5 pieces of advice for a new college student

College is an awesome time. Your four years (give or take) at school can be the most awarding years of your life if used adeptly. Nearly anyone can make their way through four years of college, but emerging on the other side a transformed person requires far more than the minimum stipulations. As someone who’s been in college for a while, I would like to share my insight into the key principals required for new college students to thrive. If you are in college already, read these tips and brainstorm circumstantial steps you can take to achieve each of them.

1. Go to class

This should be such a no brainer.

But then you find yourself with 20 minutes to make it to your 8 am and a night full of everything except for sleep backing you up. Dilemma right?

Wait. This is college so that means I can just skip class!

Wrong.

Well, not wrong. But not right either.

Not going to class in college is like renting a hotel room and sleeping on the street. I can tell you that one of the biggest regrets any college sophomore will have is skipping too much class.

Is it alright to skip every now and again when it’s absolutely necessary? Of course! Just don’t make a habit of it.

2. Find your zone

I’m tempted to tell you that cutting out all procrastination is the way to go, but if I’m being honest, it depends on who you are. For some, I would say — without a doubt — start your paper today and stop procrastinating.

I myself am one of these people. If I don’t decide to start it right away, the next step my mind will take is deciding not to do it at all.  Further, starting my work the moment I receive it alleviates a lot of stress that can build up quickly.

That is all good advice!

But here is some even better advice. Learn the way in which you as an individual can achieve a high level of focus and be as productive as possible when working.  I know people who save everything until the night before. They take every textbook they own to the library and have a

I know people who save all of their work until the night before. They take every textbook they own to the library and have a 12-hour session of nothing but school work — mostly work that they could’ve done a month ago.

And the thing is, their grades are just as good if not better than the average student.

I am not advocating for this specific type of strategy, but people who do this understand something very crucial when it comes to getting work done.

A person who is extremely focused can always work quicker and demonstrate better quality work than someone who isn’t focused.

Better focus = better productivity.

If a student can find the place/setting/time in which their focus reaches its highest point, they can finish hours of work in a fraction of the time. The kind of person I mentioned above is simply a procrastinator with a meritorious ability to focus. They have no special skills or secret formula. All they know how to do is FOCUS.

This looks different for every person.

  1. Do you enjoy studying at restaurants and coffee shops or do you prefer your own room?
  2. Do you like to pop in headphones while you work or do you need dead silence?
  3. Are you more productive with a pen and paper as supposed to a laptop?
  4. Do you work better with company or alone?

Do some experimenting on your own to find out how your focus is affected by these different factors.

Side note: Don’t use attention-enhancing drugs like Adderall because the side effects could be damaging to your health. In the long run, they just aren’t worth it.

Whether you work best sitting on the floor of your room, in a loud coffee shop, or in the quiet corner of the library, it’s important to find the setting in which your brain can perform to its full capacity.

3. Friends

Be as social as possible your freshman year. Don’t shy away from making friends because sophomore year and on, it becomes much more difficult.

Why?

There are a couple of reasons this happens. When everyone arrives at school at the beginning of freshman year, everybody’s a stranger (with exceptions). Throughout the entirety of this first year, friends groups are forming and cliques are filtering people in and out all the time. And by the beginning of sophomore year, these groups are mostly solidified so from then on, it’s difficult to change them.

Another reason is, if you live in the dorms your first year, everyone is easily accessible and can hang out together all the time. When you live elsewhere, hanging out with a friend isn’t as easy as walking down the hall anymore. We all know that dorm life can be vexatious, but I urge you to take advantage of the social aspect provided while in the dorms.

4. Learn to cook

Don’t know how to cook?

Well you better light up the stove and start learning or you won’t survive the first week. Unless you live in the dorms or are on some meal plan with your school, cooking is an essential skill for college life.

You hear all of these jokes about how college students eat super unhealthy foods like ramen every day.  But the reason for this is often two-fold.

Yes, they don’t have a lot of money to spend on quality food, but their cooking skill only provides them enough ability to boil a cup of water anyway.

No wonder ramen is a daily choice.

Now for the guys out there, just because you’re a guy doesn’t mean you can’t cook well. I am a guy and I can tell you that all it takes is a little practice.

Actually it takes a lot of practice.

For two weeks during my sophomore year of college, I made burgers every single day.

Every. Single. Day.

Why?

Because I cooked a burger worse than Squidward could play the clarinet. My first burger tasted like a piece of cardboard that was stuffed under a dumpster for three days. But I didn’t give up —  in fact, I even did it with steaks too!

Could I have given myself a heart attack doing this?

Possibly. But it was all worth it.

Because now, when I have money for burger patties, I can whip myself up a nice dinner that doesn’t taste half bad and even makes me feel like I’m not roughing it so much.

The power of food is awesome!

5. Make an assignment spreadsheet

This is more of an organizational tip for anyone who has trouble staying caught up in college. For the first year and a half of college, I kept track of all my assignments in my head. It wasn’t that difficult because I only had 4 or 5 classes per semester with maybe 1 or 2 things due each week.

Then a new semester came, and all of the sudden I was bombarded with a surfeit of assignments and due dates like never before. My memory was quickly tested — unnecessarily I might add. I just couldn’t keep up with all the work. It was like the schoolwork elephant (wearing a nice suit and tie of course) stomped on me and stayed there until I convinced him to get off.

Eventually, I decided something needed to be done and so I came up with an easy fix.

SPREADSHEET!

Don’t you love spreadsheets? They are like a rubric for your life.

I split this spreadsheet up into weeks and marked down every assignment I needed to get done during the semester (teachers typically give you a syllabus showing this information). Whenever I sit down to do school work, I pull up that spreadsheet and look at what’s due that week. Once I finish an assignment, I simply delete that row so I only see work I haven’t completed yet.

Whenever I sit down to do school work, I pull up that spreadsheet and look at what’s due that week. Once I finish an assignment, I simply delete that row so I only see work I haven’t completed yet.

Works like a charm.

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