A Penn State Senior’s Reflection: Underclassmen, Do This!
My advice to you, underclassmen, is to do anything and everything you can while you are here. Penn State is one of the only places that you can explore anything you want to (whether that is in an academic sense or elsewhere) and you will not lose anything – money, friends, potential – by doing so. As an English and French major, I never expected to find myself interning in education management or doing research for a summer job; I never had previous interests in student government and ended up loving being involved with my academic college; I thought I would continue to follow my favorite childhood hobby in dance a little more than I have – but I am okay with that.
I am here to tell you that one day you could wake up and find out about something worth pursuing, something you never imagined liking, and go do it and love it for the rest of your life. Who knows, that activity or organization may even inspire interests or connections for a job later down the line (but who wants to think about that yet?). I have compiled a short list of just a few of the many wonderful opportunities available to you at Penn State. Some are those that I desperately wish I had the time for or knew about during my early years so that I could benefit from and enjoy them by the time I became a senior. Some are also in the range of what I have experienced and found not only worthwhile but also inspiring. If you are someone who wants to get involved, check out my recommendations; if you are someone who is already involved, consider looking into some of these other activities that may complement what you are so passionate about now.
Join a THON committee. Whether or not you are a part of an organization, sports team, fraternity or sorority that contributes to THON, I would highly suggest joining a committee. There is something about a group of people coming together for a single cause, but there is also something about a group of strangers coming together and becoming close friends because of that cause. Though I have been involved in THON in other ways and have even danced, I always wished I made more time in my schedule to join a committee. For someone looking to meet a lot of new people and get involved, I think this is one of the best ways to do it. From Rules and Regs to Hospitality to Morale, there is a group for anyone and all contribute an essential component to THON. (For more information on joining a committee, visit www.thon.org. Applications for this year are due Friday, September 21 by 5:00pm.)
Get a part-time job. Whether this includes getting an internship or research position, or even if it means you wait tables a few nights a week, holding a job while being a student can benefit you in ways other than just making money. I think a job is a great way to get you in a different environment and to meet people – maybe even network a bit – other than your usual group of friends. Also, as a senior now applying for full-time positions, I have attended a few resume workshops and one important note I have heard several times is that employers really like to see when students can manage working a few hours per week in addition to going to class. It shows work ethic and it shows you can support yourself while staying on track academically. Plus, you will learn to be more appreciative of an income and what it means to be financially responsible – a hard reality many college students don’t realize until after they graduate and are out on their own. On a similar note…
Intern early on in your college career. Do not think that just because you are a freshman or a sophomore that it means you cannot get professional experience! I feel that I had some sort of stigma associated with internships when I was younger – that they were for older, more experienced college students who were way more qualified than I was. They are not! Though some companies may designate on their internship postings that they are looking for juniors or seniors, many do not, including many offices or organizations here at Penn State. I did not have my first internship until the end of my junior year and wish I had started my search sooner. To have a wide range of skill sets and work experience is something you will definitely want for your senior year when you are trying to either still figure out what you want to do after graduation or to narrow down specific job applications. For some of you, this may sound like a lifetime away, but I promise gaining any kind of professional experience early on will help you for any type of involvement. You will have something to put on your resume when you pursue other positions – something to put the goal-oriented side of your mind at ease.
Get involved within your academic college. One way of getting involved is to volunteer or become a part of student groups based within your college. This is something I did not take advantage of again, until the end of my junior year, and I wish I had sooner. Whether it is through the college’s student government, working as an office assistant, or volunteering as a tutor or mentor, these types of experiences can open doors you may not even know existed. For example, in joining Liberal Arts Envoys, I was offered an internship last spring at the Career Enrichment Network that was only offered to members of that club. Through that internship, I found out about what is now my fall internship at Career Services, and my former boss has even continued to connect me with employers offering full-time positions. By getting involved within the College of Liberal Arts, I have met and become close with individuals in career offices, with advisers, with Associate Dean Chris Long, and other Penn State employees that are great resources and wonderful people with which to share your college journey. I highly recommend doing something similar – you will be a well-respected individual by members of your college and you may find some unique opportunities that are most certainly worth your time.
Join a social organization or two. For some students, this could mean being involved in Greek life; for others, it may mean joining Lion Scouts, a club sports team, or another organization based off of common interests. In reflecting upon my time at Penn State, I have found that being a part of an organization where you spend time with other members outside of the “common interest” setting really defines your college years. For me, this is Whiplash Dance Team, a group of 20 young ladies interested in hip hop dance who come together for THON canning weekends, team potluck dinners, campus fundraisers, and socials. Other than your academic or professional groups, it is important to have an activity or organization where you can just have fun. It lets you know that amidst all the stress and pressure you experience, college is a place for enjoying yourself, and finding that happy escape is important to your well-being and health.
With these options and many more, I know it is possible to feel overwhelmed with the range of possible paths you have the option of taking at Penn State. This is a mere snapshot of what is available to you and what I personally recommend from my own experiences. The last thing you are going to want in your final semester is to look back and realize all of the many accomplishments you could have done, but didn’t for whatever reason. I highly suggest that again, you truly take advantage of your time here, as these are four years you will never get back. Once you receive your diploma and are off into the “real world”, you will suddenly miss all of the aspects of being student you may have once taken for granted. So join multiple organizations, do everything you can, meet as many people possible, and who knows where it might lead you. Being overly involved is something you will not regret.