Give Yourself a Head Start
Before enrolling for any class it would be in your best interest to do some research on the instructors for the classes you will be taking. A lot of times the same courses are taught by different instructors and it would be best for you to learn some more about these instructors prior to getting enrolled in one of their classes. This will help you to be better prepared to deal with them or to learn to avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, some instructors are just in it for the pay check. I had an instructor who wouldn’t teach and just expected us to go out there and find out the answers.
Although, this might be the case sometimes in the real world; but if you are paying to get an education then the instructor ought to be teaching you whether they think so or not.
My guess is every school is going to be different with regards to the curriculum and how it changes each semester. One of the things I discovered is that a lot of professors repeat the same projects each semester with slight modification. Perhaps this has to do with the convenience and laziness that is part of the human nature, unless there’s another explanation. If your school does this then you can benefit from the situation.
You can get a copy of the syllabus from seniors before you and ask to see those projects that they did. This will give you a head start prior to you taking that class. If you have the time during holiday session you can do your own version of that project and when you finally get into that actual class you either already have the work done or have an alternative to turn in if you find yourself pressed for time. If in the worst case scenario you have to do it over then you would have already had some practice.
Invest in your future
As with all things one day your college career will come to an end and if you had invested in your future back then, you will surely be reaping your rewards now. Here are some things you should invest in while you are in college: people, internship, software and tools (camera, computers etc.).
People: Remember those people in the high and low places that I mentioned in the previous series. Well, if you maintained good relationships with them some of them will come in handy when you start looking for job after graduation. A lot of jobs often ask you for professional references. Before you graduate be sure to collect a few phone numbers and letter of recommendations because they will come in handy.
Social Media: If you haven’t taken the time to do so. Find out how social media can help you with advertising and marketing. The reason I have mentioned it is because looking back over the years I deleted a lot of people I didn’t communicate with frequently on Facebook because I didn’t see the point. With what I know now I would’ve still left them as contacts because the more the better when it comes time to marketing your services to people in the future. Put your professional self out there. Join as many social media networks as you can handle and learn to use them effectively.
Internship: Some schools require internship as a part of their Graphic Design curriculum. Even if your school doesn’t have this requirement it is best that before you graduate you seek out a company hiring interns. Many companies will want you to work for free and in exchange they will give you course credits that will enable you meet your school internship requirement. If you are not overly busy with another job or stuck financially then take the unpaid internship. Just make sure that the company will actually have you do work that is directly related to design. If you are strapped for cash then seek out paid internships. Many schools have job boards where you can locate some of these job postings.
Software and tools: If you are in school and receive grants or financial aid there is always the temptation to spoil you with the refund check. Instead use this money to buy the software you will need to start doing work on your own after you graduate because chances are you will no longer have access to the school equipment. So, buy a lap top, SLR camera, video camera, portable scanner and a smart phone. These are things that will enable you to do your work as a designer more effectively. You should also purchase a domain name and a website (if you can’t design yours) so that you have a portfolio site with all your works displayed there.
In other to conclude this “Path to Success Series”, I will offer two pieces of advice.
Take the short cut: As a designer you will find yourself stumped for ideas with time being against you. The best thing you can do is take the short cut. Find a similar project or style online and use it as a source of inspiration. Borrow the ideas and create your own. This will save you time and energy. At the end of the stay it is still important to get that passing grade than the failing one for not turning the work in.
Provide Value: If you happen to be one of those smart students be sure to help others out and eventually they will need you again, and even provide word of mouth testimonials on your behalf and then you can reap the rewards of the value you had provided.