I’ve been there. I’ve done most of it. And I’ve messed up a lot. Like— monstrously a lot.
At 18 the suburban shackles were unlocked and I was off. New York City, where dreams come true. Work hard, party hard, be fabulous…right? Kind of.
The funny thing about art/design school is that it shares all of the inside trade secrets, but the “making money” part was is up to you. You might be a great designer with an impressive skill set…with no connections that dream will quickly fade into a career well outside of your niche. What no one told me was that these next four years were a time to build the foundation for the rest of my life. It’s so obvious but the idea can get lost in the mix. College is all about you. It’s the one time in your life that your allowed to be a little (or a lot) self absorbed. This is your chance to have a shot at your dream.
1. Time management. Our assignments didn’t allow for procrastination. I needed supplies from Chinatown, and time for things to dry. Procrastination was more than obvious. I think a lot of teachers were personally insulted and my grade would feel the brunt of it. Find a rhythm for getting your work finished early. It’s hard to have fun when a looming assignment is in the back of your mind.
2. How to manage your money. So you’re 18 now. That means you can get a credit card. Oh lord, please resist. I opened my first card and fell into credit card debt pretty fast. I had a job but lacked the self discipline to do the right thing, Don’t be me. Pay with cash and live within your means. You don’t need to worry about money at a time like this.
3. Don’t starve for a pair of jeans. I once bought a pair of Diesel jeans with half of my weekly allowance. I felt pretty dumb and hungry by Wednesday.
4. Save enough cash to get home in a cab. There’s nothing worse or unsafe than being stranded and drunk.
5. Getting good grades won’t get you that job….NONE of my employers have ever asked for a report card.
but good networking and being personable will help. The best chance you have for finding a great position is meeting someone who already works there. I promise, having a connection means the world.
6. Don’t intern in a dead end (very small) company and expect a great outcome outside of a new skill. Wow, I can’t even think of all the hours wasted on this one. As an artist I worked as a studio assistant to two artists, and have a couple know-how’s from one of them but that’s about it. I negotiated an extremely low wage by the time summer came. It was a little ballsy, and while we were having this conversation I failed to remember that interns are a dime a dozen. She replaced me pretty quickly after that.
7. Work for cash as a waitress. Find the right place and you’ll be up to your ears in it. I’ve cocktailed and worked in a busy brunch place. What happened to all of that money? Oh yea, alcohol. The sad part is I don’t really have too many worthy memories from that investment. I should have saved at least half.
8. Remember your roots. Don’t leave your old high school friends in the dust. They’re necessary grounding forces.
9. Foster relationships with your teachers and older students. Remember that networking tip?
10. Be professional in order to be taken seriously. Say bye-bye to piercings, tattered shirts, and wearing jeans in a work environment. No more my friend, you’re a grown up now.
11. Watch what you post on social media. They look, they really look.
12. Network while you’re out and don’t limit your friendships to fellow classmates.
13. Learn how to collaborate. Even if you become self employed you’ll always have to work with others. College is the perfect time to learn the art of playing nice while getting what you want.
14. Take your assignments seriously. In most cases your homework is given to you for you! Learn from it.
15. Don’t take yourself too seriously. College is a time to experiment and find what works for you. I just thought of a handful of dirty things. That’s totally not what I mean here.
16. Travel as much as you can. You don’t have anything holding you back. Embrace that.
17. Work during the summer. This is an perfect time to save up for upcoming expenses you’ll have throughout the year. If you work in the right place you might meet lots of interesting people.
18. Accept that you will need to get a job and grow up after graduation. You don’t need extra time off to “find yourself.” You just had four years of that. Start applying a few months prior to graduating. Beat the rush!
19. Don’t take time off unless it’s an emergency. Seriously. I made the mistake of doing it and it was much harder the second time around.
20. Finish. Ah, yet another mistake— but it turned out to be a good choice in the end. Whew!
21. Allow yourself to be passionate. I remember having lots of dorm dinner parties and now I’m blogging about food, not art.
22. Don’t do drugs. Duh! These dangerous substances don’t generally mix well with alcohol and can lead to a massive panic attack. If you choose to make a bad decision I’m pretty certain that at some point you’ll wish you were dead, because it will feel that awful. If you get caught and arrested you’re 18 now. That will stay on your record just in time for your future employer to see.
23. Start a blog. If you have the time it’s a great way to launch a career and gain a following within your niche of study. I kick myself every time I recall those Union Square Green market visits followed by awesome recipe development. Sigh. This could also turn into a great side income stream.
24. Don’t spread yourself too thin. While its fun to be social put quality over quantity.
25. Don’t get a pet. You’ll be moving around, a lot, and you don’t want your pet to become your parent’s responsibility or worse, surrender it to an animal shelter. Remember this is about you, not saving a dog.
26. Go home for holidays. Family is forever.
27. Don’t buy something you’re going to owe payments on. College is first, that little side job should always be the second priority. There’s nothing worse than stressing about a bill and school.
28. Make sure you have health insurance. See the previous point.
29. Exercise. I- BLEW-UP during my first year. Then I discovered exercise. My life (and body) changed after that.
30. Have the confidence in yourself to not follow what everyone else is doing. Don’t ever sign up for a class because someone you know is doing it. Don’t ever allow someone’s bad habit become yours. Been there, done that, and I’m sure I suffered in one way or another from it.
It’s been a good lengthy few years since my college experience. I’ll tell you what has lasted: A couple friends, some nice memories, lots of skills, and a little regret for not taking full advantage of the upper hand I had at the time. To accomplish things back then were so much easier. I don’t miss the partying and I don’t miss any love interests that took me away from my responsibilities. Keep your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds (with dating). That’s a bonus tip right there.
Good luck! Please share this with a new (or not new) college student in your life. I wish someone told me these things when I was 18. Although I was a huge jerk back then, and I’m not sure if I would have taken the advice.
xoxo, Jessica (Army Wife to Suburban Life)
Photo came from here.
Thanks for reading 30 College Tips For Future Successful People!