While in an earlier blog my colleague Taylor Chin explained to us HOW to get involved professionally, I would like to discuss the WHY. Many students treat college as “the last opportunity to have fun before real life starts.” While there is certainly merit to this approach, it is nevertheless important to remember that your college years, and even the summer leading up to college, are crucial to setting you up for success later in life.
To illustrate my case, I would like to offer my own professional trajectory. The summer before college I interned at the New York University Steinhardt Applied Psychology Department, where I assisted with a study on pre-k education. When applying to the honors college at Georgetown University my first semester, I wrote my application essay on what I learned that summer at NYU, and was ultimately selected to the completive program. The following year I applied and was accepted to the U.S.-China Student Fellows Program. When speaking with the director of the Fellowship, I asked him what stood out about my application, and he pointed to the line about the honors college as the most important factor. Later that year I received the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), a grant from the US Department of State to study abroad in Russia for 10 weeks. The international experience I developed from the U.S.-China Student Fellows Program was a centerpiece of my application. Finally, the CLS gave me noncompetitive eligibility for government jobs, which I used to get an internship at the US Department of State Office of Russian Affairs.
My story shows the importance of getting a head start on your professional development. Each of my jobs built directly upon one another and I would not have been able to get the next one without the previous one. Had I not started as early as I did, I would not have been able to build up my resume while still in school. Now, as a graduate, I have a significant leg-up on many of my peers who have spent little time in the workplace because they were too preoccupied with pursuing “the college experience.” College is definitely about having fun, but I’m sure you don’t need someone to tell you to do that; you’ll do it anyways. So that’s why I’m here to remind you not to forget to work.