By Zack BaranganIt’s time to get serious. You’ve partied to your heart’s content, and now both your liver and checking account need a well-deserved break. Most importantly, you’ve come to the heartbreaking conclusion that college is about prepping yourself for that dreaded “real world” that you’ve heard so much about. No need to fear–no matter where you are in your college career, it’s never too early or late to start planning. But in order to do so, you need to make sure you take advantage of your time at college and mold yourself into the most successful, well-rounded student you can be. In short: no matter where you are in your college career, you gotta make yourself look good. “Why do I need to have a game plan?” you ask. Well, to be brutally honest, it can be hard to get a job these days. “Okay, fine. I can apply to grad school,” you say. Guess what, smarty pants? It’s really hard to do that too. So suck it up and start planning. Whatever career path you choose will be filled with competition from some very smart and accomplished people. Having a plan of action is the best way to get where you want to be. Challenge Yourself in Class The simplest place to start boosting your college achievements with Barry Bonds-like results is in the classroom. One of the best parts of college is being able to choose your own classes. It’s tempting to take it easy with nothing but intro courses, but intro courses give you little more than subject overviews. Most of the time, they won’t be a great indicator of how more intensive courses in that subject will be taught. Instead, challenge yourself by taking as many hard courses as you can handle. By taking a class like “Japanese Military Tactics during World War II” instead of “Intro to WWII,” you are not only showing that you can tackle an intense course load (a notable and impressive feat), but you are also getting a head start on some of your academic requirements. You’re paying a lot of money for a top-notch education, so why not take the most challenging and rewarding courses available to you? But be careful not to blindly choose whatever class you feel like taking. Having a sense of order in your course selection is key. For those trying to apply to grad school, try and keep your GPA in mind, and make time for appropriate electives. Like your resume in a job application, your transcript is your first line of attack on grad school applications. If you’re planning an entry into the workforce, take some classes that play up your strong suits. You may be an English major, but if you want a job in a law firm you may want to take some pre-law classes. Course selection is key. Excel in Extracurriculars You may be under the false impression that clubs are for losers and nerds. That notion couldn’t be more wrong. Clubs look fantastic on a resume. But you know what looks even better on a resume? Becoming the president of a club that you started. This not only shows that you’re passionate and pro-active about a certain issue, but also that you’re able to lead your peers and unite them in a common cause. Find that one issue that just isn’t covered by the rest of the run-of-the-mill student orgs and get on it. It’s as easy as filling out an application, talking to the student activities office and getting some of your friends on board. Becoming the president isn’t an easy task, but any motivated and organized go-getter can do it. And c’mon, who doesn’t like a little power? As a club president you can actually make a difference by helping get the most out of the university and squeezing some funds from the administration. Above all, you’ll come off as someone who makes a great leader, something that employers and grad schools eat up. The credentials are nice, but being able to bring up in an interview how you leveraged your position to the benefit of everyone around you could be the dealbreaker you need. Published Authors are Sexy Seriously, it works. There are always opportunities arising to get your writing published. Whether it’s an op-ed in the campus newspaper, a piece of creative writing in a literary ‘zine, or a political diatribe in an activist publication, you’ve got options. Find out which publications are accepting submissions, talk to the editors, and write away. But the fun isn’t just for journalism students. For example, pre-med students can help professors conduct published research, which not only provides a sweet byline but a huge talking point for potential grad school applications. If any of this sounds above your skill-set, how about giving blogging a try? The blogosphere is gaining legitimate steam fast, and if you can show that you have enough interest in motivation to keep a blog about the subject of your choosing, that can be impressive in its own right. The most important thing here is to write about something that you’re passionate about, and write it well. Now is the time to dust off your writing skills and put them to good use. You’ve certainly got opinions to express, and there are plenty of venues in which you can do so. Almost every job requires some writing skill—show your writing chops in a finance-job interview, and you could be making up ground on your so-so math grades. When trying to become a well-rounded student, always remember that there are literally hundreds of opportunities available to you, and it’s your responsibility to take advantage of them. If all of this advice sounds overwhelming, just remind yourself how capable you really are. After all, you did get into college.