Coming into college, I wasn’t expecting to get too involved in the community outside of classes. But even though I was hesitant about the idea, eventually I decided I didn’t want to shy away from the amazing opportunities right in front of me, knowing I may never have the chance again. I’ve begun to value the time I have in college and have connected with many of my professors and advisors, who are just as interesting as the students themselves.
But you can get ahead of that learning curve. Here are a few tips I’ve heard from upperclassmen that have helped me find my place in college and can help you find yours too.
1. Study more
As you’ve probably heard, college is nothing like high school. If you’ve ever taken an AP or honors course, expect nothing less from your college education. Classes occur less frequently but with more material covered in a shorter period of time. I know balancing classes, work, extracurriculars, and your social life is tricky, but so many upperclassmen have told me about tests and essays they haven’t started that are due the next day, and I wonder how they manage to finish everything on time.
The estimated amount of studying recommended for each class is roughly double the amount of time you spend in the classroom, equating to roughly 30 hours a week. Though most college students don’t actually study this much, the goal is to understand the material enough to where you’re prepared for any pop quizzes or new deadlines. No one hates anything more than leaving all their test prep to the last minute (procrastination is the silent but deadly enemy), and you’ll thank yourself for being ahead of the game when midterms roll around.
Related: Secrets to Successful Studying
2. Use the library
Personally, I don’t go to the library much, but I really should because it’s one of the only places where I know I’ll get my homework and studying done. Studying in your dorm is easy if you have a single room, but for those of us who don’t, it can be hard to concentrate when your roommate is taking a nap or watching Netflix.
From my experience, most college library floors are assumed to be at a certain noise level. The first floor is considered the loudest, while the top floor is typically the quietest. I like to go somewhere in between because absolute silence drives me nuts and people talking loudly distracts me. Try out different nooks and crannies in the library, and eventually you’ll find your Goldilocks “just right” situation for optimum studying.
3. Get involved
Try a club! Volunteer! Join Greek life! There are so many opportunities on college campuses that allow you to meet new people and interact with a different crowd. For me, joining a sorority freshman year was one of the best decisions I made to help me feel at home again. Sisterhoods and brotherhoods immediately network you to so many people; plus, there’s always someone to hang out or study with!
I know Greek life isn’t for everyone, but keep looking for things to do and you may be pleasantly surprised by who you meet. Staying connected to the campus enriches your college experience and gets you out of your dorm room. Not to mention, most of these events are included in your college expenses, so milk it while you can!
4. Meet with your advisors and professors
Going into college, I was somewhat sure of my major. I chose a major that aligned with my ideals, thinking I would like it. Turns out it wasn’t my thing, and I can’t tell you how much research I did to find a major I did feel passionate about.
Part of my research included speaking with the advisors of the program I wanted to join. If you find an advisor you immediately connect with, you’ll have that extra support for when you begin the job search after college. Learning to build connections with your advisors will help you in the future, especially when you need a letter of recommendation or need to network for that career you’ve always wanted.
In college, programs and their reputability vary, so having options to change your major is something to consider when choosing your school. Professors are there to answer your questions concerning your classes, so show up to office hours to connect with them.
5. Take care of yourself
With all the extracurriculars and studying in college, sometimes we neglect our basic human needs of food, sleep, and exercise. Living your best life includes being in your best physical and mental health, so don’t neglect them. Find a friend to run or do yoga with, and set a reminder to go to sleep early if you know you have an early morning class. Skip that sugary latte or instant ramen and opt for a healthier (but still delicious) meal instead. Smoothies and sandwich wraps are great alternatives if you’re on the go!
Write your schedule in a planner or online calendar. Schedule your classes past 10:00 am and into the afternoon. I only had two 8:00 am classes my first year of college, so I could sleep in if I needed to on other days. Do whatever you know is best for your mind, body, and soul, and you’ll be left feeling more energized and attentive to your classes and the people around you.
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