It goes without saying that college can definitely mark some of the most exciting times in a young person’s life.
It is a time for experimentation, for growing as a person, for learning, for maturing and for figuring out who you really are. But, as we learn sooner or later in life, nothing comes easy, and college is not always going to be a free ride down an open road. There are also many hurdles for students to overcome in order to achieve their goals and to get the most out of their college experience. Some silly, some serious, these tips are everything you need to know for college survival 101.
Step One: Â Choose a class schedule that you really WILL benefit from. No one wants to be that senior that is in all freshman general education courses during their fourth year at school. Sure, procrastination gets the best of us from time to time, but let it get to you on a homework assignment or two, not a whole class. Although you may be a theater major and math just REALLY isn’t your thing, get that Math 107 course out of the way your freshman year. By completing your general education requirements early on in your college career, you will make room for the core classes that you really need to focus on for graduation purposes. General education classes are also often prerequisites for classes specific to you major. You do not want to be the lazy bum that skipped ART 100 thinking you could take it as a senior year ‘nap class’ only to find out later on that it needs to be taken before you can get a permission number for Art 300 and Art 430.
If you are the type that just cannot seem to find that morning motivation, don’t sweat it, curtail your schedule to compliment your personal schedule. But don’t rule out a class just because it’s only offered at 9 a.m. on Friday morning. I promise you can survive getting up early this one semester. If you get all of your classes done in a timely manner, you will have the freedom come your senior year to design your schedule just the way you would like. Don’t want class Friday? Poof! You got it. Want to sleep until two on Mondays, no problem! The more general requirements you get out of the way and the more you fill up your schedule properly, you will find the time to get a part-time job or internship senior year.
Step Two: Get to know your professors. Sometimes the thought of hearing nails on a chalkboard might sound more appealing than listening to your professor babble on about a whole bunch of mumbo-jumbo in a monotone voice for an hour. And, sometimes, I would have to agree with you. But trust me on this one: your professors do know a thing or two about what they’re talking about. Make it a point to create as many personal relationships as possible with your professors. Schedule an appointment to meet them during office hours, strive to participate in class even if you have no idea what the hell is actually going on—effort still goes a long way! It is more likely than not that your professor has a lot of work experience in the subject they’re teaching. Just one sincere conversation with your unbearable American Politics professor and you may learn she has been on panel at White House debates. One meeting with your film professor and you might find out he co-directed The Butterfly Effect with Eric Bress and still keeps in touch with Johnny Depp. Honestly, the possibilities are endless, and these professors do really know what they’re doing.
Life is all about who you know and the connections you make. So why not make a connection with the same person you see every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for bio lecture? The benefits you could reap, as well as the knowledge you will gain, is nothing short of plentiful. Plus, after you realize how cool your professor really is, lecture won’t be as boring as it seemed anymore, trust me.
Step Three: Get involved! College can be a handful. At times you might just decide to live in the library because of all the work you have piled up. There will come a time when you will swear up and down that you do not even have so much as a second of relaxation time during the day but, in reality, you more likely than not just put off so much work until the last minute that THAT’S why you don’t have any time. Space your work out and complete it little by little so that you have at least some time every day to get involved in different campus clubs and organizations that you may never knew you were interested in before.
Feeling strong? Why not join Habitat for Humanity club and build some houses on the weekend. Feeling antsy? Take your jitters over to hip hop club and they can teach you how to put those moves to good use. No matter what your interests are, there are countless opportunities for each college student to get involved in without even having to step foot off of campus.
Don’t underestimate the power of community in clubs as well. Too often than not, students, especially first year students, find themselves in an overwhelming situation. It is their first time away from home and one their own. They don’t know anyone and they feel so alone. It is ok to be upset and to cry once or twice. But the main cure for homelessness if to beat it! Join a club that you are interested in and, in no time, you won’t even believe how many new friends and connections you will have made. All of a sudden, new ‘friends’ will be showing up at you dorm room to hang out and you won’t even realize you were ever feeling lonely.
Step Four: Don’t forget the purpose of college. Yes, most college students party at one point or another; it is part of the culture of a college student. Â Still, college is what you make of it and trading in study time for shot time could hurt you and your GPA in the long run. First of all, and most of the times least important of all, is the amount of unnecessary calories you consume while drinking. All of those fancy cocktails and sweet chasers really add to those thunder things that you were trying to burn off on the elliptical the day before. But that’s not all.
Thirsty Thursday often leads to ‘forget about it Friday,’ and by it, I mean class. Drinking on week days is most likely going to lead to a nasty hangover the next morning. Aside from the regret that you face waking up to a half-eaten slice of greasy takeout pizza, the motivation to get out of bed and start over the next day bright and early is also slim to none. Do yourself a favor and limit the drinking that you do while at college. Although it may seem like ‘everybody’s doing it,’ that’s honestly not true, and you will agree in the long run. Plus you won’t have to smell like stale beer like that kid in the back of the room does every Friday in class.
And that finally leads me to step five: Â remember to have fun. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I just told you not to party. But that doesn’t mean you can never have fun. Come on! Everyone needs to live a little and this might be the last time you have some freedom in life before you graduate and, brace yourself, have to become a real and functioning human being. Take road trips on the weekend to unplanned destinations; sing bad karaoke at the bar in front of the whole varsity football team, and, once in a while, have an extra shot or two because sometimes you just deserve it. College is about making memories and relishing the journey that you take to discover yourself and mature into the adult that you will be. College is the time to make mistakes and learn from them so that you get it right in the future. As long as you figure out how to balance all the odds and ends for yourself, you will realize, before you know it, that you survived college.