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What is the most important thing you should get out of College, besides a degree?

Though the main goal of college is to earn a degree for a higher education, college students should also recognize the other aspects that aid in their development, including social and intellectual. So what could those important things a young adult should look out for in their college career?

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John’s Answer

Hi Cenjing!

The college experience provides some other benefits besides the degree itself. These include:

Career Opportunities / higher income: Just having been to college gives you a leg up in the career world, because lots of jobs require a degree even if it's not a specific degree only in a given career field. For example, if you decided to try a military career - you can qualify to become an officer with any four year degree, which is a much higher pay scale and salary potential over joining as an enlisted person.

Personal development: Going through college exposes you to meeting many different kinds of people, not only in the faculty but also in the student population. This broadens your personal experience in meeting, talking with, and seeing the interaction of others in a different environment from your previous experience.

Expand your opportunities: Beyond career opportunities, college is a life experience that lets you make new friends, talk with them about what they've done and where they've been, and stimulate ideas for you to consider and potentially try such as travel, leisure activities, dating, and new hobbies that you might not have otherwise known about.

Critical thinking and Problem solving: Part of college learning new approaches to how you look at things. You begin to see life events, social issues, politics, the news, and larger challenges in a new light. You see that there is more than one side to just about everything, and that there are multiple solutions or paths to getting things done or achieving the same goals. You learn the tools to tackle bigger things by breaking them down in to smaller pieces and going after them one step at a time.

Time management: Because successfully completing college requires planning, working, and meeting deadlines - you discover the benefits of being organized and using your time wisely. I took a six-week college course one summer where we were required to read three books in three weeks and submit book reports on each of them. For each book report not submitted on time, you had to read three more books. At the three week mark, I was half way through three books with no reports done. Now I had twelve books to read and report on! Even though I scored an A on the final, I only got a D in the class because I didn't complete all the book reports. The non-academic lesson I learned was that I needed to plan and execute my time more effectively.

Communication: Whether you take foreign language courses in college or not, one of the best takeaways of college is that you are challenged to communicate what you've learned both verbally and in writing. This helps you to organize your thoughts and develop your word skills in a way that helps you communicate with anyone and everyone for the rest of your life.

Friendships for life: Most people who've gone to college make new friends and if they stay in touch, those relationships can last a lifetime. Expanding your network gives you more support resource and lets you be a resource for others - which can be very valuable down the line.

Sense of accomplishment: When you complete college - employers, family, and pretty much everyone you come in contact with in the future knows you have the ability to stick with something significant until it's done. That also gives you the same confidence that when you set your mind to something you can make it happen. That's a solid beneficial trait that carries over into every area of your life.

Good luck on your journey!
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D.J.’s Answer

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website (https://www.bls.gov/) is a treasure trove of information for exploring future careers, gauging potential earnings, and understanding job demand. I heartily encourage you to utilize their Occupational Outlook Handbook (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/) to delve into a variety of careers. Here, you can:

1. Seek out specific occupations or navigate by field
2. Discover median pay details
3. Gauge projected growth rates (whether demand will be high or low)
4. Grasp educational prerequisites and typical job responsibilities

This research is pivotal in making knowledgeable decisions about your academic and career trajectory.

While technical skills are vital, never overlook the power of soft skills:

1. Interpersonal communication: Excelling at communication with others is key in any field. Hone this skill through group tasks, presentations, and campus events.

2. Time management: Juggling coursework, extracurricular activities, and personal life in college is a great rehearsal for managing multiple tasks in your future career.

3. Building enduring relationships: Your classmates could evolve into future coworkers, business associates, or precious network connections. Invest time in cultivating authentic friendships and professional bonds.

These skills not only enrich your college journey but also significantly boost your networking prowess, potentially opening doors to superior job opportunities in the future.

In terms of the most vital things to gain from college besides a degree, there are several crucial elements to consider:

1. Critical thinking skills: College should equip you with the ability to scrutinize information, solve dilemmas, and make informed choices.

2. Self-discovery: Utilize this time to uncover your passions, principles, and talents. This self-understanding is priceless for future career fulfillment.

3. Diverse experiences: Participate in internships, study abroad schemes, or volunteer roles to widen your viewpoint and skillset.

4. Professional network: As highlighted earlier, the relationships you foster can be as valuable as your degree.

5. Independence and personal growth: Learning to tackle challenges, make decisions, and be accountable for your actions is key for personal evolution.

6. Lifelong learning habits: College should inspire a curiosity and zeal for perpetual learning that will benefit you throughout your career.

7. Adaptability: In a swiftly changing job market, the capacity to adjust and acquire new skills swiftly is often more valuable than specific knowledge.

Remember, while your degree is crucial, these additional facets of personal and professional growth can hugely influence your future triumph and gratification in your chosen career path. College is not solely about what you learn in the lecture hall, but also about how you mature as an individual and a future professional.
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Michael’s Answer

Besides seeking a quality education, college should provide skills such as the ability to work alongside diverse groups of people, to gain confidence, etc., as well as networking opportunities that can last beyond your collegiate years. Of course there are much more benefits that you will grow to understand and accept!
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Doug’s Answer

Hi Cenjing.

I’m going to echo a couple of points made by John in his response, but from the perspective of a future career. In college, my major was in Liberal Arts. My career was in Information Technology. There are bits of specific facts, principles, and techniques I remember from college that I used in my career. But there are two main skills that I picked up in college that made a big difference in my career. I use these skills every day. And I wish someone had told me, while I was in school, just how valuable these skills would be to me in my career (or maybe some teachers/professors did tell me, but I wasn’t listening):

Critical Thinking: Listening to points others are making and using logic and perspective to evaluate the merits of the points they are making. How to take a pragmatic approach and make an informed choice on decisions when you come to them. And I really like John’s point “learning…that there are multiple solutions or paths to getting things done or achieving the same goals.”

Communication skills: Not all people I’ve worked with in IT have good communication skills, but the successful ones do. Although we rarely write memos or long reports, we write a lot of email messages, posts to websites, and application or process documentation. A well written email speeds up understanding, saves people time spent getting clarification. Making your points clearly and concisely in meetings significantly helps your ability to provide valuable input and build credibility.

Good luck, and take advantage of opportunities to learn and pick up skills.
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Shirley’s Answer

Hi Cenjing,

From my experience, the most important thing I realized in college was learning doesn't stop when you graduate. The college diploma is a recognition of our success and knowledge at a point in time, however, the world is constantly evolving. Within a few years, new technology and regulations will emerge rendering what we once knew to be antiquated. Be proactive and pursue opportunities to learn something new.

In terms of learning during your college career, don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Choose an elective class you may not typically take such as psychology or join a new club.
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