A.S.S. participants.
During the Q and A portion of the panel, a student asked if earning my degree was more important than the professional experience I gained by completing internships during undergrad.
This is what I told him:
I wouldn’t be where I am professionally without the networking I did as an undergrad. Networking led to internships which led to my professional career. However, the journalism, history, graphic design, and political science classes I took gave me the technical skills I needed to succeed in professional clubs and internships.
In other words, I don’t think that it is important for students to depend on a piece of paper alone. A degree in a subject that one is truly passionate about is great – but it’s not the be-all and end-all of your education.
I have friends that never earned a college degree but have incredibly successful careers. I have other friends that have multiple degrees and are stuck in jobs that make them miserable.
My advice to college students is to take advantage of every single opportunity this upcoming school year and throughout your college career.
Do your best in your classes and ask for help when you need it. If there is a professional club on campus that is relevant to your major, attend a few meetings. If your department is hosting an alumni mixer, GO, and introduce yourself to professionals. Ask for their business cards and keep in touch.
One of my favorite quotes comes from actress Tina Fey:
“Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.”
College is where you’re supposed to take risks, learn, and GROW personally and professionally.
Now, get out there and grow.