The years between high school and “real life” (whatever that means) are some of the most pivotal years in our lives. Although sometimes college has a reputation for being a time to slack off and party, it’s important that you focus on learning and growing as a person while you’re there. Here are some ways to make sure you get more than a diploma and a few albums of soon-to-be embarrassing Facebook pictures out of these four years.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
If you were terrible at biology in high school, don’t let that discourage you from setting your sights on the biology major if it seems interesting to you. The same goes for any other subject: mathematics, literature, chemistry, etc. Many of us are more capable than we give ourselves credit for, and no time is better than the present to give yourself another chance.

Get lost.
Whether it’s a gap year, a semester abroad, or independent summer travel, it’s important to see some of the world. Everyone should have some international travel under their belts, especially to a place that’s worlds different from home. If your budget can’t stretch to accommodate international airfare, consider taking a weekend trek up a mountain, camping in the woods, or embarking on a road trip to the nearest big city. The more time and money you spend traveling, the richer a person you will be.

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Bring home the bacon.
It’s important to work during college, even if you aren’t yet responsible for your own bills. Part-time jobs and internships give you experience that is useful for building your résumé, growing as a person, and learning to manage your time. Not to mention a paycheck.

Get involved on campus.
Get some school spirit by attending football games, join a sorority or fraternity, get involved in a student organization, or all of the above. Take advantage of these experiences that are only available to you now as a student or you may look back one day and wish you had.

Take care of yourself.
The stereotype of a student is that we binge drink and eat Top Ramen for each meal, but this is the time in our lives to build the skills that will carry us through life. Take care of your health by exercising and eating healthy at least sometimes. Also, get used to doing your dishes, cleaning your apartment, and washing your laundry on a timely schedule.

This time in our lives is one of the most important for setting the course of our futures. Although your college years do not always dictate your success post-graduation, it’s important to make sure you’re opening more doors for yourself than you’re closing.

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