THE BLOG
10/21/2014 04:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

13 Versatile Ways to Get the Most Out of Your College Years

2014-10-20-getthemostoutofcollege.jpg

Some students spend their college years locked away in their dorm rooms, studying for whatever exam is next on the list. Others spend the entire time alternating between various stages of drunkenness and hungover.

I think both ends of the spectrum are a bit too extreme.

If you want to be happy, you have to learn how to balance your responsibilities with the things you do for fun.

In that spirit, here are 13 versatile ways you can get the most out of your time in college, and be happier both during and after the experience.

Get the most out of your education:

2014-10-20-getthemostofyoureducation.jpg

There are quite a few ways you can make the most of your collegiate learning experience. These are a few of my favorites.

1. Take advantage of tutoring opportunities.

Whether it's simply having someone proofread your final paper or getting in-depth help with a complex calculus equation, taking advantage of the tutoring opportunities your campus has to offer is a great way to boost your course grades.

Likewise, if you find you are particularly skilled when it comes to understanding a certain subject, consider applying to be a tutor to other students. These positions could be either volunteer or paid, but either way they look great on your resume and explaining the material to someone else can help you remember it even better.

2. Find your study space.

Your dorm room or apartment might not be the best environment in which to do your homework and studying. Those are the places where you sleep, relax and hang out with friends, so it makes sense that you might feel less-than-productive if you try to do work there, too.

Scope out the library or the nooks and crannies of your student union building to find your ideal working space. Most campuses have a variety of student lounges, designated quiet areas and department-specific study rooms.

Find a study space that is ideal for your noise preferences and creative inspiration and make it a habit to do chunks of your homework there. It'll be easier for you to concentrate and you'll retain information better.

3. Save your course materials.

Especially while you're still in college, it's wise to save some of your past course materials. They can be incredibly helpful when it comes to refreshing your memory after winter or summer break, specifically when it comes to major-specific courses.

Actively take notes in each of your classes and save them for future reference. (Some professors will even let you cite these for papers.)

Also, keeping textbooks related to your major classes is a good idea since you'll be studying many of the same concepts during your time in college, and may need a refresher at some point.

4. Read over your credit requirements freshman year.

In order to prioritize and get the most out of your college education, you should read over your credit requirements as a freshman. It really doesn't take much time (maybe 15 minutes?) and it will do wonders for how you plan out the next few years of your life.

Sometimes students get to their last semester, only to realize that they missed a necessary graduation requirement or overlooked a specific category course they needed to take. Only 36 percent of students at public universities graduate in four years, and 40 percent are still trying to earn their degree six years later.

Avoiding needless credit requirement mistakes is the best way to ensure that you don't become part of those statistics.

5. Attend extracurricular lectures and seminars.

I can't think of a single university or college that doesn't bring guest speakers and lecturers to campus for its students. Take advantage of these unique opportunities to learn something new and maybe even meet some really cool people. Even the more famous of guest speakers who talk on college campuses are willing to shake hands and answer questions after their talk.

Check out your school's calendar of upcoming events and get a group of students from your major or dorm to attend an event with you. Lots of professors will even offer extra credit if you can prove you attended (save your ticket stubs or take pictures!).

Get the most out of your social life:

2014-10-20-makethemostofsociallifeincollege.jpg

While college is certainly about learning, it's also about discovering who you are and making new friends. Here are some ways you can get the most out of your social life in college.

6. Get your experimental phase out of the way.

Most people feel the need to try new things throughout their lives. College is a great time to do this because you're unrestricted from the rules of high school and your parents, and because you haven't yet entered a professional career. It's the perfect time cut your hair the way you've always wanted and get your nose pierced.

Of course, if you plan to work in a highly-professionalized industry, make sure you can either remove or hide any extreme modifications you make to your personal appearance (i.e. if you get your arms covered in tattoos, be ready to more-than-likely wear long sleeves the rest of your working life.)

Similarly, if you want to experiment with various recreational activities, do so safely and in accordance with the law. Do not start BASE jumping off of your school's academic buildings or trying your hand at graffiti in the student parking lot. Bad idea.

7. Talk to other students.

This one's for all the introverts out there. Please resist the urge to hide in your textbooks for your entire four years of undergrad. You're likely missing out on opportunities to make some lifelong friends.

You don't have to go to any outrageous parties. Just try talking to other students in your classes or in your dorm. You might be surprised how many other people out there share your interests and hobbies and are just too afraid to say hi.

8. Join an intramural team.

If you want to make new friends while also getting some exercise, join an intramural sports team. Most colleges and universities offer many different kinds of men's, women's and co-ed teams for a variety of intramural sports.

Joining is a quick and easy way to meet people with similar interests, fill up some of your free time, and keep that beer-belly in check.

9. Keep an open mind about new things.

Throughout your college years, you'll be exposed to many new kinds of people, music, ideas and hobbies. If you remain open to trying new things, you are very likely to find new lifelong passions and interests.

Maybe you never listened to industrial music before, or never thought art was something you could do. You might surprise yourself with the things you like and are good at if you just remain open to new experiences. You can't like every new thing that you try, but you can at least try.

10. Stay in touch over breaks.

Check in during your winter and summer breaks with the friends you've made on campus. You could plan to meet somewhere for a weekend of camping in the summer, or take a group trip to go snowboarding in the winter. Even sharing a funny Timeline meme or shooting them a Happy New Year's text can strengthen your friendships when school is out.

Making more of an effort to let your college friends know you like hanging out with them makes starting a new semester more enjoyable and fulfilling, and can help you find true friends who last the rest of your life.

Get the most out of life after college:

2014-10-20-makethemostoflifeaftercollege.jpg

Those years spent in a classroom weren't all for that piece of paper you get to hang on your wall. They were also meant to improve your future.

11. Talk to your profs during and after college.

You should get to know your professors during your college years for several reasons. First of all, they can be incredibly helpful when it comes to providing guidance in your courses and in life. They've been around the block a time or two and can probably offer some very good advice.

Secondly, they'll influence your future. Not just with the grades you earn from them, but also with the job or grad school recommendations they can write for you. Especially for students who attend large universities, getting to know your professors is a must if you want to stand out from the group and earn a shining letter of recommendation.

The professors who you get to know well during your college years should also be a priority for you after you graduate. Most profs love to hear from students they've taught in the past and are more than thrilled to learn of your successes and accomplishments. Be sure to thank them for all that they taught you while you were in school. Sadly, thanks is something many higher education professionals don't hear enough.

12. Exercise and eat well.

The approximate four years you spend in undergrad is no time to be living off of a diet solely made up of beer and pizza, although that's what many movies would have you believe.

You need to take responsibility for your physical health and wellness by eating foods from every food group and exercising regularly. A study in 2011 found that most college students weren't eating even one full serving of fruits and vegetables a day. Not only is that terrible for your body, but it also promotes poor eating habits that could continue to affect you throughout your life.

When you eat well and exercise, you feel better about yourself, get sick less often and have more energy. All of these things can help you be a more productive student, but can also help you go for your dream job after graduation and live a longer, healthier life as an adult.

13. Take an internship.

Some college majors require internships and some don't. Regardless of whether or not it's required for you to graduate, you should try your hardest to get an internship related to your major.

Even if you have to take an unpaid internship, you can often substitute your internship for a class, which can help you graduate on or ahead of schedule. What's more, studies show that internships play a key role in deciding which undergrads get hired right out of college, and which struggle to find jobs.

Having at least one internship under your belt before graduation is a great way to increase your chances of getting hired right and make the most of your post-college life. Heck, many companies even offer their interns full-time positions upon graduation, which can make paying back those student loans a whole lot easier.

How did you get the most out of your time in college? Would you have done anything differently? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments section below!

Images by COD Newsroom, Patrik Geothe, Desi Mendoza, and DeathToTheStockPhoto