Whether you are heading off to college this fall as a freshman or as a returning student, it is critical that you think about your preparation -- not just in the practical matters of packing to outfit your residence hall room -- but also in preparing your mindset so you can truly get the most out of college. By doing so, you will be well-positioned for the competitive workforce you will enter once you graduate. Here is my list of 10 things to pack when you go to college:
1. An open mind
You may already have a specific major in mind -- nursing, game design, business or some other program of study -- and may know exactly what you want to do upon graduation. Your major is important, but think also about broadening your focus. If you are too narrowly focused, your skill set and knowledge upon graduation will be limited. Today's world requires an agile mindset -- those who can shift gears, have a depth and breadth of knowledge in more than one area, and possess skills that enable them to adapt in a constantly changing world. A student who wants to be a veterinarian, for example, and who also studies biology or psychology may better understand the critical relationship between animal health and human health and have a greater insight into animal-human disease issues -- some of which may be known, and some that have yet to emerge. A game design student who also studies business will not only have the knowledge and skills to create games, but will also have a deeper understanding of how to launch a successful business.
2. A global perspective
A passport will help you travel around the world, but an education will open a world of possibilities to you. No matter where you grew up -- a large city, a small town, or a rural area -- be willing to journey out of your comfort zone. By doing so, you will rise to invigorating challenges. Thomas L. Friedman's best-selling book, The World Is Flat, conveyed that there is no longer division from country to country; the world is unified within a much larger global platform. You must see yourself as a citizen of this flat world. Be willing to learn more about other people and cultures, about the history of civilizations, and about global issues. Consider college your passport to developing a global perspective in everything you do.
Immerse yourself in creativity. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are those with a creative bent. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple who revolutionized the world of computers, was influenced by art. He took a calligraphy course at Reed College, but at first could not foresee a practical application. Years later, he employed creativity to blend technology and art.
"I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great," he said. "It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture... Ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me, and we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography." (Forbes) Creativity is not just about the arts, but about how to integrate divergent concepts, and see new possibilities and find new meaning.
4. A healthy level of fear
I was once told, "If you are fearful of something, do that thing that you fear most. Then you fear nothing." Fear can propel the imagination and launch success rather than failure, both at college and in the workplace. Just because you may fear something does not mean you cannot achieve success. Do not be afraid to be afraid. Do not avoid challenges that seem too daunting. Do not shy away from the tough stuff. Use your fear to propel your imagination and develop your confidence.
5. A collaborative spirit
Today's workplace is one of teamwork and collaboration, of common purpose in advancing organizational goals. While it is still critical that you develop a deep understanding of yourself in college and your unique skills and abilities, it is also vital that you learn how to be an expert collaborator. This means developing people skills -- the ability to listen, to engage diverse points of view, and to recognize the value in others. Seek out opportunities to become part of a team or group so you can learn how to work within a community of diverse talents.
6. A boundless mindset
Boundaries are restrictive and limiting, and only serve to stifle creativity, shrink an adaptive and flexible outlook, and deter innovative, entrepreneurial thinking. A boundless mindset attracts abundance. It enables you to see the world through a much larger lens so you can determine the many ways in which you can make your mark in the world and affect powerful change -- both in yourself, and in the lives of others.
7. A desire to develop a personal brand
In this highly competitive marketplace and challenging economy, you will be competing for jobs with those who have lengthy credentials and a wealth of experience. A common dilemma you will face, once you earn your college degree and begin applying for jobs, will be hearing, "You don't have the experience." This can be frustrating after you have dedicated four years or more to your education. But when you can distinguish yourself from others by having a strong personal brand -- which conveys your vision, your mission, your core values, your passion, and your uniqueness -- you can position yourself more competitively.
8. An art of possibility thinking
"Impossibility thinking" involves the word "can't." Possibility thinking enables you to consider how anything and everything is possible, if you put your mind to it. Eliminate the word can't, decide what you want to do, even if it seems difficult or unsurmountable, and work towards it.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." Some of the most successful and influential people faced failure in their lives. Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that he was "too stupid to learn anything." Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he was told he lacked imagination (Business Insider). The first three businesses launched by Henry Ford failed before he started the successful Ford Motor Company. Dr. Seuss had his first book rejected by 27 publishers. Louisa May Alcott was advised to "stick to teaching." J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections for her first Harry Potter book. Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind received 38 rejections. The Diary of Anne Frank received 16 rejections (LiteraryRejections.com). And the list goes on. The point is, throughout your life there will always be setbacks. Use your college experience as a time to take on challenges and grow from them to build and strengthen your confidence.
10. Not your parents!
In my generation and the generations before me, parents often had a more "hands-off" approach when their children went to college. Occasional care packages might be sent, phone calls made, and letters written, but parents, more often than not, let their children grow on their own. A couple of decades ago, some parents of college students were given the nickname "helicopter parents," which described how they hovered closely over their children's college experience. Today they are called "snowplow parents," who strive to eliminate obstacles and solve dilemmas on their children's behalf: a poor grade from a professor (because the student didn't do the work or show up to class), a request for food or mail to be delivered directly to the student, constant communication through text messaging and social media, and more. The challenges you face in college prepare you for the challenges you will face upon graduation. These are your challenges. Once you land a job, there will be no one to make excuses for you, to advocate for you, to take care of you, or to deal with your frustrations. Adversity is a necessary and unavoidable part of life, and how you deal with it -- on your own -- is a vital component to developing your confidence and competence.