To be successful, every college student has a long list of obligations that he or she must be willing to fulfill. Since these obligations are not always made clear to students, many end up falling short in several important areas. Students must be aware of the following obligations and stay on top of their performance and progress, as they move through college.
Student obligations include:
1. Financial Obligations – College is serious business. Most students recognize that college is expensive and expect to graduate owing plenty of money. However, only the most serious and dedicated students will graduate with jobs that pay well enough for them to live on their own and meet all of their financial obligations.
Less serious students usually obtain the less desirable jobs that make it very difficult or impossible for them to live independently, enjoy their social lives and cover their personal, electronics and transportation needs, college loans and credit card debt.
The time for students to recognize and plan for their coming financial obligations is before and during the college years (Savings, Financial Aid, Part-Time and Summer Jobs, along with a Conservative Lifestyle). Wise students make the upfront sacrifices.
The coming financial obligations should serve as a motivator for students to do their very best in college and plan for the future. Parents should not automatically be expected to support their children after they graduate from college. Parent and student expectations should be set early on.
2. Career Direction and Goal Obligations – Students always do better when they are clear and focused on a career direction that is important to them, one they know they will love. Without a clear goal, students will usually lose time, waste money and end up taking five or six years to graduate. For students who are highly dependent on loans, adding another year or two of borrowing to their financial obligations is not the best choice.
Students are obligated to make the wise decisions that will get them to their goals efficiently and without adding unnecessary costs. Many undecided students would benefit from delaying their entrance into college for a year while they investigate jobs that motivate them, research employer requirements for those jobs and the starting salaries that are paid in those fields. If possible, during that year of research, students can obtain a basic, entry level job (of any kind) with an employer in their general area of interest. In that way they can gain some work experience, save some money, gather information, clarify their direction and enter college with a clear goal and the motivation that is needed to perform and succeed.
Students who waste that year, do not conduct the research, fail to become employed and remain unclear about their career direction will have proven that college is not right for them, at least not at this time.
3. Classroom Performance Obligations – In the classroom, students are obligated to do their best to get good grades. They should attend every class, come prepared, read the assignments, learn the subject matter and study for tests. The best students actively participate in class, show interest, ask questions, voice their opinions and talk with the Professor after class. They are the ones who accept leadership roles for group projects, thoroughly research topics for the papers they write and make well thought out and interesting class presentations.
Students who avoid the obligation for hard work and try to wing it can be certain that they will fall in the bottom part of the class. They are not the students employers will be seeking.
4. Participation Obligations – Students build their reputations and find ways to stand out from one another as they participate in campus, community, work and leisure activities. If they want to stand out, build their reputations and get noticed by employers, students are obligated to participate in a variety of activities, events and venues.
Students who are withdrawn, stay hidden from sight and fail to get involved with activities that enable them to demonstrate their talents and skills will find that many employers overlook them for the best employment opportunities.
5. Obligation For Results – Employers want to learn about the positive results that candidates have achieved during college. Therefore, students who would like to improve their chances for employment are obligated not only to participate but also achieve results that will impress an employer.
Most results come about because of exceptional effort and determination while solving a problem or exceeding performance expectations (more, better or faster). Students who excel at something in an employer’s area of interest can frequently demonstrate the results that will attract employers. The strongest employment candidates build a list of accomplishments as they move through college.
Students with few accomplishments or positive results will find it difficult to compete for and hold the attention of desirable employers.
6. Obligations To Employers – Employers have needs, expectations and job requirements. They look for candidates who have aligned their college experiences, results and accomplishments with the knowledge, skills and experiences that are needed, expected and required.
Since employers have many new graduates to choose from, students who do not take the time to research, understand, perform and meet the job-related needs of their target employers are not likely to be interviewed. The best candidates will either meet or exceed employer expectations.
7. Work Experience Obligations – Employers always prefer candidates who have some job-related work experience. However, some work experience of any kind is always preferable to no work experience. Therefore, if students are concerned about landing a good job after college, they are obligated to get some work experience while they are in college, in a part-time job, in a summer job or both.
Common Work Options While In College: 1) No job at all, 2) A part-time and/or summer job, or 3) An internship, which can be either a) A job not related to the student’s field of interest, or b) A job directly related to the work the student will be seeking after college. Employers look for examples of student performance and capabilities on the job and expect them to provide stories and examples. That is why savvy students always obtain some work experience, build relationships with key employees and do their best to perform at a high level, regardless of the job they hold.
8. Obligations To References – References (College Leaders, Professors, Business Professionals, Community Leaders and Past Employers, etc.) are the people who provide potential future employers with firsthand observations, experiences and comments about the student. They will tell employers what they know about the student’s performance, capabilities and potential. Students should not expect references to inflate their capabilities or lie for them. References will not be willing to put their reputations on the line, if the student does not deserve positive comments and recommendations.
If students want a good reference, they are obligated to build a relationship with each reference over a long period of time. Those references will want to observe the student’s performance firsthand, so they can talk about what they see, hear, feel and know about the student. References will not be willing to provide a glowing report, if they do not know the student very well and do not have a good handle on his/her performance and potential.
9. Job Search Preparation Obligations – The senior year job search requires years of preparation. Therefore, students are obligated to make certain that they know what to do and are fully prepared to conduct a comprehensive and effective job search using the information and tools they developed in earlier years.
To quickly learn the things that will be needed, pre-college students and college freshmen should do some research, visit the Career Services Office and read books such as A Successful Senior Year Job Search Begins In The Freshman Year. Wise students operate with proven information, not by the seats of their pants.
Students who ignore this obligation or make a halfhearted effort will find themselves facing many disappointments.
10. Timeliness Obligations – In most instances and on many occasions throughout college, timing will be everything. If students start their activity, their research or their preparation too late, they will miss out or fail in some way.
If students want to succeed during and after college they are obligated to adhere to the start times, milestones and deadlines set by Professors, Supervisors, Customers and the demands of the process. Whether it be a calendar or a clock, timing matters. Being late or out of step is not the way to impress Professors, employers or references.
When students honor all of their obligations, the odds for success increase and work in their favor. However, when students play it fast and loose, ignore their obligations, neglect requirements, instructions or details and operate on their own schedule or make their own rules, success is likely to elude them. That’s just the way it is. Don’t be someone who will find that out the hard way.