How to Fix Common Mistakes Made in College

There’s so much going on when you’re in school that it’s easy to make a mistake or two along the way. YSN’s chief career guru Bob Cohen shares his advice for handling some of the biggest blunders. If you want even more answers, be sure to check out Bob’s YSN group “Where Do I Go From Here” and pose a question. He’d be happy to reply.

1. What if you got caught cheating? If you’re caught cheating, you have one of two choices. You can own up to it, take your medicine, and move on with your life. On the other hand, you could try to deny any wrongdoing and then spend the rest of your life trying to justify to yourself that ethical behavior is only for a select few. Despite the temptation to “let it slide,” the work world does place a very high value on ethics (check out any major business school curriculum). This is also not the attitude that will get you places. You be the judge.

2. What if you just graduated and realized you chose the wrong major? It’s often said that “recognition of a problem” is 90 percent of the battle. Coming to the realization that you made a “less than perfect” decision is by no means the end of the world. Whether you’ve just graduated, or been out working for a couple of years, you still have the ability – and opportunity – to rethink your career strategy. In fact, you’re in a far better position to do that as compared to someone who makes this discovery 5, 10 or more years down the road and is now saddled with personal and financial obligations you don’t have to contend with. Most importantly, take advantage of YSN’s FREE Self-Assessment, terrific contacts, and invaluable career exploration tools that put you in a great position to make a productive and satisfying change for the better!

3. What if you partied too much and now you’re a junior with a low GPA? See question 1. But seriously, it doesn’t do much good to look backwards; you can’t change anything now. This is the time to take a step back and figure out WHY you’re in school and what you (not your parents or relatives) want to get out of your education. Maybe you partied too much because nothing about your studies was of interest to you. Or, you couldn’t find any activity or group doing something you could actually invest your time in pursuing.

While your graduation GPA may not blow people away, you’d be amazed how many employers place a great deal of value on leadership and the activities you pursue. They’re looking for people who can work as part of a team, build relationships and solve problems. Find one group or activity you can get excited about and stick with it. Focus on what you can accomplish between now and graduation.

Use the YSN Self-Assessment report to take another look at your course selections. You may not be able to change your major without the financial burden of prolonging your education, but you can look into elective courses you would enjoy and do well in to somewhat offset your overall GPA.

Finally, and this is the most important thing to bear in mind, a low GPA is not as big an issue as you may imagine. In fact, most of the time a GPA carries weight only through on-campus recruiting where companies use academic performance as a key benchmark in their hiring process. This only means that you may not be able to compete for the incredibly small percentage of jobs available through recruiting.

If you can figure out what it IS you’d like to do (see your FREE YSN Self-Assessment report) and can look someone in the eye and pitch it, you’re way ahead of the game. It also means that your job search strategy will need to be built on your ability to get out there and talk to people rather than rely on sending out resumes (and we all know that the “direct mail” approach is one of the least productive ways to find a job).

Happily, the fact that you partied a lot suggests that you have an outgoing personality and should have no problem making the connections you’ll need to get wherever it is you’d like to go!