I was driving my sister home from our grandmother’s house. We were discussing the upcoming school year, which would begin the following day. She’s a college freshman, something that I’ve come to cope with over the past few months since her high school graduation. As we sat in my car, she started to explain how nervous she felt at the thought of starting college. I’m a senior, so my first day was quite a while back. However, as she began to ask for advice, I realized that there was so much no one had ever told me about going to college.
Maybe you’re a freshman, or perhaps even going into your third year of school, but I’d like to share what I’ve learned so that you might be able to apply it to ease your college experience. It’s never too late to learn.
Take good notes.
The greatest thing you can learn how to do, is to learn how to take good notes. I have entire Pinterest boards dedicated to note taking procedures (proud nerd, okay?). Before college, I usually scribbled all of my notes in the same format, into the same notebook for every class. Having organized notes that best serve the class they are taken in will make exams so much easier. This is your excuse to splurge on new notebooks and pretty pens and highlighters, so take it.
Pro-tip: if your professor writes something on the board or repeats it multiple times, summarize and highlight it.
Draft your team.
College cannot be navigated alone. Don’t kid yourself, college can be really hard and you absolutely need a support team to maintain good grades and your sanity. This team can be a combination of supportive family members, caring friends, and knowledgeable faculty. Also, check to see what mental health services your college offers. It is best to have a plan and a team in place before life gets rough. You’ll have so many good days, but prepare for the bad and draft your team.
No one cares.
Coming from a small, private Christian school and attending college at a large, public institution provided me with the greatest surprise of my life: no one cared. I felt like a little goldfish that had suddenly been dropped into the ocean, but I was free to become whoever I wanted to be. One of the most beautiful things about college is that you can start fresh. Sure, you may get to school already knowing several people on campus, but as a whole, college really is a great time to come into your own. I encourage you to cast aside all fear of what anyone else will think, and try something new.
Everyone has their own story.
This is for the person who had different plans for their college experience.
I want you to know that I see you. I was you. Maybe you didn’t get into your dream school, or you can’t afford your dream school. Maybe you thought college was going to be much easier, or you’re finding yourself hating your intended major. Maybe you have to take a break from school to preserve your physical or mental health. That’s okay.
You aren’t a failure. Your dreams are still valid. Please don’t let society dictate to you how everything is supposed to pan out because the honest truth is that everyone has their own story. Relish in yours when you begin to doubt the outcome.
I promise that will all make it at some point, the journey along the way is what makes you unique and allows you to combat whatever life will throw at you beyond commencement.
You’ve probably heard this countless times over the course of your education, but please remember to eat. There is a reason why we’re told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You simply cannot expect to function properly or retain information on a starving body. Try to meal prep or keep protein bars and snacks handy. During finals week, I’ve been known to survive solely on a diet of NuGo bars and iced coffee. I don’t recommend this, but something is better than nothing, trust me.
I emphasized this to my sister as we chatted on our ride home. Showing up to class on time is one of the easiest and most pivotal things you can do to succeed. Being on time shows your professor that you take yourself and the class seriously, and this alone has come in handy multiple times in classes where I might have otherwise failed. Plus, college is expensive! Don’t let money go to waste by missing an opportunity to learn.
The most important, underrated day of the year.
I know, most of us would rather soak up the last few days in the sun than attend class during syllabi week. However, this ties into showing the professor that you mean business. Not going to class the first couple of days can really set you back, and can set the tone for the rest of the semester. Attending, if even to just go over the syllabi will help you to feel prepared for the upcoming semester and is a good time to clarify anything you might be confused about later on if you don’t.