Somebody recently asked me, "Other than doing mandatory school work, how did you take advantage of college during your undergrad days?"
Good question. I wish I had stuck a magic list on my fridge rather than the late-night delivery coupons.
Here are 12 ways you can take advantage and make the most of your college years:
1. Flexible Schedule
If you don't want to go to class, don't. Unless you're blessed enough to work for a company that has flextime, you probably aren't literally "always" free. If you hear about an event, it doesn't matter what time it starts, you are free to go whenever.
If you meet a cool business owner or thought leader in town, your flexibility will allow you to meet whenever is best for him or her. Use this to your advantage.
Gather all your friends and go on a game show for sh*ts and giggles. I'll never forget about the $5,000 Vegas trip my friend won, but I’ve obviously forgotten about the midterm I had the Monday after.
2. Clubs & Organizations
Don't be one to just use college as a party platform. Seven-year plans are no longer the norm. Your school must have some organization that interests you - professional groups, Greek life, hobbies, etc. If it doesn't, start your own! It will look even better on your resume.
Join something, preferably with a national backing. When I made my cross-national move, I already had friends, thanks to the alumni networks of the university and my fraternity.
3. Career Center & Alumni Association
Go meet everyone that works there; they know far more people than you think. You'll meet tons of recruiters, and you'll even be able to hook your friends up with jobs through these contacts. Connections will be your link to some other high-ranking school administrators.
4. Discounts For Days
Student discounts are so underrated. I'm not only referring to the obvious museum discounts (though those are pretty stellar); I'm talking about all the cool conferences and tradeshows. Some of these offer ridiculously stellar discounts like 75% off. Most don't publicly offer student rates, so always ask for an exception.
Another cool perk is discounted traveling. Book a cheap flight somewhere on STA Travel. Many cities also offer discounted rates for trains, busses and subways, so keep exploring the possibilities!
There isn't a better win-win situation than an internship, reason being, it's a test run to ensure it's beneficial for both you and the company. Internships are also way easier to score than most full-time job offers because you can directly meet the decision-makers rather than sending in a resume.
Many of my friends opted to graduate a semester or year late just because they wanted access to internships the summer after their original graduation dates. A few of my friends also chose to prolong their internships to the length of co-ops during one of their semesters in order to build the most epic resumes ever by the time they finished.
6. Research Libraries
For those of you at research universities, the complimentary research library subscriptions you get are far more expensive than you'd imagine. Even if you hate doing research, there is tremendous value and wealth of knowledge at your fingertips with such memberships, so remember to use these if you have that option.
7. Crash Classes
You're likely paying a ton of money, via savings or loans, in order to get your degree, so you might as well get as much actual education as your money can buy. If possible, take the minimal possible number of credits to still graduate on time, but always ask your friends what their favorite classes were.
I ended up briefly learning about Health Communications, Zen Buddhism, and even randomly stumbling into the most disturbing Human Sexuality lecture ever. Courses can cost several thousands of dollars, so why not get a little rebate your investment?
8. Free Services & Advice
Most campuses offer plenty of free services. The services vary per campus, but most generally offer a plethora of awesome perks. Professors are world-class experts in their fields.
At my alma mater, we had five Nobel laureates on the faculty. Set up meetings with these people if you are seeking an interesting conversation or would like to talk through a start-up idea.
Need legal advice? Contact the legal resource center. Most of you are already aware legal advice is ridiculously overpriced for a surviving college student. Need your resume fixed? Go to the career center and have a counselor look it over. You get the idea. There are tons of free services you probably don’t know about.
9. Free Perks
There are free perks to take advantage of everywhere on college campuses. Go to career fairs and other on-campus recruitment events. Many companies are partnered with universities and offer tons of events with free food and promotional items: water bottles, backpacks, pens, bottle openers -- you name it! Pro tip: You can also probably find a few places on-campus with free condoms!
10. Gym Membership
Until I started working, I didn't even realize how expensive gym memberships are -- upwards of $100 per month. Any college student would benefit from a semi-regular gym routine from all that late night eating and boozing. Best of all, it's usually included on the tab.
11. "I'm a college student working on…"
You can use that line and get away with contacting just about anybody. When I was consulting for a start-up, I was able to get a free phone call with one of the top lawyers in the industry.
Though he charged more than $1,000 an hour for his services, I was able to convince him his good deed would translate to good karma. Use the line and tell me how it goes.
12. The Social/Networking Experience
I always tell college friends that you don't always need to 'network' with people older and more experienced than you because soon enough, many of your college buddies are going to be off doing awesome things.
You already have a foundation of friends that are soon-to-be expert marine biologists, graphic designers, and lawyers all in your cell. Appreciate and nurture the relationships that were positive influences on you.
Alumni also form remarkable bonds with students. I recently met an alum that graduated over 20 years before me. We were intrigued to uncover he lived where my best friends lived last year. That was one of those "No way, get out!" coincidences, which brought us together in no time.
College just makes you better at life. It's expensive and not worth it for many, but for others, you cannot put a price tag to those connections and experiences. You've heard it many times and here it is again: The friends you meet in college are there for you always.
Embrace those late night food runs, library all-nighters, themed parties and the nights you go on ice cream runs only to get chased by a one-eyed homeless Pirate (long story).
But if there's one way to summarize it all, take advantage of being a student while it lasts. The years go by all too fast.
Are you currently in college (or deeply nostalgic like most of us)? What did you do to take advantage of being a student?
Top Photo Credit: College Student via Shutterstock