How to make the best of your 3 years in College
Want to get into B-school but don’t know what to do in undergrad college? This one’s for you! Giving CAT, mock interviews are the last step of going into your dream B-school but where does it all start? A long time before the MBA hustle, my friends. Here is something for those of you in college, especially in the first year. So dig in and hope this helps!
For this piece, we have roped in Mark Bhaunra. Mark is an SRCC graduate, a finance enthusiast (Read another finance aficionado Rohan Daga's story) and a part of D-Street, SRCC’s stock-market oriented society during his college days. He also has various finance internships under his belt. Mark appeared for CAT 2019 and made it to IIM-A! He has deferred his admission to the following year (Yes, IIMA lets you do that under some T&Cs).
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Taking a look back at the 3 years spent in college, one would think what more they could have done to have no regrets. Taking advantage of every opportunity that comes by, is easier said than done. Not everyone knows what is happening around them and what needs to be done. If there could have been a guide or a checklist, one would have been able to tick all the boxes and have no regrets at the end.
While I am no guide and there is no perfect checklist which you can tick and be done with, here’s something for you start, a list of opportunities that may come by and how to create your own.
1. Societies and Clubs:
The first encounter you’ll have while entering college is not the college gate itself but the various societies and clubs.
Every society wants members, and every member wants a POR (Position of Responsibility) in their second year. There’s something for everyone here. One might refrain from applying to certain clubs just because they don’t know anything about the domain in which these societies and the club’s function. My advice would be to not have any pre-conceived notions and not let your inhibitions hold you back.
The society or club does not expect you to know everything about their domain. They want people who are enthusiastic, ready to learn and take initiatives. Sometimes, certain societies are placed better in a college than the others which may help you in getting internships and placements as per your interests. How to know about such societies? Ask your seniors – they know everything. So many things come down to networking and its not only informative but fun too!
2. Position of Responsibility:
Before we start, let me clarify - no, it is just not limited to being in the Students’ Union, there is so much more to it! The societies that you were a part of in the first year give you an option to contest and be a core team member in the second and sometimes even in the third year.
The PORs helps one to display their leadership skills and also gives them a platform to start their initiatives, implement their own ideas in the societies and clubs. Next time when you’re sitting opposite an MBA panel, its these initiatives and experiences that you will be able to draw from.
This is a no brainer but many students overlook the fact that they need to actually study in college. There are a lot of things that happen every month in college which might distract you, but academics also need their fair share of attention. There are instances where people don’t get shortlisted for a company, because of their CGPA which was 7.99 wherein the shortlisting criteria were set at 8 CGPA. Do all extra-curriculars you want but ensure that you are also managing good grades! At the end of the day, EVERYONE wants a consistent performer.
Got low grades? Don't worry, read Shivalli's story on how she bounced back
One cannot emphasize enough on the importance of internships in building a profile for an MBA or even just for college placements. First-year students usually overlook the fact that they don’t have holiday homework from the college after completing their first year. They have two full months to do anything they want!
You might still be reluctant to do an internship because you are not getting to intern in your interest field or are not being paid, but the benefits of an internship in the first year outweigh all that. They create a base and help you get internships at the end of the second year, which is crucial if you plan on sitting in for the final placements.
Now there might be some instances where it is difficult to get an internship, but don’t lose heart as there are plenty of opportunities. You just need to broaden your horizon by looking everywhere. You can find internships via LinkedIn, College Placement Cell, an App called FRAP and other websites such as Internshala. Also, one can always take help of friends and family and ask for an internship.
Read on how college internships helped Lakshmi land in IIM-Bangalore
There are Courses and then there are Certifications. They might seem same but a clear line can be drawn between them. Courses are like participation certificates and certifications are like a place on the podium. There is certifications like NISM, NCFM, FLIP, FRM, CFA, etc for finance enthusiasts, CMP for marketing, etc.
Doing courses in your area of interest would certainly help indicate your inclination, but be cognizant of the fact that some websites are perceived to be more credible than others. Some good websites for doing courses or MOOCs are Coursera and Edx.
Not everyone might have the skills to win top-notch competitions but one can always try to participate in most of them. Undergraduate level competitions usually happen between January to March as it’s the college fest season. But how does one know what’s happening and when? – Like and follow every society’s and club’s page on Facebook. They usually create an event that will help you get an intimation that an event is happening near you. Additionally, you can look at D2C and other platforms for open competitions.
7. Venturing Out:
One can start their own initiative, society or club in college. For this, you just need like-minded people and a void that needs to be filled. A simple example would be to start a Marketing Club if there isn't one already in your college or even start a competition club. You may feel that it’s a really difficult task or you need many sponsors but all you need is a social media page to get going. You can also try to rope in an organization that collaborates with colleges.
Read on the article by Jayant to see how you can incorporate this in your IIM interviews.
8. Peer Group:
This is where you are required to leave all your inhibitions behind and take the first step in introducing yourself and getting to know the other person. Your peer group certainly plays an important role in shaping who you are at the end of 3 years. Try to surround yourself with people who can help you grow every day.
9. No Strings Attached:
One might feel that their college doesn’t offer the extracurricular which they wish to pursue. You can always look for opportunities outside your own college! Some college societies offer campus ambassador programs and even internships. The Government also organizes foreign exchange programs for undergraduate students. Keep looking around to find the right opportunity.
Read on how Deepika dabbled in various opportunities
One should try to document everything that they are doing in college. This could be done in the form of a master CV. It would help in analyzing what else one could do to improve their profile. Note - Focus on collecting proofs for everything that you are doing. This might not seem important at the undergraduate level, but it is the law during your MBA.
11. Ask for help:
You might be brilliant but you may not have the required information to act. Ask for help! Talk to your seniors if you want to know what actually goes on and how to tackle any problems you that you might face. They have already been in your shoes and can definitely help you out!
You can check out more tips on Profile Building here
These are my 2 cents on how to navigate through your undergraduate life. College starts with a bang and you meet people from different backgrounds with varied ambitions. Getting to know them via interactions helps shaping your personality and broadens your horizons. A word of caution - Do not adopt others’ dreams! There might be instances where you end up doing things just because other people wanted to do them. Try to be everything but not a sheep. Find your way, be original and be you!
All the best!
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