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Making the Most of your Undergraduate Years

This page will focus on goals for college and career. What do you want from your college experience? What do you want from your major? What do you want from your career? Chances are you will find your college experience more rewarding, and you will be a more successful student, if you give some serious thought to these questions.

Knowing why you are in school will help you see the connections between what you are doing in school and how this will serve you later—either on the job or in graduate school. Seeing these connections motivates you to do well during undergraduate years.

If you can develop clear educational and career goals early in your college experience, this can have a number of important pay-offs. For example, you will have more time to identify and schedule courses that serve you well. You may be motivated to participate in volunteer and extracurricular activities that help you develop useful skills or an impressive résumé.

If you have familiarized yourself with the materials on this site and done some serious reflection on your educational and career goals, and you're still feeling confused, I'd suggest making an appointment for some career counseling at the Career Services Office on your campus. You might also consider making an appointment at the Counseling Center to take some occupational interest tests.

Another option is to take some time off from school and get some job experience. Many students benefit from experiencing the job market for non-degree holders. Get the best job you can, without a degree, and see what it is like. This sometimes provides wonderful motivation for taking college seriously. Also, a few years of maturity can help a student make the most of the undergraduate years. Once over, they are seldom repeated. Therefore it is best to delay completing your undergraduate education until you are ready to take full advantage of it.

To make the most of your undergraduate years, you must know what courses and extracurricular experiences will help you develop the knowledge and skills you'll need for later success. One way to get a handle on this issue is to ask prospective employers what types of skills they want prospective employees to have.

Based on this idea, Dr. Jan Kennedy and I developed two matching hand-outs. By doing a little research, we were able to identify eight different skills that employers were looking for in their employees ("Skills Employers Seek"). A companion hand-out for our majors listed courses in the core curriculum of our university that should help a student develop those critical skills ("Suggested Courses to Develop Skills Employers Seek").

As department head at Georgia Southern, I developed a Careers in Psychology course. It met once a week and only counted for one academic credit, but that was enough to cover many aspects of career planning that are otherwise left out of the curriculum. As part of the course, we had students complete a four-year, term-by-term course plan that detailed all the courses they already took and also those they planned to take before graduating.

This is a useful way for a student to determine whether there is time to take all the courses a student wants, in their necessary sequences, before graduation. Many courses have prerequisites, and sometimes students were surprised to discover there was no way to fit in the entire series of courses they needed, without making adjustments such as attending a summer session. It is better to know this well in advance, if it is true.

If your department has an advisement check-sheet for your major/degree, you can work from this form. A college catalog for the year in which you entered is another helpful resource for this exercise.


APA-style reference for this page: Lloyd, M. A. and Dewey, R. A. (2016, November 20). Making the most of your undergraduate years. Retrieved from: http://www.psywww.com/careers/most.html.

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