A New York VC gave a college freshman 7 pieces of advice, including land a summer internship by December

Steve Schlafman and his youth mentee, Jake.

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Steve Schlafman and his youth mentee, Jake.
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Courtesy of Steve Schlafman

  • As a new school year begins, New York-based VC Steve Schalfman shared his best advice for college.
  • One was to find your summer internship by December.
  • Another was to schedule early morning classes.

A jittery new batch of freshmen are moving to start their first year of college this month – and advice is pouring in from adults everywhere.

Steve Schalfman, the seed investor for New York-based Primary Venture Partners, provided his own list of must-dos for his mentee Jacob via Twitter.

We called up Schlafman, who graduated from Northeastern University, to ask a bit more about his advice. Here’s what he said about each point:

1. Take wide range of classes

“I primarily focused on core classes and business, because I studied business in undergrad. If I could have done it over again, I would have taken more classes in philosophy or design. I would have done a lot more exploration and not be so focused on what my major was. I often feel we don’t know what we want, so being exposed to a wide range of things in that period often leads to more possibility. To me, it’s about opening up to different ideas and disciplines, which I think leads to more possibility.”

2. Find a summer internship by December

“This isn’t for everyone. There are times you have to be a kid, a responsible teenager, or a college student and enjoy the summer. But I always found that, at Northeastern, when I would treat finding an internship as almost an extra class of sorts in the first semester, it relieved the pressure of, ‘What am I going to do this summer?’

“Most of the best internships are filled by December or the first quarter. For me, it created a mindset of, ‘I’m going to go after my summer internship before anyone else is even thinking about it.’ It just kind of gives you a leg up.”

3. Grill faculty about their work, not class work

“When I engaged with my faculty, it was about the class work. I really regret not spending time in their office hours, not being curious about their own work. These people obviously have lives outside of the university and research. Many are in industry, so really trying to understand their work (is important).”

4. Schedule morning classes

“I found that by scheduling early classes, it allowed me to finish earlier in the day and that freed up a tremendous amount of time, so I could get my work done in the afternoon. It just sort of forces you to be a little more disciplined and have more time to have a more well-rounded experience.

“If I’m waking up at 10, have class at noon, and am doing work in the evenings, it doesn’t leave for a whole lot of time to get other things in – in terms of being a leader and getting things done.”

5. Have fun but don’t stay out past 2am

“If I had rewritten it, it would be like, ‘Don’t stay out past 1 a.m.’ If you’re out late, bad things probably are not gonna happen, but it increase the chance for things to go wrong. And if you’re out past 1 a.m., you can’t get up for your early classes.”

6. Find and meet people not like you

“Seek out people that are different from you. It leads to a much richer experience because you will just gain a whole range of people with different upbringings.

“In college, I became really good friends with a Puerto Rican American. He was such a unique guy and I gravitated towards him. He was super eclectic. (When I was thinking about college advice,) I thought back to my time in college and thought how I really loved spending time with him.”

7. Bonus: Be a leader

“I was always a big believer in this notion of being a leader. I’ve seen so many students in college who just coast, who don’t really do much. I think this is a really great time in a person’s life to form their own identity and be a leader. I remember when I first got on campus, I was thinking I wanted to lead, I wanted to well academically.

“The whole notion of being a leader teaches you so much that it becomes transferable to the real world. “