Senior year? Cool.

As of 1 p.m. yesterday, I’ve finished my junior year of college. It’s unbelievable that I only have two semesters left to think about grades, studying and meal plans, but I definitely think I’m ready. This is not supposed to be a cliche tear jerker about my college experience, because honestly I’ve been ready to finish since I started as a freshman at William & Mary. But I have started thinking about the amazing gift that higher education is, how I’m using it to my advantage and what I can do to really make my last year count.

1) Professional development is one of my priorities for next year. I want to spend time looking at the education and careers of professionals I admire, and contacting them for advice. I’ve had a lot of luck so far reaching out to people in the journalism and public relations industries, and I’ve gotten really valuable insight. I want to look into graduate programs, publications and institutions I’m interested in so I can start envisioning my future. I’d like to revamp my resume, website and portfolio, with the help of the professional development resources at Elon.

2) Social media expertise has been the theme of so many sessions and conferences I’ve attended, so that’s another goal for senior year. I’m a fan of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest but I’m quickly learning that’s not enough. I attended a session led by Paul Jones of UNC, where the group in attendence listed nearly 40 services that we need to know. 40!?!?!?!? Yeah. It’s time to start making a name for myself on the Internet, especially because of the careers I’m interested in. I really want to understand why some tools work for generating buzz and rallying communities–and some do not. The best way to do that is to try my hand at all of them, and the ones that stick are the media I can really stand behind and navigate as a future employee.

3) Headline and lede writing is my weakness. I mean check out the title of this post. Seriously. I know I want to spend more time reading stories published online and in print, and seeing how the headlines are different. I thought up a fun game for myself, where I rewrite any headline or lede that I don’t think is doing its job, even if it’s in the New York Times (they can make mistakes too!) And I’ll keep track of those on my blog.

4) Value coursework presented to me in class. I think most college students see their education as a hoop to jump through. Get the work done, get the grade and get out. I’ve probably functioned that way too often in my academic career as well, but that stops now. I’m taking web publishing, reporting for the public good and strategic writing in the fall, and all of those courses could shape my career as a professional journalist. Wouldn’t I want to really understand the material for the sake of learning it? I’ll also have three experienced teachers to utilize. Maybe for once I could actually read the books I buy, and go the extra mile completing assignments. I want to take tutorials on Lynda, meet with professors and really take advantage of the experiences in the classroom. That’s why I’m here, right?

Obviously I’ll spend time fantasizing about my future apartment (as if graduate-Becky can afford one) and the power suits I’ll inevitably purchase, but living in the moment while planning for the future is my big goal for senior year. That and finding the perfect balance between studying, sleeping, writing and watching Mad Men, because I can dream, right?

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