I wanted to pass along some information that I wish I had going into and graduating from college. This can be a difficult point for many families and students and I hope it helps. Please reach out or comment if you have any questions.
- I graduated in 3 years from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst at the age of 21 with a management degree concentrated in entrepreneurship.
- I scored below 1800 (out of 2400) on my SAT
- I paid $24,688 a year to attend college including on-campus meal plan and housing (excluding books and class fees)
- I had final round interviews with the corporate divisions of Google, Apple, Amazon, HubSpot, IBM, EMC, Oracle, Wayfair, and SalesForce
- I accepted a full-time offer from Amazon Corporate to work in digital media
Standardized test scores and fancy names mean little
- Work to do the best job on the SAT that you can, but it matters little in the long run.
- Growing up and living in Boston, I’ve met some Harvard students who are so lazy I wouldn’t trust to deliver an important package to the post office. I’ve also met community college transfer students whose knowledge of back-end mobile application development far outweigh the norm. I don’t mean to generalize groups of people, but attending what many consider to be “great” schools does not make you a great individual.
Plan what you want from college before you apply (and again once you get in)
- I learned early on that its not about working hard, its about working smart. A goal without a plan is just a dream. See setting SMART goals.
- Do not apply to any college without a reason. You don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, but know if they have a good program or specific school on campus that lines up with your general interests.
- Find out how many credits you need to graduate from the colleges you get into. How many classes do you need to take per semester to graduate in three years, travel abroad, or have a part-time job?
- Plan to take a semester to travel abroad. I had the opportunity to travel to Russia, Germany, Sweden and a Native American reservation in South Dakota before college. Traveling, doing service, and learning in another country will broaden your world view and give you experiences like nothing else.
College life should be a balance
Don't waste your time and money. Having fun, being social, and trying new things is a crucial part of college, but it's important to have a balance. If you want to party, take a year off and go to Spain. It will cost a whole lot less than a wasted semester and the parties are way better (from what I hear).
My balance per day in order was:
- Mon: academics, work, clubs
- Tue: academics, work, clubs
- Wed: academics, work, clubs
- Thur: academics, clubs, leisure
- Fri: leisure
- Sat: work, leisure
- Sun: academics, leisure
Invest in high impact activities. Follow the Pareto Principle (or 80-20 rule) that 80% of your value will come from 20% of your total activities. New students are eager to join as many clubs, pledge as many fraternities, and go to as many social events as possible.
Be your own best advocate
- You will not get anywhere by waiting for good things to come to you. If you’re doing poorly in a class, want to start a club, want to work/intern at a certain company, or have the next best app idea; pick up your computer and f*cking do something about it.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. Don’t waste your time with people who bring you down. One of the biggest values of college is the diverse backgrounds of peers. Use this to your advantage, ask them questions, and learn what they know.
- Take calculated risks and put yourself in uncomfortable situations. I was terrified of public speaking until I had to do it for weekly club meetings.
- Find a mentor. Preferably someone with relevant life experience who shows an interest in your growth. This can be a professor, alumnus, community member, or upperclassman. I was lucky to have a local alumni (Scott Nielsen) act as my mentor early on in school. He helped me grow my network, found the UMass Entrepreneurship Club, and put on large speaking events.
If you don’t stand out; then don’t apply
- Attending college isn’t enough. You need to go out of your way to take on leadership roles, have a industry specific job, or volunteer.
- Think of every job, internship, or leadership position you hold as a potential stepping stone to something greater. (ex. My experiences went from: Merchandiser in convenience stores > Selling protein gummies in-person to convenience stores > Founding UMass Entrepreneurship Club > Working for Apple selling iPads and Macs to professors and departments > Working for MassChallenge developing partnerships with A&B level executives > Working for Amazon in digital media consulting with vendors to grow their businesses).
- Don’t work for the glory, work for the experience. After my freshman year I only got one internship offer. Selling protein gummies to convenience stores was the last thing I wanted to spend my summer doing, but I learned a ton about sales, marketing, time management and built confidence speaking to customers. I was able to leverage that experience and learnings to advance my career path.
Top companies don’t read resumes (at first)
- Computers read resumes (not always, but imagine they are)
- Great companies receive so many thousands of job applications per hiring cycle that it would be vastly time inefficient for recruiters to review every single resume that comes in through their online portal. They use resume scanner tools that develop correlations between keywords (statistics like GPA, leadership roles, industry specific terminology), resume organization (is this resume clean and organized, or an unformatted piece of sh*t?), and previous work experience.
- Your resume is like pizza: most people just like cheese, but some people prefer toppings, or even calzones. Tailor your resume for the industry your applying to.
- Take advantage of your school's career center. They’re literally there to get you a job. Have them help you with your resume, or connect you with internship opportunities.