So if you are reading this, chances are that you are entering your first year of college in the fall. Trust me when I say that more than likely your college experience is going to be a wild ride from start to finish. You’ll experience new things, meet new people, and learn quickly that college has a great deal to offer if only you are open to it. There are so many things that you can learn from tours and guide books, but few if any will fully prepare you for the true college experience. I have compiled here a list of things I wish I knew before plunging myself head first into the collegiate experience. I hope that my wisdom will help you on your way and save you from the potential hazards of higher education.
This is actually the second part of a two-part blog. For part one click here: Dorm Days: The Ultimate Freshman Survival Guide (Part One)
11.PUT EFFORT INTO YOUR SCHEDULE/MANAGE YOUR TIME
It’s very important to plan your schedule carefully. Don’t give yourself classes too early on in the day unless you actually plan on going to them. Keep in mind that your freshman year is going to be a wild ride and as much as we would all like to believe hard work comes before play, we all know that this is not always the case. If you plan your schedule and time accordingly, you can combat the growing temptations of your social climate and find the balance between work and play.
12. BE PREPARED FOR CLASS REGISTRATION
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freshman is to overlook the importance of class registration. All colleges have schedules on their main websites for activities and important dates; dates that clearly indicate the beginning and end of class registration. Keep track of when these dates are and know the specific date and time of when you are able to register. My university had appointment times that were determined by expected graduation date and specific majors. Due to the overwhelming size of my school, there were only a certain number of people who could register at a specific time so as not to overload the system. By knowing the date and time of your own individual registration, you’ll save yourself the stress of not getting into a class that you need to take (and could have had you been on top of things).
13.REMEMBER THAT COLLEGE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT
At the end of your college career, if you aren’t happy with the way things turned out, you have nobody to blame but yourself. It’s easy to find excuses and blame others for a lackluster college experience, but the reality of the situation is that you get out of the experience whatever you are willing to put into it. College is whatever you make of it. Take charge and turn it into something that you can look back on with a smile.
Not too long ago I wrote a blog titled Bridging The Gap, which talks about putting in the time and effort to stay connected to the people who matter most in your life. Unfortunately it’s very easy to lose touch with family and old friends when entering a new environment. By bridging the gap and staying connected to your family and old friends, you’ll keep yourself grounded at a time when it is so easy to get swept away.
15.DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
Many of us are either too nervous or too proud to admit that some things just don’t come easily and that we need help from time to time. There is nothing wrong with going to a professor’s office hours to have him or her explain something in a way that makes more sense to you. Most professors will do everything in their power to help you understand the material. Utilize the resources at your disposal and ask for assistance when it is needed. You’ll be happy you did.
16.TREAT YOUR SYLLABUS LIKE IT’S YOUR BEST FRIEND
I cannot stress enough the importance of a class syllabus. Few professors will ever stray from the syllabus that is handed out at the beginning of the semester. It outlines everything you need to know about the course (important dates, assignments, grading guidelines, office hours, etc.) and acts as your bible for as long as you are in that class. Chances are that if you have a question about something, the answer is in the syllabus. When I was a teaching assistant, there was nothing I hated more than being bombarded with questions that could have been easily answered by reading the syllabus. Do yourself and your teaching staff a favor: read the syllabus!
One of the most difficult things to do when entering a new environment is to step outside of your comfort zone. If you really stop to think about it, though, you are already out of your comfort zone by being in a new environment. So why not take your fear and kick it to the curb? Don’t do what everybody else expects you to do. If you get the chance to take creative liberties on projects or papers, take it. If you get the opportunity to challenge the views of a classmate or even your professor, take it. By challenging an idea you are showing who you are and maybe providing a new perspective that someone else had not previously considered. Take chances. I think you’d be surprised at how well things may work out as a result.
18.STAND YOUR GROUND
A good friend of mine in college had a professor who made it very clear in his first class session that his views were the only correct views on any given topic; unfortunately for his students, his views were narrow-minded lies with a touch of bigotry. My friend immediately spoke up and challenged his views because she refused to listen to the bullshit that was flowing forth from his flapping gums. Within two days’ time she had dropped the class from her schedule. The point of this story is that you shouldn’t be afraid to challenge someone who is in the wrong. If someone is blatantly lying about something or preaching bigotry, stand up, speak your peace, and stand your ground. This is your education. Don’t let someone else fill your mind with bigotry and don’t even for a second settle for a subpar education from someone who’s head is clearly up his ass.
19.BE GOOD TO YOUR LIVER/DRINK RESPONSIBLY
If there is one thing I have learned in the last twenty-three years it’s that common sense is not common. Just because you can drink a dozen beers in less than an hour doesn’t mean you should. While it’s great to let loose and get lost in the whims of college drinking, keep in mind that not all choices have pleasant results. Take it from someone who lost a friend to drunk driving. Every decision you make has consequences whether they are immediate or in the distant future. Be cautious and remember that your actions affect not only you, but those around you.
20.DON’T SWEAT THE LITTLE THINGS
While this piece of advice may be pertinent to your life as a whole, it is especially important at this crucial point in your life. College is a shit storm at times and your early twenties are going to be confusing, challenging, and highly indicative of the person you will become. The way you handle the stresses of school and life is entirely up to you. In my experience, though, you’ll find greater happiness in letting go of the things that simply do not matter. If you miss an assignment, don’t kick yourself. Just make sure you don’t miss the next one. Everybody makes mistakes; it’s how we learn. So embrace the little things as what they are: little, trivial, and hardly worth the energy that you’re expending by worrying about them.
I hope this advice has helped you in some way and I wish you luck in your college career!
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry