10 Ways to Get Ahead Before You Go To College

Here’s a handy list of how to be awesome before you belt Vitamin C all summer. For those of you graduating from college, many of these are a must.

1. Make a LinkedIn, and tell your friends to, too.

So here’s the deal, LinkedIn is getting more and more popular. When I was in high school, I occasionally got requests, but I wasn’t impressed by it, so I didn’t invest. I regret that every day, because there were some truly fantastic people trying to connect with me.Not to mention, now I’m struggling to catch up with all of the rockstars I met in high school–professional or otherwise.

If you have a profile already made before you graduate, all of those names will be fresh. Additionally, if you told them to make one, too, you’ll get to connect.

2. Get a professional email.
Along with that LinkedIn bit, don’t make your profile  using your goofyemail@useless_host.com.
A professional email means yourname@host.com. Organize it with folders, such as: classwork, work, newsletters, passwords, etc. If you have the opportunity to get a name@school.edu email address, make that one professional, too.

Tip: If you intend to jump right into the professional world, ask for a domain for a graduation gift. Having First name@lastname.com is just great, and will only run you around $15 a year, if you do it right. Additionally, if you intend to  get into communications, design, or marketing of any type, you’ll love yourself for already owning a space.

3. Take down all of your stupid s**t on Facebook. 

Take down all of it. The hot tub pictures. The prom parties. The pretend drinking. The real drinking. Anything with you smoking.

The internet is a free and open place. Did your dream school not accept you despite your glowing application? Don’t doubt this as a reason. Too many adults are realizing this the hard way (like this woman). Even having bad grammar on social media can ruin your job prospects. Don’t join them.

4. Get over your plethora of awards, volunteering, etc

While these experiences may come up in entry-level job interviews, sorority rushing, and pretentious parties, they don’t matter much beyond that. Putting too many of these redundant high school experiences on your resume will look weird, and you’ll know that at your first cruel interview when the interviewer laughs at the dates you listed.

I wrote a more anecdotal piece about this, too.

5. Get over your reputation, too.

Same deal, different story.  If you had the sad misfortune of living in the same school district, going to school with the same 300 people for a dozen years, then you will not understand this process. Unless you condemned yourself to another 4 years of being with the same high school crowd, COLLEGE IS FREE REIGN.

Reinvent yourself. Could mean you get hotter. or smarter. or nicer. your choice.

Tip: Talk to someone who’s moved a lot. They know the deal.

6. Get a file hosting account

You should have had one of these in high school, but if you didn’t, get one ASAP. I would recommend Box, Dropbox, and GoogleDrive because they’re free.

These are ASSes. As in Ass Saving Services. Printer in your dorm stopped working? Well maybe your friend works somewhere with a printer. Most schools have printing labs. Your library best have a printer. However, many times you have to use an ancient computing device to be able to print your stuff.  This is when you will love me for telling you to get one of these. Ass saving at its best.

Tips: Once you get one, look up the tips on how to get more memory. Better yet, make friends with the people who do that shit for fun.
Also, make a bit.ly that’s easy to remember so you don’t even have to sign in to download the item. (Just remember they’re case sensitive.)

7. Learn to Love Podcasts 
Podcasts and their creative cousin, tutorials, are education’s gift to both non-enrolled and insanely stressed students. While many schools keep their daily podcasts of lectures under wraps, they usually have public ones too. Different courses require different methods of studying, but for conceptual things like biology, philosophy, and books, podcasts rock!

Podcasts can be both video or audio. Honestly, video is only necessary for formulaic (duh) subjects like math (it’s hard to visualize a formula).

Places to find podcasts and tutorials:
Your University Website (another professor could be a great way to review!)
iTunes U
Khan Academy


Quizlet quizlet quizlet. Quiz fricken let. I can’t rave enough about them.

This service should be so expensive. But it’s free, and awesome, and they finally made an app. They’re your flashcards online. You can just print the cards (alphabetically, or randomly or in the order that you made them). You can just copy paste a document of your vocab and they’ll make flashcards from them.

More than that? They make games! And tests! And review software! So worth it. So fun. I used to have study sessions where we all sat there making flashcards during the session, then used them to review later on our own. Super useful.
Side note: I’m on a Quizlet Crusade. I’ve literally converted dozens of people to using Quizlet. You’re next. Because they rock.

9. Become a Brand Ambassador

So this is an obvious one for people already interested in marketing, but being a Brand Ambassador (or Brand Influencer/Brand Representative/Street Team/whatever) can help you learn a lot about organizing people and events, too.

Most ambassadorships want you to table at events and get connected with organizations. What a fun way to get to know a club you might be interested in without awkward membership requirements! You’ll also work with someone running the program. Sometimes this is outsourced; I had that experience with Spotify. However, smaller orgs will have an employee, or sometimes even corporate intern run the program. You’ll be able to connect with someone already moving through the corporate ladder via LinkedIn, and you’ll also find out a lot about who is getting hired in that sector.

If you can think of a service or brand you already love, look them up. If they don’t have a program advertised, email them! They might love the idea so much they’ll start one and you’ll have your foot so far in the door you’ll surprise yourself.

10. Research your school.

This includes the obvious, like taking advantage of orientation, looking up recent articles about your school, and Googling your professors.

However, this also means paying attention to the stereotypes of your school. I recently found out that UCLA was in a documentary called Shmacked. I was so shocked. My whole senior year, I had kept my ears opening for “party schools” and “smart schools”. I knew Boulder, Arizona, Santa Barbara and San Diego were party hotspots. I knew Berkeley and Stanford were full of really smart people, but they partied hard. UCLA? Nothing. Crickets. Pins dropping. But here is someone who thought differently. Keep those ears and eyes open.

This blog post is dedicated to all of those seniors, someday seniors, and no-longer seniors that I did my best to guide through the process. I know you think I’m insanely different than I was in high school—and someday you’ll stop being so judgmental. All in all, I hope I said at least one useful thing to you.


4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Get Ahead Before You Go To College

  1. Awesome article, Mandy! I’m sooo proud of you. I’m really glad you mentioned the e-mail account names. True story – I used to conduct interviews in the financial services industry and in the graphics/printing industry (at different points in my career). I kid you not, there were people whose resumes I would turn down just by the fact that they couldn’t take the time to (1) get a legit/professional e-mail account name, the best, simplest one is firstname.lastname@____.com and (2) it demonstrated to me that they weren’t even aware or took the time to care about how that made them look. My all-time favorite one I saw was something like (it’s not exactly this) sexybear69@___.com (Shaking my head). GREAT ADVICE!

    1. Jennifer,

      I totally agree on the email bit. I had an issue where my email was centered around my faith (strive4christ@yahoo.com), but I realized even this wasn’t professional. It’s a lesson I’ve learned and I would have really appreciated hearing this stuff before trying to get into the professional world.

  2. Wouldn’t a simpler solution for the Facebook problem be setting your profile to private? Unless there’s a way to get around that. Also applies to twitter, instagram, etc.

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