Top 10 Ways to Make the Most of the Liberal Arts College Experience
Due to their exclusive focus on undergraduate education, dedicated teaching faculty, superb resources, and strong sense of community, LACs can be a wonderful choice for one’s undergraduate years. Below are some tips on how best to take advantage of the LAC experience.
Talk with fellow students to find out who are considered the best professors, and take classes from some of them, regardless of the subject. Great professors tend to make any subject fascinating, and you’ll always remember those classes – and you might just discover a new academic passion!
Take advantage of the many support services available to students. LACs excel in the level of support they offer their students, be it advising, writing assistance, academic tutoring, mentoring, counselling, etc. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help – this is one of the main reasons for attending a LAC!
Don’t overdo the extracurricular activities, particularly during first year. The transition from high school to a demanding college can be challenging. Pace yourself, choose a few clubs and activities to join; concentrate on your studies and a few well-chosen activities. Don’t over-commit. This is a case of less often being more.
Look for balance in your course selection. Each semester, try and choose a variety of courses, both in terms of subject matter (to explore and learn about a broad variety of disciplines and ways of thinking) as well as the type of work required (papers, exams, problem sets, nightly homework vs. long-term research papers, etc.).
Consider doing some kind of original research during your college years. Contrary to common assumption, LACs are great places to get involved in research, in virtually any discipline. Professors love to get their students involved in research, be it assisting them with their research, or mentoring you in something you find interesting. You’ll gain confidence, knowledge, valuable skills and experience for applying to graduate school, and possibly gain an important mentor and friend for life!
Decide what you want to do and then seek ways to make it happen. LACs are wonderfully supportive places, and encourage their students to create experiences for themselves. Many have resources and funds available throughout the institution to support research, internships, programs, or work experiences, be it term-time, during the summer, or post graduation. Talk to people about what you want to do – it can lead to places and experiences you’d never expect.
Meet and get to know as many international students as possible. International students often are among the most interesting and engaging students on campus. Join any of the international students’ organizations that interest you. You will make great friends, will be exposed to new perspectives, and will always have places to stay throughout the world!
Take advantage of your school’s alumni network and career services office. Many students overlook these resources until facing graduation. Alumni of LACs tend to be extremely loyal to their alma mater and love to give back in many ways, including serving as career resources to current students interested in their professions. Get into the career service office early in your college career and learn about the many resources it offers – don’t wait until senior year!
Consider doing some community service during college. Most LACs have offices to help students find service opportunities in the community where the college is located. You will get to know the community in a different way, will meet new people while providing a needed service, and will find the regular respite from the “bubble” of college life welcoming and rejuvenating.
And finally, relax, enjoy the experience, and take advantage of as much as you can. Compared to many high-powered high schools, LACs tend not to be competitive places – students work hard, but not in competition with each other. So forgo the temptation to compare yourself with others, and instead immerse yourself in the wonderful four years ahead of you, taking advantage of the many opportunities available to you.