Managing your student presence, on campus and off

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Photo illustration by Taylor Alderman | The Collegian

Your time at a university is a precious resource that can either launch you into the pursuit of your dreams or catch you sleeping while the world around you marches on. Few times in life will so many opportunities be focused in such a small area. What you choose to do or not do with your time here is critical. You never know when a relationship, connection, or opportunity will walk right into your path and which of your seemingly simple decisions could lead you to a new or unexpected road that drives your future. Whether or not you’re ready for this journey is entirely up to you, so here are some ways to be mindful of your presence on campus.

Whether you’re on a brisk walk to class or you have some time to kill in your schedule, it can be tempting to plug in and tune out while you’re around campus. The problem, however, is that you’re missing part of the experience that makes campus such a unique and special place to be.

If you take the time to lift your eyes to what’s happening around you, you may see some remarkable things. From meetings of campus and community organizations to heavy-duty studying, campus is buzzing with energy and activity. Choose to be a part of it.

With so many diverse activities going on, this is a good time in life to leave your comfort zone regularly. While inaction in college can be costly, there is very little risk involved in trying new things. Honestly, you don’t have much to lose. The absolute worst thing that can happen is the realization that something simply isn’t for you, and that alone can be a crucial lesson.

Your time at college is also the ideal time to start practicing the work ethic you wish to have for your entire career. What you do here is not merely preparation for the rest of your life, it is a place to hone your skills and start to live the life you want to have later on. This includes being active and attentive in class (you’ll get more out of the experience and you’ve already paid for it), dressing in a respectable manner (comfort is key, but use discretion on some days where you know you’ll be making important contact with others), and putting in the time it takes to be successful.

Have a lot of fun and make some mistakes (they’ll be hard to avoid), that’s part of life, but don’t forget to do things that lead you towards personal growth.

It’s also important to remember that your presence on campus extends to the digital world as well. This is not the first (nor will it be the last) time someone has told you to mind your p’s and q’s online, but seriously it’s important. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, about 74 percent of new graduates entering the workforce expect to have their social media accounts reviewed by potential employers.

“Students would be smart to be responsible about how they’re conducting themselves online,” Jared Meitler, campus engagement coordinator for K-State Career and Employment Services said.

The steps to watching your own back online are not time-consuming, but they will make a difference.

The “Timeline Review” feature on Facebook can be a good friend to add to your life if you’re like me and get yourself into some less than desirable photo ops on a regular basis. It allows you to look over all the content you’re tagged in and decide what belongs on your timeline and what things are better off being buried deep in cyberspace.

As for Twitter, I promise there’s no shame in being a tweet deleter. As the owner of a fairly ridiculous Twitter account myself, harsh realities often set in when I remember that someone is archiving everything we say (and using it to sell us things) and that we’ll have to publicly carry those words all the way to our graves (here’s looking at you, Xanga account). After moments of intense literary inspiration, the truth strikes back hard when I realize: a) “Wow, you’re not funny” and b) “It’s 4 in the morning; nothing you say at this time is worth plastering on your digital tombstone.”

The need for caution online includes everything from social media to blogs, personal websites, forum posts and many other outlets.

“All that stuff is just a Google search away, and we know that many employers, based on the feedback they give us, do check those things,” Meitler said.

He recommends regular self-evaluations, but if you’re ever in doubt, the career advisors at CES are always available to assist students with cleaning up their images online and providing other career development assistance.

“The odds are pretty good that if you’re uncertain, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Meitler said. For more information and tips from CES about your online presence, check out k-state.edu/ces/students/onlinepresence.

With all the potential pitfalls of online activity, it is important to remember that what you’re posting can also be an asset to your personal brand and professional presence. Most companies and organizations have identified the need for some sort of communication through social media to expand their reach, so having a strong, positive account can help set you apart from other candidates who may not.

“Being social media savvy is becoming a more highly-touted skill that employers are looking for; it can be the icing on the cake,” Meitler said.

The choices you make on campus and online are what make up your college experience, and a little intentionality goes a long way.

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