Whether you're headed for commencement or viewing it from afar, have you made the most of college? Between enrollment and graduation, you may think that you have plenty of time to get everything done that you want to do. But imagine graduating and then looking back only to realize all the things you missed. Bump these ten things to the top of your to-do list and squeeze the most out of college while you still can.
- Attend a college sporting event. There's nothing like being a part of a massive, roaring group of people, all cheering for the same thing. Football and basketball tend to get the most attention among college sports, but your options go far beyond those. Hockey games at puck-crazy schools such as the University of Minnesota Duluth are rumored to get louder, wilder, and more full of life than anything played off the ice. UMD Bulldog events include women's hockey as well with their team of U.S. and European stars.
- Have coffee with a professor. You might be convinced that professors are your adversaries, determined to crush your dreams. The truth of the matter is that professors might be the best allies you have. Binghamton University in New York state offers journalism classes but no major, so Professor Mary Haupt might be an aspiring journalist's best friend. Professor Haupt, who was named one of the best 300 professors by The Princeton Review, has held a number of journalism positions at the The Sun-Bulletin and has taught courses such as news editing and feature writing. Professors such as Ms. Haupt offer wisdom gleaned from professional experience to complement the academic curriculum. Meeting with professors outside of class might give you insight into careers. Students in online courses can do this too if they live near the college. If you can't stop by campus, set up virtual chats to get to know your instructors.
- Take part in school traditions. Sometimes they're rites of passage, and other times they're just shared experiences. Either way, traditions help students feel as though they are a part of something important. The College of William & Mary has a full list: the Yule Log burning before Winter Break, the ringing of the ceremonial Wren Bell by graduating seniors, a theatrical performance of rhetorical combat called the "Raft Debate," and the King and Queen Ball in the Sunken Garden. Students who participate might get an even stronger feeling of pride during the candlelight ceremony in the Wren Yard the night before commencement and the "Senior Walk Across Campus" to William & Mary Hall the following day.
- Get a picture with a school symbol. In 40 years, you'll be glad you took time for a snapshot of yourself with that iconic administration hall, school statue or whatever landmark stands out the most. Students at Michigan State University don't have to look far -- they've got Sparty the Spartan, a seven-foot celebrity mascot with a nationally recognized face, thanks to his ESPN gig. It's not too late for those who have graduated to find their way into a picture with Sparty, as the school loans out Sparty dolls for alumni to take on vacation.
- Shop around for student discounts. While some of you have been hitting this hard since day one, others don't know just how sweet some discounts are. Sure, you might know about the dollar-off burgers on Tuesdays, but what about the deals on durable goods such as computer products? University of Memphis students can find deals on Dell and Apple hardware as well as Adobe and Apple software, which offer utility while you're in school and beyond. The school also describes deep discounts for all students at apparel stores including Banana Republic, J. Crew, and Charlotte Rousse.
- Leverage career resources. Many schools offer programs to facilitate job searches for recent graduates. Barnard College, a women's college in New York City, offers career counseling, on-campus recruitment drives and senior workshops for career and workplace preparation. The Suitable Suits program lets students borrow jackets, pants, and skirts to wear to interviews, meetings, and conferences that might help their careers.
- Explore campus. While you're ambling from class to class with your head buried down into your Smartphone, it's easy to miss the landscaping and architecture your campus has to offer. Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina is home to a "green" Showcase Home, a former Buddhist temple, and a replica of Henry David Thoreau's cabin near Walden Pond. Furman's campus has even been featured as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country by Travel & Leisure and Forbes. Students in online degree programs might have to schedule a special trip to explore nearby colleges, but campuses are worth a closer look even if you're not walking past Furman's gorgeous Asian Garden every day.
- Eat at every dining hall. At the end of the year, just about everyone has extra meal points left over. If you haven't sampled the full scope of dining hall fare, now's the time to do it. Virginia's James Madison University boasts numerous and diverse dining options scattered all over campus. JMU has vegetarian and vegan selections as well as local produce from the Shenandoah Valley. Wherever you go to school, there's likely something at the dining halls you haven't tried. If you don't have meal points, find a friend who can swipe you in and get snacking.
- Pull an all-nighter. We're not actually recommending it, but this can provide invaluable fodder for bragging rights later in life. Carnegie Mellon University understands the essential role of the all-night session and keeps some of its libraries open 24 hours to assist the heavily-caffeinated in their quest for knowledge. For a nocturnal study environment, you might choose Hunt Library or Sorrells Engineering & Science Library. Who knows -- being surrounded by wisdom of the ages while you study might help you retain what you learn.
- Have dinner with your buddies. In college, you may meet some of the closest friends you'll ever have, and it's disrespectful to them and to yourself not to honor your bonds over a meal that matters. Students at Ithaca College in New York have no shortage of sites at which this momentous occasion can take place. Featured in The Daily Meal's "10 College Towns with the Best Food," Ithaca is a foodie hot spot featuring Italian, Japanese, and other cuisines you won't learn about in your Western Civ class, such as Thai and Vietnamese. Finding the right venue to celebrate your time together can be possible no matter where you are if you direct your research skills to the restaurant directories.
Whether your graduation's a long way off or just around the corner, make sure to spend your time in college wisely and get as much joy and value out of it as you can (including academics, of course). If you've already done everything on this list, you can congratulate yourself and practice the ceremonial tossing of your mortarboard.