One of the best things I did at Rutgers was to find a mentor. I started my studies with the opinion that I could achieve good grades and participate in a variety of clubs and activities all on my own (I was wrong). In all four years of college (and even post-graduation), a mentor helped me figure out what courses to take, broadened my view of different opportunities to chase, and kept me motivated.
I was lucky enough to have found a mentor early, even if I did not truly realize it at the time. My first mentor was my FIGS (First-year Interest Group Seminar) instructor. I had registered for a FIGS course because I felt I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare and medicine. At the same time, I did not know much about the field and really only had a rough picture of what doctors, nurses and dentists do.
My instructor went above and beyond in helping me when I took the initiative to attend his office hours. In class and in reading many of my responses to assignments, he was able to glean that I had a genuine interest in medicine. While he was not pre-med (he wanted to go to dental school), he asked around and managed to find the class schedule of a senior who was applying to medical schools that year. On the schedule was a semester-by-semester breakdown of the courses she had taken to fulfill her major requirements and her medical school pre-requisites. Many of the courses on that class schedule are ones I ended up taking to fulfill my graduation and medical school requirements.
Besides encouraging me to work hard on academics, he also pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and reach for extracurricular opportunities. Because of his advice, I went on to pursue research, sing in the University Choir, and volunteer at a children’s hospital; opportunities I might have passed on or not pursued if he had not motivated me.
One of the best things about attending Rutgers University is that there are a lot of people who are willing to help including professors, teaching assistants, advisors, and upperclassmen.
Find a Mentor Early
Go to class and ask questions.
You do not have to sit in the front row or even necessarily participate during class, but staying five minutes after to ask a question or even just speak to the instructor will go a long way.
Go to office hours.
Allow the professor/TA to know who you are or at least recognize your face. Visit their office hours.
Join a club/organization that is interesting to you.
A mentor does not need to be a teacher; they can be another student.
Meet with an academic advisor as early as you can.
Regardless of what school you are enrolled in or what major you choose, an advisor can help you find classes that will interest you the most.
While most of this post is focused on finding a mentor early, it helps to have a mentor or mentors throughout undergrad and even throughout your life as well. Do not be afraid to surround yourself with people who challenge you or have more experience than you. Having multiple mentors throughout college has helped guide me and keep me on track.