By Koi James, Graduate Assistant
Welcome to a new school year and semester at the University of Miami! For those of you new to our orange and green family, the mere thought of entering into a new school, town, and environment may leave you feeling a bit anxious and nervous, but those feelings are perfectly normal. It is truly an exciting time, where you are surrounded by like-minded individuals, who will inspire you to be better, smarter, and stronger. However, college is not meant to be easy: it is meant to be the greatest period of personal and professional growth in a relatively short period of time (yes, those four years pass by very quickly). It is, therefore, imperative to maximize your time in college, developing your brand, building a strong network, expanding your horizons, and simply enjoying the moment. I have put together some helpful advice that I wish I was given as I began my freshman year, to ensure that you make the most of your time at the U.

Developing Your Brand
Branding is not solely for the cars we drive or the clothes we wear; each person has his or her own brand, and we develop it in the way we market ourselves. Our brand has to do with our social media presence, body language and conduct, and professional documents. It is critical to be active on social media, as technology has allowed us to be in direct contact with corporations and employers. With that said, your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (amongst other) pages should reflect the ambitious, enterprising individuals you actually are. Employers search for candidates online, so spend some time creatinga polished online personality.
Another critical aspect of branding is your professional material, which includes your résumés, cover letters, and personal statements. These documents are tangible representations of your academic and professional history, so make sure that you craft aesthetically pleasing documents that highlight your various accomplishments. Never written a cover letter or résumé before? Visit HireACane and make an appointment with a member of our team, or stop in during our walk-in advising hours and we’re happy to help you. 
Building a Strong Network
Networking goes beyond your 3,000 Facebook friends; this involves developing meaningful connections with your peers, academic advisors, professors, and experts within your field. Even though technology has facilitated communication, nothing is more effective than a face-to-face meeting with someone, where you explain to them your passion, projects and future goals. Your enthusiasm will ring true, and that personal contact will make a much bigger impression than a friend request online.
Take the time to meet with your professors, and pick their brains: they are important sources of wisdom and advice that you should take advantage of while in school. Professor Office Hours are really underutilized, and is an easy way to make meaningful connections with your professors. Additionally, Toppel offers several Meet-Upsduring the school year, where you can meet with employers in your respective fields in an environment conducive to striking up a good conversation. We also facilitate on-campus recruiting and info-sessions with companies, so keep your eyes open for those events!
Expanding Your Horizons
The purpose of college is to become a well-rounded, educated individual, who is able to go on and achieve success in the professional world. A major should inspire passion and interest, but electives should not be discounted or considered irrelevant. These are the classes that add texture to your collegiate career, and expose you to material that you would not have otherwise been privy to. Therefore, take a Public Speaking, Introduction to Jazz or Religious Studies class, as these classes will equip you with skills that can complement your degree, become potential minors, or at a minimum provide you with knowledge to sound witty and intelligent at a cocktail party in the future.
Another key component to diversify your academic portfolio is school involvement. Join student organizations or clubs that speak to your passion or interest. Becoming an active member of an organization requires being cooperative, reliable and responsible, especially if you are in charge of executing a huge campus event. You learn to work on teams, create goals and realize a project to completion, which can be a source of great pride. This involvement can then be added to your résumé, and act as significant talking points during an interview or a personal statement. Also, you will meet some cool people, who can possibly become lifelong friends!
Simply Enjoying the Moment
The four years of college pass by very quickly, so even though you should maximize each moment, it is just as important to relish the experiences and memories created here. Read a book by the UC pool, lay out on the greens, or sit in front of Starbucks or the lake and have a meaningful conversation with a friend. Those moments make up the mental collage that encapsulates your time at the University of Miami. It may be difficult to find the time to do these things in between classes and extra-curricular involvement, but these moments rejuvenate your spirit and teach you lessons that cannot be learnt in the classroom.
Greatness doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s why the collegiate experience lasts a few years. To truly succeed at the University of Miami, you must be persistent, willing to stumble and get back up, and be vulnerable.  The journey will be bumpy, but you are surrounded by fellow students, advisors, and the Toppel Career Center staff that can help you achieve your goals and navigate this tricky, but rewarding, experience.
We think you’re #kindofabigdeal and are here to help whenever you are ready to walk through our doors with all of the above, so we hope to see you soon!