We chatted with current Iowa State senior, Thomas Frank, and he filled us in on some lessons learned at college and tips he wanted to share with our students. See below to learn what he had to say!
GoEnnounce: You’re a senior now at Iowa State University. How did you decide which college you would attend?
Thomas: To be honest, Iowa State was the only college I toured in high school; I instantly fell in love with it. My parents weren’t super-involved in my college search, so it made sense that the university I could drive myself to in order to tour would be the one that stood out the most.
Besides being close, Iowa State has an incredibly beautiful campus and a great business program. I figured I could continue to deal with the cold winters for those benefits, as well as the close proximity to family
GoEnnounce: What’s a lesson you’ve learned since you were a freshman?
Thomas: It’s hard to pick just one! I wrote a list of 42 from freshman year alone, but one of the biggest ones is this: Start learning and building things outside of class as soon as possible. Don’t rely on your coursework alone to help you become an expert – that won’t help you stand out at all. Building something of your own in your spare time will do wonders to increasing your skills and showing employers that you’re the real deal.
GoEnnounce: We know you worked really hard to get some scholarships for school. Do you have any tips for other students who are looking for some scholarship funding?
Thomas: First off – that previous tip about doing your own personal project outside of class can also be really helpful for getting scholarships. If you have your own project (an app you’re building, a blog, etc), you stand out from all the other students who just get good grades and join clubs.
I’d also suggest focusing most of your attention on scholarships offered by your school and local businesses. It can be a good idea to sign up for scholarships on Fastweb and other websites, but you’re up against two big problems there. First, the competition is absolutely massive, since every student in the country can see those. Second, you can’t personally meet the people behind the scholarship and build relationships with them. Local scholarships mitigate both of those problems, and I’ve had much better results with them. (I’ve never won anything on Fastweb – I’ve won over $16,000 through local/school scholarships)
GoEnounce: It seems like you’re an involved kinda student! What advice would you give to a student who wants to do more in school?
Thomas: If you already have the ambition to get involved and do more in school, then you’ve won half the battle. At this point, it comes down to figuring out what to do, and then finding the time to do it.
When it comes to figuring out what to do, my opinion is this: getting real-world experience through a job, club position, or personal project is much better than taking on a second major. Real experience always stands out.
Here are a few tips for finding the time to do more:
▪ Learn to focus on one thing at a time. A 2-hour assignment becomes a 30-minute assignment when you close Facebook and don’t text your friends every five minutes.
▪ Write your goals down in a very visible place so you’re constantly reminded of them. This forces you to stay on track. I made an Impossible List for most of my goals, which has worked wonders for me.
▪ Use the Pomodoro technique to force yourself to get started. Getting the ball rolling on an assignment or project is often the hardest part – once you’re in the thick of it, you often get “in the zone” and can work much better.
GoEnnounce: What are your goals for after school?
Thomas: I’m basically going to do the same thing I’m doing right now! I’ll continue to run College Info Geek and create even more resources and content to help other students be awesome at college. Going forward, my main areas of focus will be career prep and personal branding, paying off student debt, and learning how to be more productive. These are the areas my readers have said concern them the most, so I’m concerning myself with those areas as well.
Oh, and I’ll also be working on crossing more things off my Impossible List, of course!
Thomas Frank is a senior at Iowa State University studying MIS. He’s also the founder of College Info Geek, a blog dedicated to helping other students be awesome at college. His spare time is filled with handstand push-ups and quoting The Dark Knight. Follow him on Twitter here and check out his GoEnnounce page here.
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