As dean of the Kansas University School of Business, Neeli Bendapudi is well-versed in the art of offering advice to college students. But at last spring’s annual Lawrence Journal-World Academic All-Stars luncheon, Bendapudi addressed a slightly younger crowd, gifted high school seniors. As they prepared to go to college, Bendapudi shared words of wisdom that she believed would serve them well in their first year of college.
First two weeks
“If you do not watch out, the first week or two on campus feels like a large sleepover,” Bendapudi warned students about what to expect when they arrive at college.
Have fun, but pay attention to the first two weeks of class, she said. There is a high correlation between how you begin the class and how you end it.
“Education is not limited to the classroom. College has so many opportunities,” Bendapudi told the students.
She encourages freshmen to sample a college’s organizations and clubs and then pick two. One should be in a student’s field of interest, and the other should be for fun.
“It’s not a competition for how many clubs you were involved in,” Bendapudi said. “It is more impressive to stick with a couple of them throughout your college career than to say I have been a member of 10 groups.”
Along with a being resume booster, being active in clubs has one major side benefit.
“Clubs also have free pizza,” she said.
Unlike high school teachers, college professors won’t nag you about turning in assignments or completing projects. While that might sound great at first, Bendapudi reminded students it places a new level of responsibility on them.
“You are an adult. You are the co-producer of your education. You need to be an active participant,” she said.
While professors aren’t likely to nag, they are still interested in their students.
“In the first two weeks of your classes, force yourself to go to see a professor during office hours,” Bendapudi said. “You will live to tell the tale.”
If a student doesn’t have a specific question to ask about the class, Bendapudi said express interest in the field of study. Getting to a know professors will serve students well in their college careers.
T.A. and R.A. opportunities
One of the reasons it is a good idea to build relationships with professors is to foster the opportunity for a teaching or research assistant position, Bendapudi said. Students shouldn’t be afraid of expressing interest in these positions and pursuing them, even the unpaid ones.
These positions are terrific resume builders and a great way to learn the material.
Selecting a major
Students, and their parents, shouldn’t panic if a student’s major changes multiple times.
“When selecting a major, think about putting together a portfolio of skills,” Bendapudi told the students.
Ask yourself what you are good at (or things that come easy to you), what you enjoy and what would meet your financial goals. Then find a career that fits into all three criteria.
When a coach picks a quarterback, would he rather have someone who knows all the rules of the game but has never played, or someone who has experience on the field, Bendapudi asks her students. The same is true for the workforce.
Bendapudi encourages students to start seeking internships for the summer after their first year of college. She also reminded students that internships don’t have to be paid.
Bendapudi is passionate about students having the chance to study abroad and noted many colleges offer opportunities to do so. If a student travels abroad for a semester or a year, that’s great. However for those who don’t know or want to make that long of a commitment, there are many one- to three-week programs during the year that students can try.
“When you go abroad, you come back with a broader appreciation for not just other cultures, but your own,” she said. “Take advantage of it, if you can. Increasingly we do live in a global community. It will make you more competitive.”
No matter what your major is, Bendapudi urges students to make time for creativity. For her, she said, that means reading great poetry and writing really bad poetry.
Be financially literate
If there is one college course Bendapudi thinks every student should take, it would be one on managing personal finances.
“It is important to be able to make the best decisions you can,” she said.
As for advice for parents, Bendapudi has one tidbit to pass along.
“If your kids don’t call every day, multiple times, don’t worry. That means they are OK,” she said.