How to Thrive in College (The Keeping it Real Version)

How to Thrive in College (The Keeping it Real Version)


Written by Sharlene Park | Illustration by Ciele Beau


Second semester has arrived snow or shine and many of you have already gone back-to-school. Those three simple words, “back to school,” would always evoke feelings of anticipation as the last few days of break were coming to an end. You may have had an awesome, so-so, or terrible first semester. However, despite the outcome, I hope you continue to strive to have an even better second semester. This year, as I see some of my friends going back to school, I can’t help but to reflect on my own college experiences and memories. I remember the spontaneous 3am food runs, sprinting to lectures wearing hideous sweats, and the delirious all-night study sessions pulled with friends. Although these events seem insignificant, they left me a lifetime of memories to cherish and laugh back on.

College is a time of endless opportunities and growth - a period of life that can really shape your journey as an adult. After reflecting on my own experience and asking some friends for their advice, here are my top 5 tips on how to live out your college years with more purpose, passion, and adventure!


#1: Remember, the world is your oyster.

College is one of the most vulnerable yet exciting times of your life! You’re young and most likely have little to no commitment (besides studying of course). You’re a free soul and the world is your oyster, as cliche as that sounds. Make use of this time to explore and try new things! Befriend someone you never thought you would talk to, take a class that intimidates you, join a student organization that resonates with your interest. Personally, I was in the pre-med track, but I was also interested in international affairs, human rights, and media. I took classes in all three subjects and even ended up switching my major! Who knows, you might even end up with a career not related to your major. (’ll talk more about that below.)

One of my biggest regrets about college was not taking the opportunity to study abroad. If you have the chance to go - consider it, attend a meeting, seek advice, but don’t linger on the idea for too long. In the words of Nike, “Just do it!”  Trust me, once you graduate from school, it will be more difficult to go abroad. It’s called having a 9 to 5 job, grad school, and scary as it sounds, having real adult responsibilities. Dun dun dun...


#2: Study less.

Before you start quoting me on this, let me explain: what I mean is to not let studying TAKE OVER your life. Studying is extremely important, but it isn’t necessarily what college is ALL about. Although your primary role during this time of life is to be a student, don’t deprive yourself of the wonderful experiences that surround you. This could be attending that football game with your hall-mates or going to a concert with friends. In efforts to achieve a balanced lifestyle, I highly encourage you to create an organized schedule to keep track of classes, studying sessions, meetings, events, etc. This is a great habit for any student, especially in the long run! Prioritization and balance is key to a well-rounded university lifestyle. Remember, study with zeal, but don’t let it become your only sustainer. You’re surrounded by many potential friends - don’t let studying be your only one!


#3 Your major does not always determine your career!

It’s senior year and you're about to graduate, but you realized you hated what you majored in and don't want a job related to your major at all. What do you do?! Fear not, according to The Federal Reserve Bank of New York,  only 27% of college graduates in the US have a career that is related to their major. That means 73% of the other work force is doing something they didn’t study in college! Whew! I used to think whichever major I chose would establish the rest of my life, but oh was I wrong. Sure, your major may help guide you into a career if you are certain, for example, of becoming a doctor. Being a biology major will definitely help keep you on track and complete prerequisite courses required for med school; however, in most cases you technically don’t have to be a bio major to be accepted. You can be an art major and still take prerequisite classes on the side to be just as qualified as any other biology student. Don’t be afraid to try out different classes or even consider switching majors; college is all about distinguishing your likes and dislikes and this opportunity gives you the chance to study other interests/passions you may have.


#4 Brace Yourselves, the Real World is Coming and it’s coming real quick (0 to 100)!

After you graduate, you will most likely either enroll into grad school or apply for a job. However, most fields require you to have some sort of hands-on experience with what you’re applying for. Take the time to go through an internship. Internships not only help better prepare you for the field you may go into, but they can also prepare you for real world challenges. Make sure to do at least one internship while you are in college; it’s the perfect time to do one because of the amount of time available to you. Along the lines of an internship, take the time to volunteer if you  can for a great cause that your heart may resonate with. For myself, I volunteered frequently with a missions organization and at church.

Did I also mention, in the working industry, you might be able to land a job based on that saying,  “It’s not what you know, but who you know”? Networking is key in the real world. Sad to say, the student interviewing for a job who may seem more qualified on paper may lose to a competitor because of who that person knows. This does not mean for you to let go of your studies and all your hard work, but rather keep in mind that maintaining good relationships can be key in finding your next job. Keep this at the back of your head for now.


#5 Invest in lasting and meaningful relationships!

In other words, make lifelong friends. If you don’t take anything else from this article, please make note of this final tip. Sure, college was a great place to learn new things, to study, to go on random adventures - but it would have been meaningless without great friends to experience all of it with!

Don’t be afraid to meet and make new friends. Freshman year, my suite was filled with a range of girls from diverse cultural backgrounds including myself, and it was amazing to hear their stories and get to know them!

You will meet lots of new people and make new friends, but truthfully saying, not all will stay friends till the end. College is a time of transition and getting to know YOURSELF and others. People will change. The more you learn about yourself and get involved in different clubs or groups of people, the people that surround you will change. You may have to let go of certain relationships and that’s okay! We all change and go through different seasons; it’s inevitable.

So once you meet a group of friends who understand you and genuinely care for you - hold onto them because you guys are going to make some great memories! As one of my close friends puts it, “Four years later, I remember the PEOPLE most - not the final exam I could have spent more hours studying for, or the extracurricular activity that seemed like a good idea.” It was the great people that we got to spend time with who helped shape a part of our journey today. Go out there and make sure to invest in what really matters long-term: the relationships!

When I say invest in lasting relationships, professors and staff are also included! Find a professor, a TA, or an advisor you genuinely appreciate and like. They were young once too and may have had similar experiences to yours. They can give cool advice and potentially become a lifelong mentor to you; how awesome is that?


Now that you’re back in school, be bold, be positive, be you! Your attitude and perspective can totally change the way you do life in college. It’s a time of growth and learning so don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes. Take opportunities and live adventurously and remember to be true to yourself!

With that being said, go rock the rest of the school year! Make it count!  


Re(de)fining Magazine is an online magazine dedicated to young women as they redefine and refine who they are. In a magazine industry that tells women they're not good enough, Re(de)fining Magazine is countering that by spreading a positive message. We highlight topics relevant to young women today, ranging from social issues to mental health to fashion. We celebrate creativity by sharing the artistic endeavors and entrepreneurial ventures women have made. We value honest stories and reflections that instill a sense of hope and challenge us to grow.