By Claire Salinas
College is the best time of your life, but it also is a time of change and adjustment.
The real world doesn’t come with a manual or a study guide, but you’re still a few years away from that. We know how hard it is to be the new kid on the block, so from a season college vet, here’s a cheat sheet to your first year.
- The freshman 15 is a real thing, take steps to prevent it now
Whether you have exercised before or not, now is the time to find an exercise you enjoy and to make a plan to stick with it. College can bring a lot of stress, and the sooner you get an exercise and healthy eating plan in place, the less stressed you will be about the numbers on the scale.
- Find a few locations around campus you can escape to study quietly in
Studying in the library becomes a moot point when you sit on the first floor where all your friends are passing by to say hello. Finding that corner of the library that no one ever ventures to or the café that stays quiet between classes is essential to making the most of any free blocks of time you have during the day on campus.
- Find the best wi-fi hot spots in your area
Finding these spots will save you from the inevitable head banging that comes after you buy your favorite latte, turn on David Garret’s classic melodies, settle in and realize you have no Internet connection. Scout ahead of time.
- Get your sleep
This is a rule you’ve heard since first grade, but even in college it’s still true. It may seem like you can have it all by hanging out with friends all day and using the nighttime hours to finish your homework, but your body’s natural rhythms will eventually catch up with you and it could be disastrous.
- Get the technology you need
Technology is seriously worth investing in in college. That doesn’t mean you have to go into debt, but having a smartphone that gives email updates could be the difference between you finding out class is canceled on your morning commute versus when you arrive on campus.
- Meet with your professors
The trick to doing this successfully is to be strategic. The first time you meet with your professor shouldn’t be in the middle of the semester after you’ve had two failing test grades. Make an appointment to introduce yourself and maybe ask a brief question or two about the syllabus and the course. This way if you ask for help later in the semester you will already have established rapport with the professor.
- Form study groups
There is a formula to a successful study group. In my experience four or five people is the max amount you can have if you want to remain productive. No matter how many people there are, the group should always have a goal they want to accomplish at each study session if progress is to be made.
- Make a buddy in every class
Even the most organized people in the world run into traffic, get sick and have alarm failures. It is very possible that one of these may happen to you this semester, and for one reason or another you might end up missing a class. Make it a point to find someone responsible who can send you the notes when these things happen. This relationship is only mutually beneficial if you agree to do the same for your friend in their time of need.
- Take time to read parking rules and regulations
This could be the difference between you using that extra money you made Saturday to buy some new kicks or paying off a ticket.
- Scout out your class locations ahead of time
This may seem unnecessary, but if you have 15 minutes to get from one side of campus to another you need to make a plan for how you will do so. It also doesn’t hurt to avoid being the typical freshman asking for directions.
- Buy a planner and write drop dates and fee deadlines in them
The drop date is the last day you can withdraw from a class without having the bad grade you may have in the class thus far affect your GPA. Granted you still have to pay for the class you’re dropping, but the money you would spend on taking extra classes to pull up your GPA may make it worth it for you to pull out in the long run.
- Find an organization you can connect with on campus
College can get very lonely. Generally you will be working at your job, going to class and devoting many hours to your schoolwork. Finding an organization you connect with on campus, whether it be religious, recreational or academic, can help keep you focused when the going gets tough.
- Take breaks when you study
There are some degrees out there that are very time consuming in the studying department, but you will literally go insane if you don’t stop to take care of your human needs. Sitting in your chair willing yourself to study one more hour after you’ve been sitting there for three isn’t helping anyone.
- Be realistic about you can accomplish in one day
It’s really easy to put things off all weekend and think on Monday that you’ll finish that essay, attend class, go to tutoring, play in that intramural volleyball game and bake your best friend’s birthday cake. It is very likely that at least two of those things won’t happen, so plan ahead to accomplish what’s important to you.
- Don’t forget to schedule time to take care of normal life
Despite the responsibilities of college, you still have to pay your bills, get your oil changed and go to work. One of the things that makes college so challenging is that you have so many balls to juggle, with proper planning it can be done though. I hope you’ve been practicing your juggling, because you’re about to enter a circus.