Why are you in college?
A lot of you are probably thinking, "I do not know." A lot of you have never even thought about it. I know I did not consider the question until engineering was smacking me around like spikeball on Pedestrian.
If you don't know why you are in college, try answering this question: What do you want out of college?
I only know what I want: to meet a lot of people and choose my favorites among them to be my friends for the rest of my life; to get a piece of paper that will trick some company into thinking I'm actually capable, and to grow as a person as much as possible through lots of new experiences.
During the five years I've spent in college, I have learned something about the first of these goals –meeting a lot of people and making friends requires understanding that losers exist.
I adamantly believe that you can learn something from everyone, but a lot of these boneheads provide examples of what not to do. Finding people you can kick it with is easy; I have known thousands of them in my life.
The few that are worth keeping around are harder to select, and they will come from unexpected places. Since college is the most social time in a majority of people's lives, take advantage of the chance to meet lots of people while you still can.
As for that elusive – at least for me – slip of cardstock, your degree is of critical importance to the life you want after you graduate. Do you want to go to graduate school? Do you want to get a job? Do you want to move back in with your parents?
With the right GPA, UT offers degrees that will lead to all three of those options.
And for those of you who think a college degree will guarantee a job offer the day after graduation, think again.
Understand that if you want a stable job with a decent salary, you need the degree to match.
Otherwise, you might find yourself forced to choose between attending graduate school and moving back home with Mom and Dad to work a job rather than pursue a passion.
You can go to Career Services and get statistics on what UT grads with your degree have done following graduation. If only a small percent got a job, and the average salary is less that you would like, you have a decision to make.
If you find your major is less than likely to get you a job with a livable wage, you are well within your rights to pursue the degree anyway. However, I won't pity you when you discover the real meaning of the phrase "the economy is bad right now."
Go do some research if you want your idea of a good job immediately after graduating. Don't just pick a major and see what happens – it's one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make.
Lastly, college is the time to do things.
After people graduate, they tend to stop doing things. Not because of age or maturity, but just because of reality.
While in college, you can take the summer to study abroad. You can just leave for two or three months, and legitimately sacrifice nothing other than maybe a few Taco Tuesdays or Wine Wednesdays with your friends.
This does not really happen much after graduation. You will get two weeks paid vacation per year – not enough time to do something incredible.
Besides the classic study abroad option, you could ride a bike across the country, take an internship, do a huge service trip, backpack the Appalachian Trail or even follow One Direction on tour.
Take advantage of the flexibility that college offers. Go do things.
Nate Talbot is a sixth-year senior in mechanical engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.