For College Students

Career Prep for College Students

The shift from college to a career is a big move! Here’s how to prepare for it.


Deciding to go to college is a big step, and you must start thinking about your career path as soon as possible. Of course, you might be eager and even a little nervous to begin your college journey, which is perfectly normal. However, the most important thing is that you start with a preparation plan for the long run and set yourself up for success.

Many students wait until their junior or senior year to start thinking about their future, but this can be too late. The earlier you start planning for your career, the more prepared you will be when it’s time to enter the workforce.

This article will discuss the importance of career prep for college students and provide a checklist of things you should do during your first-year, second-year, junior, and senior years.

Read on for our career prep checklist for college students!

Career Prep Checklist For Freshman Year

As a freshman, you are in a new environment and trying to get a handle on your new schedule and workload. Freshman year is also a great time to explore your interests and think about what you might want to do after college.

What Are Your Special Talents?

Start by taking inventory of your skills and interests. What are your unique talents? What do you enjoy doing? Then, get a part☑time job or internship in an area that interests you to get some experience.


Talk to your academic advisor about taking aptitude tests or career assessments. These can help you identify potential majors and careers that might be a good fit for you. Try assessments like the Clifton strengths finder, the Meyers☑Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), or the Strong Interest Inventory.


Start doing some research on potential careers. Research different careers that align with your skills and interests. You can use sites like or to explore other options. Review job descriptions, salary information, and required education and skills. Researching will help you start narrowing down your options.

Career Counselor

Meet with a career counselor to learn more about different fields. With a career counselor, you can discuss your interests, skills, and goals to better understand the best path for you.

Declare a Major

Now is the time to begin thinking about what you want to study if you haven’t already. It’s important that you explore career paths when selecting a major.

Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is a great way to learn more about a specific field or company. In addition, it’s an opportunity to observe someone in their day☑to☑day work life and see if it’s the right fit for you.


If you’re interested in a particular field, consider doing an internship during your freshman year. An internship is a great way to gain experience and learn more about different careers.

Workshops and Seminars

Attend workshops and seminars to guide your career journey. They can offer writing labs, study programs, socialization, and mentorships. Many colleges offer these workshops to help students adjust to college and prepare for their future. Eventbrite and your campus career center are great resources to find these events.

Career Fairs

Attend career fairs and informational interviews. The two combined are a great way to learn more about specific careers and industries that interest you.


Getting involved on campus can benefit you in many ways. You can make new friends, build your network, and learn more about yourself and your interest.

Join Clubs

Joining clubs as a freshman can be a great way to meet new people and get involved in activities that are passionate for you.


Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and learn more about different career paths. You can search for volunteer opportunities on websites like

These activities will help you explore your interests and build your resume, which is up next on our checklist.


A resume is a document that outlines your skills, experiences, and qualifications. It’s essential to have a resume as a college freshman because you never know when an opportunity might arise.

For example, you might meet someone who works in your dream field at a career fair, and they ask for your resume. If you don’t have one, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to make a good impression.

  • Meet with your college career center services for more guidance on your resume and help with career opportunities.

Grad School or Professional School

Start thinking about graduate school or professional school. If you know you want to go to grad school, start researching programs and requirements.


Begin building your professional network. Attend networking events, connect with professionals on LinkedIn, and reach out to family and friends.

Career Prep Checklist For Sophomore Year

Let’s reflect on your freshman year. You’ve been busy putting these plans into action and juggling many new things. You’ve taken some time to get used to the college scene and have a more informed view of what you like and don’t like. You’re starting to feel more comfortable and confident in yourself. Your sophomore year is the time to start thinking about your career goals and how you can make them a reality.

Update Your Resume

Include any new leadership positions, internships, jobs, or volunteer experiences you’ve had since your freshman year.

Informational Interviews

Talk to your parents, mentors, or other adults about their careers: Get advice and information about different fields that interest you.

Discuss Plans With Your Career Advisors

They can help you figure out what steps you need to take to reach your goals.

Expand Your Network

Get involved with organizations and clubs related to your field of interest. Attend career fairs and meet with professionals in your desired industry.

Research Graduate Programs

If you’re considering pursuing a graduate degree, start researching programs and requirements.

Start Thinking About Your Professional Brand

What do you want potential employers to know about you? How can you make yourself stand out from the crowd?

Prepare For Internships and Jobs

Start working on your interviewing skills and practice talking about your experience and skills.

Do Some Research

Use the internet, your school’s career center, or books to learn more about different careers.

Make a Plan

Once you have an idea of what you want to do, start planning how you can make it happen. Set some goals and put a plan into action.

Get Experience

Start thinking about ways you can gain experience in your field of interest. Activities could include internships, jobs, or volunteer work.

Stay on Track

Continue taking classes and getting good grades. When you’re ready to start looking for work, this will assist you in staying competitive.

Career Prep Checklist For Junior Year

You’re halfway through college, and you should have a pretty good idea of what you want to do with your life. If not, that’s okay too. However, junior year is the time to start focusing on your career goals and making sure you’re on track to achieve them.

Workshops and Seminars

Attending workshops and seminars related to your field of interest is a great way to improve your professional development skills and learn more about your industry.

Update Your Resume

Make sure your resume is up☑to☑date and includes your recent experiences and accomplishments.

Routine Meetings With Your Advisor

Meet with your advisor throughout your junior year to discuss your progress and ensure that you’re on track to graduate.

Develop Networking Skills

Start attending networking events and meeting professionals in your desired field is the perfect way to make connections and learn about job opportunities.

Apply For Internships

If you haven’t already, start applying for internships is instrumental in gaining experience and get your foot in the door.

Prepare For Interviews

Start practicing your interviewing skills to be ready when the time comes. Preparation is the key to tackling challenging interview questions.

Informational Interviews

Schedule informational interviews with professionals in your desired field to help you learn about different careers and get advice from people there before.

Research Graduate Programs

If you’re considering pursuing a graduate degree, start researching programs and requirements.

Make a Plan

Once you have an idea of what you want to do, start planning how you can make it happen. Set some goals and put a plan into action.

Career Prep Checklist For Senior Year

Senior year is when the puzzle pieces begin to come together and make more sense; you narrow down your focus on the future and what you want to do with your life. You should continue developing your resume and adding new skills centered on the type of job you want.

Suppose you’re not sure what career path you want to take. In that case, it’s important that you get some experience in different fields during college senior year so that when it comes time for graduation, you’ll have a better idea of which industry or field would be the best fit for your skillset.

It’s also important to start thinking about how well☑rounded your resume will be and if there are any gaps in experience or knowledge. To avoid this, make sure that during college senior year, for any internships or part☑time jobs you take on outside of school, you can put those experiences on your resume.

The following is a list of things to do during your senior year of college to prepare for your career.

Personal Branding

Start thinking about your personal brand. What values do you want to represent, and how do you want to be known? If your social media profiles don’t reflect these values, it’s time to clean them up.

Get Involved

Join organizations, groups, or clubs related to the sector you wish to enter.

Pick Up New Skills

If you’re looking to go into a specific field, take classes that will help prepare you for that field.

Community Involvement

Whether as an individual or through groups you’re passionate about, volunteering in your community is a wonderful way to experience the world and meet new people.

Interview Preparation

Start preparing for interviews by researching common interview questions and practicing your answers.

Informative Interviews and Company Research

Research the company you want to work for and find out what they are looking for in their employees.

Create a Portfolio

If you have any previous work you can showcase, start putting together a portfolio. A professional portfolio will be helpful when you start applying for jobs.

Resume Updates

Create a resume that highlights your skills and experience. Outline significant achievements. A few examples are honor roll, leading support groups, volunteer work, and developing new processes.

Career Fairs

Attend career fairs and research companies that will be in attendance. Dress professionally and bring hard copies of your resume. Also, keep a digital copy of your resume on your phone, just in case you run out of hard copies.

LinkedIn Profile

Start building your professional network by creating a LinkedIn profile. Then, connect with people in different industries to build your network.

Do Your Research

Make sure you know everything there is to know about your field of interest. Extensive research will help you stand out during interviews and networking events.

Apply For Internships

Apply for internships or jobs at companies you are interested in working at after graduation.

Professional Networking

Network with people who work in your desired industry. Attend events and meet people in your desired field. Get their business cards and connect with them on LinkedIn.


Look for scholarships to help you pay for graduate school or professional development courses.

Make a Plan

Once you have an idea of what you want to do, start planning how you can make it happen. Set some goals and put a plan into action.

Graduate School Applications

If you plan to attend graduate school, start researching programs and requirements. Start refining your graduate school list and what you need to do to get into the program you want. Once you decide on your graduate program, apply and complete all the requirements.

Wrapping Up

Attending college is a great way to prepare for your future career. In addition to the knowledge and skills you’ll gain from your classes, you can do a few other things to get ahead. By following this career prep checklist, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your goals.

And don’t forget to print our free checklist to help you stay on target.

Happy career planning!

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About the Author

Simone Feagen

Simone is a career coach whose clients have included Fortune 500 companies, healthcare industry professionals, and many more. She is a mother and has Six Sigma Lean Black Belt Professional (LBBP) and Six Sigma Champion Certified (SSCC) certifications from the Management and Strategy Institute.

Last updated on: July 8, 2024