How To Embrace + Get the Most Out of College

College is crazy! There are plenty of ups and downs, similar to high school, but your choices during college largely affect your future. No matter what you do, never give up the opportunities to do great things.

Mingling with my college's past president at a scholarship reception

Get involved in your community. Make a difference in the lives of others, fight for a cause that matters greatly to you and create change wherever you go. Serving on the Board of Directors for my local nonprofit PFLAG chapter, fighting for LGBTQ rights ever since my sophomore year of high school has been one of the greatest experiences of my life (I even sat in the senate as Washington State's gay marriage bill was passed through!).

Study what you're passionate about, not what you're supposed to. If your true passion is film, or sports: put your all into this subject. Schools like Evergreen give students the independence to design their own education with interdisciplinary programs that allows them to embrace multiple areas of study at once. Of course, stats is a good class to take for many career paths, but you don't need advanced math to be an artist. Follow your heart.

Only attend parties that you truly want to attend, and associate yourself with those that bring out the best in you. College isn't one big party ground, and it shouldn't be perceived as one. The more effort you put into the hard work, the more you will be able to play. Additionally, only party with those who you feel comfortable with and who don't force you to be anyone but yourself. I've met some of the most incredible souls that have forever impacted me for the better, through both bad and good social situations.

Two great mentors: HR professional Mr. Dariush Khaleghi and psychologist Dr. Mark Hurst

Foster positive relationships with your professors and listen to their wisdom. Some of the greatest friendships I have made during college that I will take with me forever are those with professors. I have received stellar evaluations and later letters of recommendation from numerous mentors. These relationships are the most vital during your college journey, as well as afterwards. Don't get me wrong: I've had professors whose teaching styles I absolutely despised, but that doesn't mean I cut all ties with them. To the best of their knowledge, we're on good terms. Never burn bridges and keep all your doors wide open. You never know when you'll need a favor.

At a local news station with my internship supervisor, Jillian, and fellow intern Courtney

Find mentors outside of campus, and value their wisdom, too. Jillian was my very first internship supervisor during my social media and marketing internship at the Hands On Children's Museum here in Olympia, WA. A young, driven career woman herself, Jillian was relatable, understood my struggles and pushed me just the right amount outside of my comfort zone. Learning from fellow interns, your peers, is equally important.

My cubicle at the Hands On Children's Museum in Olympia, bare (& busy)

Seek out and accept an internship or apprenticeship opportunity, even when there's a crazy amount of work.  Internships are the best way for students to get on-the-job experience, and I'm not going to sugar coat this for anyone: you learn WAY MORE during an internship than you will EVER learn in class. Don't doubt your credentials or ability for a position--this is the reason you are an intern: to learn! These opportunities will catapult your career.

Showin' off promos in shoes as a Sales Associate at Charlotte Russe!

Get a part-time job and work your way through college. Holding a job, plus an internship, plus college classes and the homework that comes along with them gives you a good work ethic and a glimpse into the real world. Having adult responsibilities at this age is necessary to your personal growth, in addition to your ability of contributing value to a greater community.

College is about self-discovery and finding the things unique about yourself that define who you are and what you are able to provide to a company or to the world in general. Mentally, college goes by faster than high school and will be your last chance to explore education in a school setting. You are only young once and you only have this moment... embrace it!

What are your tips for surviving (and thriving) in college? Sound off in the comments!

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