What I learned from seeing a career counselor

Spring semester, 2018-- end of sophomore year

“How’s college?” We’re asked a few (dozen) times a year by curious and caring friends and family. If you’re one of many who automatically responds with a tight-lipped smile, saying “good,” and feeling that small pit in your stomach clench, it may be time to examine (and change) your university experience.

Competitiveness on campuses is almost tangible, from scholarships to student organization executive boards, and class rankings to job offers. Often, we measure our success in the classroom with our GPA, we measure our campus involvement with lines on our resumes, and we measure our social lives by photos posted.

But, looking good on paper-- and to our peers-- can be wildy unfulfilling and detract from our overall college career. Seeking professional help-- especially when it comes to college-- does not imply weakness, in fact, quite the opposite. Taking control of your education is vital to your success on paper and to yourself.

Two years into college, these have all been recurring problems I have encountered and after just three sessions of career counseling, my entire university experience changed completely.

The first thing I will advise is to be prepared for work. This form of counseling revolves around cooperation and persistence. All of the things you’re doing day-to-day can be done better and smarter, and striving for those improvements takes some muscle.

Keeping an open mind is going to be critical. My counselor opened my eyes not just to new opportunities, but new approaches to those opportunities as well. Everything starts with a changed mindset that really opens doors to true success.

You’re not stuck. Whether you’re unhappy with your major, your job, the university, or a multitude of other issues that may arise, there is a solution. Believing that something can always be done is a great step, and getting a second, informed opinion and advice on how to find that solution will benefit you greatly.

Just as there is a difference between learning and knowing, there is a similar difference between satisfaction and engagement. The price tag that accompanies your degree should guarantee you exiting university with knowledge and an engaging experience. There are fantastic opportunities waiting for you at college, so taking advantage of those, and taking advantage of methods to push you in the right direction are absolutely worth it.

Fall semester, 2018-- beginning of junior year

I wrote this article last year and saved it as a draft, knowing I shouldn't advise anyone to see a counselor without examining the results of the process. So, it's six months later. My university experience has changed 100% and it took more work that I had previously anticipated, but I can definitely share my success story because I chose to see a career counselor.

I started saying "yes" to everything. I accepted the Her Campus at WVU presidency not entirely knowing if I would come back to the mountains in the fall, but it was definitely a factor contributing to my decision to stay. I said yes to an independent study, I said yes to keeping two internships and I said yes to getting dinner with my friends instead of studying. 

I also started saying no-- no, I don't want to take this class, no I don't want to fiesta on Halloween and no I cannot handle this work project. 

I started putting myself first and my education second, and let the pressure of doing everything "right" go completely. I know myself better due to my counselor, I developed coping skills to handle high-stress periods of life and I learned how to communicate properly (usually to professors or employers) my ability and inability to do things. 

College isn't right for everyone. A single "path" isn't right for everyone. Happiness, though, most certainly is.