5 Things I’ve Learned My First Semester in College

They say that your time in college flies by, and they’re not lying!

I can hardly believe my first semester at Vanderbilt University is almost over, but the experiences I’ve had these past few months are truly opened my eyes.

Since I know so many DECA members are already thinking about graduation in May and started their own first semester in college next fall, I wanted to get you a head start on the amazing journey you’re about to begin.

Here are the five things I’ve learned so far during my first semester in college:

1. DECA really does change lives!

When I run into Vandy kids who were also in DECA, it’s like we have this immediate connection. In my conversations, DECA tends to come up pretty quickly, and finding another on-campus friend who also ‘gets it’ is such a cool thing to experience. Also, those people tend to be the coolest people on campus. What do you think: is there a connection?

2. How to do laundry (and other important adult-ing necessities).

This first semester has been made up of numerous calls back home on how to properly use a Tide Pod full of laundry detergent, setting a few (extra) alarms so I don’t sleep through my 9 AM class, and certainly wishful thinking about my favorite home cooked meals.

I probably could have learned what will and won’t shrink in the dryer before being a freshman in college, but where’s the fun in that?!

3. Networking skills never stop being important.

Between rushing my business fraternity (AKPsi… look us up!), finding other organizations to join on campus, and the self-advocacy necessary to talk to my professors about assignments, networking is still REALLY IMPORTANT. Like, now more than ever.

Without DECA, I absolutely wouldn’t have had the nerve to run up to a group of people on my hall I had never met before and ask them to dinner. I wouldn’t have known how to present myself in a polished light to on-campus recruiters, and I wouldn’t have known what it even means to “network.” I have truly gained so much just from my on-campus connections, and connections are really what makes the world go round.

5. DECA conferences still are the highlight of my year.

Especially after just coming back from the 2017 Western Region Leadership Conference, I was reminded once again about one of my very favorite parts of my DECA experience: conferences. I’ve loved my time at Vandy, but there really is nothing comparable to the rush of being on stage or taking the time to network with members from across the country. The kinds of energy and tangible excitement that make up conferences aren’t something that show up every day. Not in high-school, but not in college either.

A great way to keep the DECA conference experiences alive for you is to join your college or university’s Collegiate DECA chapter! This way you’ll be able to attend ENGAGE each fall and the Collegiate DECA International Career Development Conference each spring. Be sure to reach out to the Collegiate DECA executive officers if you have questions about which campuses have Collegiate DECA chapters or how you can start one yourself!

5. You have so much to look forward to!

The thing is, I’m still learning every day about what it means to be a successful college student, adult and human being. There are many challenges, sleepless nights, and times I wish I had all the answers, but I also can barely put into words how much I’ve loved college, and how incredible Vanderbilt really is.

I’ve been through the college application process (17 schools worth of it), and I know how challenging and stressful high school can be (especially with mid-terms right around the corner!)

I’m just here to remind you that there is always more to look forward to, more to inspire you and more to be grateful for, and college is just one of those things.

Follow Hayley on Twitter @decavphayley.

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