This past week marked the start of my junior year of college, and this weekend, my ‘little’ sister moves into her freshman dorm. Time is moving way too quickly. During our last meal together, after my family helped me move in, I decided to share with her all the things I thought she needed to know for college.
Basically, I rambled for a good twenty minutes about my personal experiences while she nodded and rolled her eyes. However, I think in the past two years I have discovered some tips and tricks for college that are worth sharing. Here are my top 10.
- Get Involved: College is a time to meet new people, explore new opportunities, and gain new experiences. Freshman year I ran for class council vice president on a whim, and won. Sophomore year I ran for president of a student mentoring group on campus, and again, won. Aside from building a great resume, I have met so many new, awesome people and discovered some really cool ways to spend my free time. I said ‘yes’ when my suite-mate asked us all to join the ultimate frisbee team she played on. I try to attend as many events on campus as possible. Most of the time, you get free things, and us college kids love free things. If there’s one thing you can do to make your experience at college better, it’s to take risks and do something out of your comfort zone.
- Make Your Space Your Own: You will spend a lot of time in your dorm room, at least you will want to, if you make it feel like home. Decorating your space is so much fun. Personalize it as much as possible. Make it comfortable.
- Don’t Stress About Your Roommates: Sometimes they become your best friends and sometimes they don’t. However, if their living style doesn’t match yours, be vocal about it. You don’t have to leave passive notes on a pile of dirty dishes, just have an honest conversation. Give them a gentle push into (sort of) adulthood. Also, you don’t have to hangout with them; you can make other friends. The people around you shouldn’t cause you stress, so find your ‘squad’ and focus on having a blast.
- Sit In the Front Row of Class: My best friend’s mom gave me this piece of advice before freshman year and it’s stuck with me ever since. For some reason, it just works. It’s easier to focus and most of the time you’ll actually get to know your professor which can be super helpful in the future. The way I think of it, the closer to the front, the higher your grade- if you’re willing to put in the work of course. Easy as that.
- Don’t Skip Class: If you have a huge lecture hall, chances are the teacher will not take attendance. This makes it very tempting to skip class. Don’t. First, you (or a parent) are paying good money for you to attend these classes. Why waste that? Second, the best way to do well in a class, is to actually attend the class. Lectures are important, and most of the time, teachers are incredibly helpful and informative. Utilize that and don’t just skip for nothing.
- Prioritize Your Time: In college you have a lot of free time. Make sure you spend it wisely. A night in your room with popcorn and Netflix may be needed now and again, but don’t forget about homework, and friends, and clubs or sports. Make time to go to different events on campus. Once I’ve put aside time for work, my goal for a week is to say ‘no’ as little as possible. If my friends are headed anywhere, I always consider tagging along. Sometimes the best memories are made from completely spontaneous events.
- Always Do the Reading: Similar to attending classes, a lot of the times the readings that your class requires are imperative to doing well. Sure, sometimes you can skim because the teacher gives really good notes in class, but more often than not, something on a quiz or test is going to come directly from the text, and the teacher might not have mentioned it in lecture. It might seem taxing, but if you put in the time, you’ll be rewarded.
- Pay Attention to Your Mental Health: College is stressful. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. There’s a lot going on and a lot to do. You are (hopefully) functioning on a higher academic level and you are (most likely) on your own for the first time ever. That’s going to take a toll. Make sure you take time for yourself, to relax and de-stress. Check in every now and again with how you’re feeling. Be honest with yourself and if you need help, there are always people you can go to. Friends, roommates, counselors, teachers, RA’s. The list goes on and on. Feeling good is always a priority.
- Eat Well and Utilize the Gym: The dining hall is full of fried food, carbs, and sugar. It’s hard to resist the mac and cheese and ice-cream. My rule of thumb is if I have something not so healthy for lunch, I’ll eat something healthier for dinner. Also, your college has a gym- find it and use it! Exercise, as much as I hate to admit it, is so important! Join club sports (this is me shamelessly plugging ultimate frisbee because it’s awesome) or do things on your own time. Any kind of physical activity is beneficial.
- Take Your Time: It’s the truest cliche: college goes by in the blink of an eye. Enjoy the time you have and the freedom you have because the real world is coming quick. You’re allowed to make mistakes, to pull all nighters, to order Dominos Pizza at midnight and to go a little crazy. Make the most of your time and as my Grandma Barbie would say, make sure you ‘Grab Everything.’