Freshman: Establishing a Foundation

Freshman year is mostly about getting used to being in college, learning new strategies for managing your time, and figuring out how much you can fit in around your studies. When you feel ready to take on challenges beyond those presented by your college classes, start finding ways to get involved in the campus community. Here are some steps you can take this year to set yourself up to make the most out of your college experience.


  • Try out some extracurricular activities. Go to Quad Day and see the range available to you. Think about the activities that were most meaningful and enjoyable to you in high school and think about ways to find those sources of satisfaction in college, while giving yourself time to explore new possibilities.
  • If your career interests include writing and editing, identify at least one campus or community publication to get involved with.
  • Consider the kind of off-campus experiences you want to have. Look into study abroad programs or Illinois in Washington, and talk to your academic advisor about how you might work a semester elsewhere into your program of study.
  • Overwhelmed by options? Stop by the Life & Career Design Lab in 2040 Lincoln Hall for help designing your future.
  • Log on to Handshake and start getting filling out your profile.
  • If you need to work while you’re in college,


  • Will you need to work while you’re in college? Go to the Part-Time Job Fair. If you don’t find the right opportunity there, get in the habit of regularly checking the places where part-time jobs and paid internships get posted: the Virtual Job Board, the Research Park Job BoardHandshake, and this very website. ALL work experience counts, but opportunities come up on these sites that will help you build professional skills.
  • Make an appointment to talk to Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships, by calling 333-4346. You don’t need to have a plan to start having the conversation about what happens 
  • Create a master resume file on your computer with all possible relevant experience on it. Add to it as you do new things and have new experiences. 
  • Draft a basic resume that you can customize as part-time jobs, internships, or networking opportunities arise. 
  • after you graduate, but the sooner you start having that conversation, the more likely you are to graduate with a plan.
  • Look into ways to get work experience relevant to your career interests, including internships, volunteer work, and undergraduate research opportunities
  • Find a summer job (for the summer before sophomore year) that will expose you to new experiences or help you develop new skills.  It’s a great time to explore things you think you *might* be interested in and to learn to do different things, even if you’re not sure how you will use them later.


  • Recognize your network and start to cultivate it. If you had meaningful work or volunteer experience in high school, stay in touch with your supervisor. If particular high school teachers influenced your decision to come to Illinois or study a particular area, email them over winter break to let them know how things are going. If family friends or a friend’s family works in a field that interests you, arrange a time to talk to them about their work.
  • Walk through a Career Fair and chat with at least one recruiter, just to get familiar with the basic set-up and structure.
  • Go to office hours and make yourself known to your professors, as well as your TAs.
  • As you develop new contacts (RSO leaders, work supervisors, volunteer coordinators), keep records with full contact information (full name with correct spelling, phone number, email address, name and address of organization).  It will feel a little silly if the list is short, but you will add to it over the next four years and be glad to have all the information in one place.  

Sophomore: Exploring Options

Junior: Gaining Experience

Senior: Getting Real