by Lizzy Doebel
3 weeks. I’m 3 weeks and 3 finals away from graduating college! It’s crazy to imagine that 4 years ago I hopped on orange 23 and rode it out to the stadium instead of my class. Within those 4 years I have made quite a lot of mistakes, but I’ve also made some great memories. I want to share with you 5 pieces of advice that I wish someone would have told me when I came in as a freshman.
1. Become a CA
A CA (Community Advisor) is a fancy term for what most colleges call an RA. As a CA, you live on a floor with 50’ish residents and are in charge of making sure they are well behaved, get their questions answered, and feel at home. The benefits are a free room, free meal plan, and monthly compensation. The benefits they don’t tell you about are that you gain communication, leadership, and critical thinking skills, are surrounded by a staff of friends, and garner great memories. I’ve been a CA for 2 years and I can’t think of a better job on the college market.
2. Take Fun Classes
I’m a math major, but math classes are only half the classes I’ve taken in college. Your schedule allows you to take at the very least 1 or 2 classes of your choice. Just to list a few, I have taken volleyball, stand-up comedy, sci-fi, wine & spirits, and ballroom dancing. With all the difficult and time consuming classes you’ll take for your major, balance them with an enjoyable and chill class. My rule each semester is to add one fun class that requires minimal work and is unrelated to my major. That way I remain sane while broadening my overall knowledge.
3. Do Research
Iowa State is a Research University and with that title comes bountiful opportunities in research. As a junior I did research with a professor in the math department and two other undergraduate math majors. This opportunity led me to an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) position at Illinois State the following summer. As a researcher, I got paid higher than minimum wage, worked from home, built up my resume, gained references, and traveled expense free. I presented my research at conferences in Florida, Portland, and Omaha without spending a dime. Whenever I tell people about the trips I took, they always respond with, “I should have been a math major.”
4. Apply for Scholarships Each Year
As a senior in high school, you’re constantly told to apply for scholarships for college. As a college student, you’re usually never told that. However, I found out my sophomore year in college that there are a handful of scholarships Iowa State offers current college students that are easy to apply for, receive, and are renewable (meaning you don’t have to reapply). I found scholarships through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Program for Women in Science and Engineering, and the Mathematics Department. These scholarships, combined with my CA compensation, allowed me to pay for school without having to get a loan. Many departments and colleges, including LAS, have one application that applies to multiple scholarships. So filling out one application could lead to receiving several scholarships. It’s worth your while to apply, and don’t wait like me until sophomore year. Apply now!
5. Graduate With Honors
I know I’m an honors ambassador, so I’m supposed to say this, but I honestly think graduating with honors is something every student should strive for! It’s time consuming and difficult, strenuous and stressful, and seems like a lot of work for little payoff. However, there are so many college students who are graduating with the exact same degree, GPA, and work experience as you. If you want something that will set you apart from most students, graduate with honors. Being a CA, working as a researcher, and taking a wide-spread curriculum will stand out, but doing all that while still graduating with honors will impress employers. The memories that come with honors are also worth it. I have a great group of friends that I met my freshmen year living on an honors floor. We’ve taken classes together, traveled to different states, celebrated someone’s birthday each month of the year, and complained about our senior capstone projects. All these memories began with honors. I promise you that the time, energy, and tears spent in Honors will pay off!