Coming into college, I didn’t have any expectations about what I wanted to do, except that I wanted to try everything I was interested in. Even though I was a bit nervous about being a freshman, I was able to push outside my comfort zone and participate in all the amazing opportunities a college education offers. Here are a few tips that I've implemented in my college career that may help you maximize your own experience!
1. Study more (and study early)
As you’ve probably heard, college is nothing like high school. If you’ve ever taken an Advanced Placement (AP) or honors course, expect nothing less from your college education. Classes occur less frequently but with more material covered in a shorter period. While balancing classes with work and extracurriculars is no easy feat, prioritizing classes should be your #1 focus. The estimated amount of studying recommended for each class is roughly double the amount of time you spend in a lecture, equating to roughly 30 hours a week. Though most college students typically don’t study this much, the goal is to ensure that you’re prepared for any new deadlines, pop quizzes, or class discussions. Seeing students cramming and leaving all their test prep to the last minute is not uncommon on a college campus. By preparing beforehand, you’ll thank yourself for being ahead of the game when midterms roll around.
2. Use the library
The library is a fantastic resource if you need to escape the distractions in your dorm room or your surrounding environment. Personally, it’s one of the only places where I’m guaranteed to get my homework and studying done. For those of us who are easily tempted by streaming our favorite sitcoms, eating snacks from the kitchen, or chatting with friends, the library can serve as a study retreat. 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 normally the quietest. I like to go somewhere in between because absolute silence drives me nuts and too many voices distract me. Try out different nooks and crannies in the library, and eventually you’ll find your Goldilocks “just right” situation for optimum studying.
3. Try something new each term
Join a club! Go volunteer! Apply for an internship! There are so many opportunities on college campuses that allow you to network with new people and interact with students with different interests. Each new term, I challenged myself to try one new activity I was interested in, ranging anywhere from joining on-campus organizations to partaking in micro-internships. From there, I determined what experiences I wanted to continue into the future and which ones I didn’t. Try new things, know that you will fail sometimes, and keep trying. Look for things to do and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can accomplish and who you meet. Staying connected to your own interests, either within the campus or outside your college, enriches your affinity for finding out what you’re truly passionate about. Not to mention, many college organizations and career fairs are included in your college expenses, so milk it while you can!
4. Meet with your advisors and professors
Going into college, I had major doubts (no pun intended). I was hesitant about my major and went through an entire phase of debating whether I should change it or not. In thinking my entire future depended on whether I continued on my current path, I learned how to approach the situation the difficult way. Speaking with my advisors and professors provided meaningful perspective where I was able to happily settle with where I was meant to be. (In college, programs and their reputability vary, so having options to change your major is something to consider when choosing your school.)
Part of my research included speaking with the advisors of the program I was in. 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 networking connection for job applications. Professors are there to answer your questions concerning your classes and goals, 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 healthiest life includes being in your best physical and mental health, so don’t neglect any signals from your body to slow down. 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 if you're more of a night owl. 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.
College is a unique opportunity for self-exploration and learning how to live independently. It's a safe environment to make mistakes, learn from them, and ultimately grow beyond set expectations you may have had for yourself. Imagine your future and how you'd like your college experience to be, then take the next course of action to make it so. Hopefully these tips will give you some guidance to help reach your goals in your college career, leading to a more rewarding experience!
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