There are many big differences between high school and college. One of them is all college students are adults, and as an adult, you should start acting like it. I’m not telling you to shake your fists at young whipper-snappers who trample your yard, only to take your education seriously.
It’s excusable to not take your pre-college education seriously all the time, but in college, you won’t get the most out of your time and money if you don’t prepare, pay attention, show up, and do the work.
In four-year universities, you can get lulled into a false sense of security pretty easily. It’s difficult to focus on your studies when you’re away from your parents’ house for the first time. There are many ways to trip yourself up, and even though all universities have student resource centers to help, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
But at Pickens Technical College, it’s a different environment. Use the small class sizes, the PTC Career Services office, and the support system in place to your advantage. The best way to take full advantage of all that PTC has to offer you on your way to your dream career is to create a plan and state your goals. And there’s no better time than now.
Start Setting Goals Now
Everyone wants to sit back by the pool all summer between semesters, but spending just a little time during the summer before the crush of classes, teachers, and classmates on getting your goals set and a plan in place can help you through the challenges you’ll encounter later.
The first step is admitting to yourself what you truly want. A job in a particular field, better training so you can do your current job better, a new career, etc. are all worthy goals. Sit down and write them out. If any appear unrealistic, ask yourself why they appear out of reach, whether or not they’re worthwhile, and how to break them down.
Just because you wrote a goal down doesn’t mean you’ve signed a blood oath to reach it or else. Goals can be malleable. Sometimes just thinking about what you want could give you the jitters. Have you have had goals that seem impossible? Want to become President? You won’t get there in one easy step. So instead of writing ‘Become President’ on your goal list, start with the first step to becoming President: ‘Run for public office and win.’ That’s still a huge task that can be broken down into a hundred smaller goals, but it’s far more useful and achievable than suddenly making a run at the White House.
Fight Fear with Planning
Goal-setting can be scary business. What if you never reach any of the goals on your list? First of all, let go of the fear of failure. Everyone fails. What keeps people from reaching their potential is never identifying what they want or articulating their true priorities. Logically, it makes sense, but it’s going to take more than a few breathing exercises and well-argued points to jettison this fear altogether. Breaking up the goals into smaller, achievable steps is one way to lessen the nerves. Another is staying away from deadlines as much as possible, at least in the initial goal-setting stage. If you’re focused on school in the fall and you’re setting goals now, you’ll get plenty of timelines and due dates. Start with general goals first and start fitting them into your schedule as it becomes clearer.
Stating your goals now will make you more prepared (and less nervous) for the school year in the fall.
I know you don’t want to start thinking about it, but the better prepared you are for the next school year, the better and more easily you’ll pass your classes, get your degree or certificate, and start your dream career. Pickens Technical College offers challenging courses designed to train you for the next step in your life and prepare you for a job you love. If you start preparing now, by the time school starts up again in the fall, you’ll be ahead of your classmates and ready to perform.
What can you do to prepare? Here are five tips to help you begin the process:
1. Go Over Last Year’s Material
None of these tips are going to be particularly fun right after the school year, but remember that you’re not in high school anymore, and all the training and learning you’re doing at PTC goes directly toward your position in the career of your choice. Probably the most tedious task over the summer, however, is going over the material you already learned.
It might be difficult to re-do the hands-on work your PTC instructor had you do during the year, but, even if you can’t access a place to practice, you can still go over your notes and readings. You don’t have to memorize the teachings from the previous year, but even a few quick glances at the material can help you remember those key points for next semester.
2. Peek at Next Year’s Material
Some professors will lay out a plan for their classes and the progression their students need to complete to move up and on. See if you can ‘peek’ at next semester’s syllabus or curriculum. Some professors are a bit more secretive, but if you can get ahold of them via email, they might be willing to at least give you a preview of the material coming in the next step.
3. Keep Your Brain Sharp
You probably know this from high school summers, but if you let your brain slip into a lazy routine, it will be in for a rude awakening in the fall. Read, try to apply the things you learned to your ‘real’ life, and impose some kind of discipline to these endless summer days to stay sharp and ready for the next semester.
4. Keep in Touch with Your Peers and Mentors
Some teachers go on vacation or do other things during the school year. Many PTC teachers have other jobs or responsibilities. Take advantage of any mentor or teacher who is still in touch with you during the summer. Pick their brain. Ask them questions about the next step.
It’s important to keep in touch with your classmates as much as possible, too. The people sitting next to you in class could be the foundation of a useful professional network in the future.
5. Start Looking for Internships or Jobs
You may not be qualified for jobs in your industry without your certificate or diploma, but the sooner you can start looking at the opportunities out there for people in your industry, the better prepared you’ll be when you need to use your credentials to land that first entry-level job.
Remember grade school, when your teacher would hand you a list of books to read over the summer? No matter which books were on that list, whether you’ve heard of them or not, you rolled your eyes and groaned, if you’re anything like me. I’ve since come to love reading books, even when I wasn’t required to.
If you’re planning on returning to school in some form or another next fall, creating a summer reading list can be a big help. In addition to looking around for employment opportunities, updating your resume, and networking, spending some time reading books, articles, magazines, and other material is worth it. And beyond the help that a summer reading program can give your career, you can build your overall skillset and expand your imagination by reading the classics of literature and the new releases promising to change the literature scene.
Starting a summer reading list is as simple as jotting down several books you want to read. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read all (or most of) the books on your list, and don’t feel ashamed if you don’t quite get to everything. It’s summer, after all.
Here are a few suggestions, from new releases to great works of the past, to books to boost your career, to get your summer reading list going:
- All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. Giffin is the author of the bestselling book Something Borrowed. She’s back at it again this summer with her latest release, about a photograph that intertwines several influential families in Nashville’s upper crust.
- Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. The debut novel by Stage is a domestic horror story that takes the anxiety inherent in raising children to a twisted new level. Hanna, seven-year-old, has increasingly violent tantrums, speaks in the voice of a 17 th century girl who was burned at the stake, and plots evermore demented ways to “step up her game against Mommy.”
- The Girls by Emma Cline. The novel about a young woman swept up in Manson Family-esque madness took the literature world by storm back in the summer of 2016. Cline’s debut novel is shocking and astonishing, and you won’t be able to put it down.
- Industry help or instructional book of your choice. I wanted to save a place on this list for the books that will help you directly when you return to class in the fall. As painful as it is to think about reading textbooks during the summer, getting supplemental information about your studies and keeping yourself in that frame of mind will keep you sharp over the summer when everyone else is losing their skills for lack of practice.
- Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… and Maybe the World by William H. McRaven. In the world of cheesy self-help books, this light, fairly easy, brisk, 144-page book will tip you off to small habits that can make a big impact. Try it!
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Now, I know that not everyone will love this book as much as I did—it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. But, as residents of Colorado, where Kerouac famously wrote and stayed during his many restless travels, we should all at least give it a try. If you can find your way in Kerouac’s breathless pace, you might find a rebellious streak you never thought you had, and a will to be yourself above all else.
Nourish your brain by reading while you sunbathe this summer, and get started with these six great books.
Summer is right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me when I was in school,
thinking about lounging in the sun for three months is one of the most prominent things in your
mind right now. It’s important to let your mind and body relax after completing a school year of
hands-on, rigorous training and learning at Pickens Technical College, but you also have to think
about your skills and your career after graduation.
PTC makes it easy to transfer knowledge from the classroom to the job, but it’s up to you
to learn and maintain the skills that will make your career. Summer vacation is the perfect time
to identify areas that you might not be as strong in within your field and focus on those weak
points to round out your abilities.
This is especially helpful and important if you’re in the middle of a two-year program or
if you plan on getting more education in your area later on. Maintaining your skills also helps
you stay sharp for the fall, when Human Resources folks, hiring managers, and other company
officials come back from their vacations ready to hire new blood.
Remember elementary school, when the teachers or librarians would challenge you with
a summer reading list? As much as I love reading, I didn’t particularly care for the idea of
homework over the summer. But there was a reason why teachers did this. They didn’t want to
have to essentially start all over again with their students when they returned to school in the fall.
The more reading their students did over their three-month vacation, the better prepared to learn
they were in the fall.
In a specialized field like the one you’re likely training for at PTC, staying sharp is even
more important. Even with all the advantages you get from earning a certification at PTC or
completing a program there, you’ll still be competing with who-knows-how-many other job-
seekers when it comes time to use your skills to start a career. So the sharper you are when it
comes time to hire people, the better chance you’ll have of getting that job.
If you’re returning to school, either at PTC or another college, you’ll be ready to learn
and pick up where you left off if you spent time working on the weaker areas of your skills. Just
like the NBA players who shoot hundreds of shots by themselves in the gym, developing muscle
memory is highly important for many of the skills PTC teaches.
There are many ways to approach this. Check in with your instructor to see if they have
any kind of summer availability in PTC shops or other hands-on learning environments. If you’re
in the Automotive Technology Program, for example, see if you can get in for a few hours to
work in the auto shop on campus. Another option is to look for internships or volunteer
opportunities at organizations outside of PTC. Seek out a few of the companies you’re likely to
apply to and try to get a foot in the door, even if it’s just meeting someone for coffee, that’s a
Don’t work yourself too hard this summer, but remember that your skills could always
use improvement, and everyone’s competency needs to be maintained with practice. Summer
vacation is the perfect opportunity for this.
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