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VOX 5: Skills to Have Before Starting Your College Journey

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As a high schooler, do you feel as if you are perfectly prepared to face the challenges of college? Well, you may be prepared in the educational aspects. For instance, you’re probably quite knowledgeable about Romeo and Juliet’s tragic tale from literature or how to solve for x in a good old math equation. However, besides those aspects, it is essential for every high schooler to be prepared to handle certain basic essentials for life in college. 

Many of us may still be uncertain about what we will do after high school or exactly which college we will be going to. It may be an in-state college or an out-of-state college. It may be in a large city or a small town. It may be in a place you are very familiar with or have never even heard of. It’s rather difficult to anticipate. While we may be unaware of our future, we can still take some steps to get ready for the events ahead of us.

Being a rising senior, I’ve been pondering on what skills I should be familiar with before entering college. Throughout my life, one of my role models has been my older brother, who is a rising senior in college. I’ve observed his journey from high school to college and have tried to learn from his experiences and apply them in my life. While in high school, many of the skills he acquired proved to be quite helpful (such as learning how to use Microsoft Office), while there are some skills he regrets not having had the time to learn (such as networking with professionals in the field he is interested in). From reflecting on all of his past experiences, I put some thought into the ones that seemed to be the most important to me. 

After great thought, I put together a list of basic skills that, in my opinion, were the most important to learn before college: resume building, interviewing, networking, cooking, and basic computational knowledge. Though these skills may not be requirements before going to college, they are definitely things that would prove to be helpful when you are in college.


Resume Building

Resume is a common term you will hear while job-hunting and resume building is a crucial skill to be familiar with as you are growing up. It is essentially an avenue that lets hiring managers learn about your education, work experience, skills, and more. Through your resume, hiring managers decide if you are eligible for the applied position and whether you should move ahead in the application process. After entering college, you will need to begin applying for internships and jobs. For that, you will be required to submit your resume. Resumes should be approximately 1 to 2 pages and should consist of your major accomplishments. To get a better idea of how resumes look, there are various templates on the internet to explore. Creating a resume beforehand would be an excellent way for you to record what you have done up to the present.

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Networking

During your senior year, when you have figured out which college you will attend, building connections and networking can be beneficial. There are scores of benefits in knowing someone who is a couple of years older than you and attends the same college as you. One of the most important benefits is that they could give you advice from their past experiences and advise you on how to handle the workload, manage time, what clubs to be a part of, what courses to take, and much more. Connecting with older students and alumni is an aspect of networking. When my brother entered college, he didn’t know anyone since we had just moved to Georgia. Without a mentor to guide him, he had to figure everything out on his own. Now, after a couple of years, he works as a mentor in a new summer mentorship program in his college, in which older students help guide new students through their college journey. If you enter college knowing absolutely nobody or simply want some extra help, joining a mentorship program in college would be a great avenue to do this. Many mentorship programs are also major-specific (make sure to ask your college advisor if you aren’t sure), so students have the opportunity to meet with older students who are taking similar classes and/or have similar goals as them. Mentorship programs can aid students in adjusting to the new environment and do much more such as providing tips on how to handle workload and answering any questions the students may have about college. In addition to mentorship, such programs are a way for you to get to know more people and expand your network in order to have more internship and job opportunities.

One great way to connect with different individuals from the industry is to create a LinkedIn account. Through LinkedIn, you can create an entire profile of your education, job experience, skills, accomplishments, volunteer experience, and more! In addition to that, you can expand your professional network and increase your opportunities of finding the right jobs and internships for you! To learn more about LinkedIn and how to create an account, you can visit this LinkedIn Help page.

Interviews

Interviews. That word is quite daunting even for those who are prepared. The primary purpose of interviews is for the interviewer to better understand you as a person and your level of knowledge. There are a variety of ways to start practicing for your interviews ahead of time. Online tools such as Coursera and Varsity Tutor can be helpful for any interview you may be preparing for. Additionally, you can take classes or boot camps for speech, public speaking, and debate to improve your overall speaking skills. The primary strategy to succeed in your interview is to be well-prepared and not let your nerves get to you. In my experience, it is important to make sure that you are prepared but, at the same time, not sounding like you have rehearsed a speech. Just be yourself, and you’ll definitely get through the interview!

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Cooking

Driving to restaurants like Chipotle or ordering pizza is pretty easy; however, do you really think that’s the healthiest option you could go for? After taking physical fitness this year, I understood the importance of eating healthy and nutritional foods. Not only is eating healthy beneficial for your physical health, but it also keeps you energized and focused mentally while finishing classwork/homework in college.

Having a proper diet is essential. In order to do that, you simply need to learn how to balance your meals correctly. In plain terms, you should make sure to incorporate fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and grains to achieve a balanced diet. Avoiding empty calories such as pizza, candies, hot dogs, and sweetened drinks would be a wise idea since they would be considered unhealthy foods that consist of added sugars, salt, and certain unhealthy fats. Having a proper diet is essential since it helps prevent chronic diseases, including, but not limited to, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some types of cancers. In addition to that, remembering to integrate exercise into your daily schedule is equally as important.

From all of the information above, it is clear that knowing how to cook is crucial. Not all restaurants near you would be selling healthy foods. Additionally, for many students, eating out may not always be feasible due to the high cost. Although most colleges have dining halls that provide healthy foods, there are times when you may need to cook at your apartment/dorm. For instance, you may not have the time to go outside, there may be severe weather, or the dining hall might be closed. Some people also occasionally have dietary restrictions, and if they are studying abroad for college, it may be difficult for them to find food that meets their restrictions. At these moments, knowing how to cook would come in handy. Cooking can be learned in classes like culinary or simply at home. A few dishes you can start out learning with are pasta, soups, and smoothies. For more mouth-watering, yet healthy, dishes, take a look at the recipes on Jar of Lemons.

Computer Skills

Computer skills? Don’t most of us already know how to work with computers? That’s true—we use online platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, and various kinds of other websites in our generation. However, not as many of us are familiar with all the Microsoft Office tools. Microsoft Office is basically a collection of different applications designed to help complete a variety of tasks. The applications available in Microsoft Office consist of Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and many more. Being familiar with these applications can be very helpful for you, not only in your career but also in your college classes.

Last year, even as a high schooler, I was required to use Excel in order to solve a mathematical equation in one of my classes. At that time, it was relatively simple since the teacher guided us through the process step-by-step. However, Excel has many different functions, such as creating pivot tables and using mathematical formulas (which you can learn more about through online courses on websites like LinkedIn Learning or Udemy). After obtaining proper knowledge of Excel or any of the other applications, you can even get certified in them by taking a test. Being certified in these applications can make a huge difference in what company you get hired in, and it may also give a salary boost compared to job applicants who are not certified in Microsoft Office. Though it may not seem apparent, Microsoft Office can be a beneficial skill to know in college and in many careers beyond (not to mention, you can even add these skills and certifications to that resume I told you about earlier!).


Knowing what our life holds in the future is close to impossible. However, being prepared means that the first half of the battle has already been won. Learning these five basic skills can help make the transition from high school to college much smoother while also providing you with skills you can benefit from throughout your life!

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