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COLUMN: College students can build résumés by participating in clubs

Many young people (and some adults too!) are headed for college this month.

Some are returning and some are enrolling for their first year. It does not really matter how many student credit hours have been earned, there are personal management issues to consider.

As a college “insider,” I am often asked how students can be successful in college. The following suggestions, while not inclusive of all required to have success, are certainly good ones to consider.

First, and probably most importantly, go to class. Many professors do not take roll and by their actions, and sometimes even their words, indicate that college is for adults and it is up to the students to want to be there. Most students will not perform well in a class if they do not attend. Since most students say they want to do well, they need to be in class.

In my personal experience, there has been a pretty strong correlation between class attendance and grades. That is, the more often the student is in class, the better they do on assignments. And the reverse is true too. You might want to set some performance expectations.

Second, join a club. There are hundreds of organizations on most college campuses; some are professional clubs (related to course majors), religious organizations, Greeks, hobbies (like Quidditch, Ultimate Frisbee, or knitting), and political ones (from Student Government to Young Democrats or Young Republicans). There should be one or two organizations appealing to a student!

Adherence to this suggestion brings multiple benefits. If the student is a freshman, it will help him find a group of people with like interests and this will help in the transition to college process. These students will “hang out” and often eat together in the dining hall with, thereby lessening homesickness (which can be a real problem for some).

Returning students see joining clubs as a way to build their résumé and develop leadership skills. They need to understand that joining a bunch of organizations but not really getting involved will not help them.

During internship and job interviews, most employers are going to ask about involvement in organizations. They can read between the lines when a blank look and stammering and stuttering is the response (hey, we were college students one time and KNOW what students do).

Getting involved in, but not overwhelmed by, organizations is preparing them for adulthood. Many adults I know are spread too thin and therefore do not do anything well. I was a late learner (in my 40’s), but try to focus now on a couple of organizations versus saying YES to anyone who asks me to do something. I learned that spreading myself too thin meant I could not do anything well. Young people might as well learn this early!

A last piece of advice relates to money. As a parent or interested friend or relative, please make sure your college student understands about money, budgets, and credit cards (if they have one). We see far too many young people who indiscriminately use their credit cards to buy EVERYTHING and ultimately graduate from college with huge credit card debt. This is a travesty to saddle them with coming out of college (and this does not count any student loan debt they might have).

Many young people I talk with have never had THE TALK with their parents about money. Please do not send your student to college without having this very important discussion. If you plan to give them money, let them know how much and when it will arrive (the Richardson children, all in college this year, get a monthly allowance). The amount may change over time. Two of our children live in university housing and have meal plans, so their allowance is less than the one in an apartment.

Let the student know what you will and will not pay for. If they want to join an organization that has monthly dues, will you be responsible or is the student? Many young people have jobs (or perhaps had a summer job) and have money.

My parents, for example, told me I was would be paying dues if I joined a sorority (I did; fortunately the dues were $12 a month, although this was over 30 years ago and that was a lot of money to me).

So success in college is enhanced by going to class, joining a club, and understanding money. Will you share this information with a young person?