Collegiate Roadmap: Maximizing Student Success in Four Years

Student leadership is a critical component of the collegiate journey. Within the initial phases of college one must prepare to take ownership of his/her individual experiences and personalize the process. Too often students attend college to gain a baccalaureate degree with the sole premise to graduate and negate the essentials that heighten the opportunity to be competitive. It is not enough to attend classes Monday - Friday, meet with professors, eat in the student center, study and sleep. Posner (2004) explained that "leadership development is now an integral part of the educational programs of college students, with courses and activities scattered throughout the co-curricular experience" (p. 443).

Nearly two decades ago college freshmen were more likely to explore internship opportunities and revamp resumes once they matriculated into their major. Today's student is encouraged to prepare much earlier - explore co-curricular activities as freshmen and establish leadership attributes prior to the sophomore year. As a basis for this overview the phases of Self-Discovery, Reflectiveness, Celebration, and Network will underscore our trajectory for leadership development.


In order to be effective and create a pathway that leads to holistic success students should tailor their collegiate process. The initial phase of tailoring one's process involves self-discovery and unveiling what is necessary to maximize individual success. An embryonic leader is birthed through an exploratory journey that unravels the following inquires: "What is my purpose? What are my gifts? What do I desire? What are my goals? How might my purpose, gifts, desires, and goals influence others and ultimately impact the global market?"

College students have a tendency to select majors based on guidance received from guardians and close affiliates. While it is commendable to take recommendations from these individuals, students should make decisions based on their own career goals and personal interests. The decision to select a college major is personal as only the student can fulfill his or her destiny. Moreover, avoid selecting majors and careers based solely on money. The financial benefit of employment is part of the career selection process; however, as one matriculates compensation will increase in time. Remember to chase passion - not the dollar.

Wielkiewicz et al. (2005) proposed that "leadership development can occur in a wide variety of settings, such as service learning, volunteering ... and other social activism (p. 33)." As a leader it is critical to outline opportunities that exist on and off campus. These opportunities are generally found but not limited to association with campus clubs, organizations, fraternities, sororities, faith based organizations, and co-curricular activities, etc. The benefit of co-curricular involvement is not only to build a resume, but to also fine tune core leadership skills.


The reflectiveness process is key to identifying the "why" in your journey. Many of us can attest to feelings of uncertainty and frustration when trying to determine what pathway will lead to our destiny. Certainly, feelings of self-doubt, instability, and murkiness when trying to make lifelong decisions can be a challenge. In fact, for a seasoned individual the task of figuring it all out can be daunting; therefore, be not dismayed as the feelings in this phase are typical. As development unfolds the process of self-discovery is a continual pattern of ideas that disentangle the leadership journey. Over time this voyage will manifest before your eyes. The approach to defeat self-doubt and murkiness will occur through prioritizing and vision planning.

Students have a unique opportunity to cultivate their lives and others. The map to achievement can be compared to a sculptor who begins a quest with a lump of clay and works to carve the work into a skillful masterpiece. The reflectiveness cycle begins with drafting a vision, prioritizing desired outcomes and aligning those outcomes to a realistic timeline. The importance of drafting ideas is vital to this process because it raises self-accountability for addressing intended needs and aspirations.

The Celebration

Always, Always, Always celebrate milestones in the midst of the journey. The celebrations serve as "check-offs" and reassure us of our ultimate goals. Accomplishing milestones are reinforcements as many come to college trying to discover themselves throughout the academic life cycle. There may be an instance when you accomplish a GPA goal after overcoming a difficult semester - celebrate it! Perhaps, you strategically resolved an issue with a challenging faculty member and you two have begun to build a rapport - celebrate that milestone. HEY - maybe you were just accepted into a program or organization that you contemplated for quite some time - again celebrate it! Whatever the milestone, don't forget that you deserve to feel proud about your accomplishments.

Student Treatment Plan

Year 1
1. Remain well-informed of campus and local events that may appeal to you
2. Identify core values and interests
3. Seek advisement from your career service center concerning career options
4. Develop your resume and document co-curricular activities
5. Consider a major that will ignite your passion
6. Visit organizational meetings that might interest you
7. Get involved on campus and pursue leadership roles
8. Invest in a professional suit and shoes

Year 2
1. Seek advisement from mentors and continue to research major option
2. Set appointments with faculty and professionals that are knowledgeable about your area of interest
3. Investigate career opportunities and internships - attempt to shadow someone in your desired profession
4. Continue to build a rapport with advisors and faculty as you will need references
5. Research potential work opportunities on campus that may build your skill competence
6. Firm up your resume and add experiences you acquired from the academic year
7. Re-visit a career services advisor
8. Join co-curricular organizations - get out there and meet folks on campus

Year 3
1. Further explore internship opportunities and delve deeper into career options
2. Consider graduate schools
3. Sharpen interview skills - have mock interviews with career center
4. Continue to develop communication and presentation skills
5. Network more than ever - follow up with advisors and potential companies on job leads
6. Dust off the resume again and modify as appropriate
7. Collaborate...continue building your network

Year 4
1. The resume is essential - communication skills are paramount
2. Pursue leadership opportunities on campus
3. Get ready to interview - identify 10 companies that you will pursue
4. Plan your individualized job search strategy
5. Register with career services and post resumes online
6. Develop a portfolio of current references and signed reference letters
7. Research the culture of the companies you may join (it may be time to adjust your professional attire accordingly)
8. Join professional associations in your area of interest

The Collaboration - The RIGHT Network

Maslow (1954) concurred that self-actualization is our final hierarchy of needs. Inclusive of our needs are growth periods that develop us, make us stronger, and build self-confidence. Few sustain a forward trajectory without pacing the process, mapping out desired outcomes, and enjoying the milestone accomplishments along the way.

The final phase of collaboration involves being in the "right" place at the "right" time for the "right" reasons with the "right" people. Today the notion is no longer
who you know", the millennium cliché is actually "who knows YOU". Our circle of affiliations should be connected to our perceived destiny. Always remember, successful leaders are selective when choosing team members and affiliates. Think of a banking transaction - in order to accrue wealth you must continue to build interest on your investment which involves the process of depositing cash. This analogy holds true for affiliations; be sure to collaborate with individuals who deposit MORE than they withdraw from you on your pathway to acquiring goals. In order to accrue interest and build over time it will be important to obtain more deposits than withdrawals.


Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Posner, B. Z. (2004, July/August). A leadership development instrument for students:
Updated. Journal of College Student Development, 45, 443-456.

Wielkiewicz, R. M., Prom, C. L., Loos, S. (2005, March). Relationships of the leadership
attitudes and beliefs scale with student types, study habits, life-long learning,
GPA. College Student Journal, 39, 31-45.