Headed off to College? Go you! Now I get it, there’s a tiny part of you that is peeing in your pants. It's normal to be nervous. The whole idea of going away to college is a lot to handle. You're probably worried about how you're going to juggle your course load, making friends, not flunking out, choosing a major, doing your own laundry, making friends, making friends, and of course PARTYING (no don't party ::wink wink::).
Here's how college works, it really isn't a sink or swim kind of environment. If you're struggling you just grab a floatie and float around until you figure out how to swim. So allow me to throw you your first official college floatie with my tips to getting the very most out of your college experience.
Don’t you roll your eyes at me! Let’s make this quick-College is a privilege and it's your job to do well. Ask yourself why you chose to go to college. If the answer is, "Because that's what you do after high school" you need to figure yourself out. College isn't the only option. It's a fantastic choice and the one that I personally recommend because it will make you a better person, but take a second to think about why you want to go.
Now what's the goal of your college experience? Is it to get straight A’s? WONDERFUL! GO YOU! But getting an A in a class isn’t the point. These four years aren’t just a stepping stone before grad school. Challenge and question yourself. Immerse yourself in subjects you know absolutely nothing about! Things that excite and scare the crap out of you! It’s those classes that will make studying enjoyable and not just something you have to endure. DO YOUR WORK! Don’t half ass ANYTHING. BE A SPONGE. Everything you think you know, just suspend it. It’s OK to question and doubt yourself! THAT is the beauty of a college education. Devote time to study and strive to understand the material.
2. You Just Might Fail a Class.
My mom gave me an really good piece of advice when she moved me into my first college apartment. She told me, “You are probably going to encounter a course that no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you study, you just might fail.” I never failed a class, the worst I did was a C my first semester (because I half assed it and didn't want to apply myself. I was forced to take the class by my guidance counselor. She told me it was something to "get out of the way." DON'T TAKE A CLASS TO GET IT OUT OF THE WAY!) Now, there will be a time when you need to take a course you don’t care anything about to fulfill some requirement or another. It is your job to find a course, no matter how deviant to your major or to your interests, find a way to care about it. And if there’s a class you just can’t devote enough time to, perhaps you signed up for too many units to graduate in time etc. etc. etc. you may fail or you may just squeak by. The world is not going to end. Your future is not over. Just try as best you can. You'll learn from the experience. (I learned that I'm lazy...and that I don't like being told what to do. Ironically, I'm still working on that...)
3. Use RateMyProfessor.com
This was my favorite website in college because I could use it as a resource to find the classes with the most exciting and cutting edge professors. I live for a class where discussions are a large part of your grade. I was that girl who sat in the front row of a class cracking jokes with a professor and getting all worked up about Greek Myth or Pagan Culture because the Professor made it exciting. But that's what worked for me! Maybe you hate class discussions! Find classes that don't have many!
Use Ratemyprofessor.com to find the professors who teach the way you like to learn. Do you like huge research projects? There’s a professor for that! Do you hope for a teacher who doesn’t use power points? There’s a teacher for that! Do you hope for a professor who spends their time working in their field? They’re out there as well! Remember, engage with your Professors! If you care enough they will care about you. I still talk to half of my college professors. We meet for drinks when one or the other is in town and I still turn to them for advice.
4. Give yourself time to make friends.
It took me months to acquire my first group of friends and even longer to establish my group... And I was a theater major! Do you want to know who the easiest people to become best friends with are? The theater people! But everyone feels that nervous energy when they first start school. You are probably going to spend more time than you are used to alone. DON’T FIGHT IT JUST LET IT HAPPEN.
During my first two months of college I clung to my best childhood friend who happened to be going to the same college as me. We grew apart in High School but started to hang out again when we went to college. She liked to party. I hated everything about the people she hung out with. I didn’t fit in and I never felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. It made me self conscious that I didn't look or dress like the other girls. No one had anything in common with me or seemed to care to get to know me. But I didn’t have any friends and I thought that I wanted that particular “college experience.” Turns out, every college experience is different!
My advice? Don’t feel the need to hang around people that you don’t enjoy being with. You want to rush a sorority or fraternity? That’s fantastic! You are auditioning them just as much as they are auditioning you. Stay confident and honest. You will find a group of friends, you just have to be patient. The most important thing is to get out there! Just try new things and engage.
5. Introduce Yourself.
On your first day of every class of the rest of your college career, turn to the people around and say this, “Hey my name is (insert name here). Nice to meet you.”
Possible follow up questions,
“I’m from (insert hometown here) are you from (insert where school is located)?”
“This is my (insert year of college) what about you.”
“I haven’t/had heard anything about the professor, have you?”
"What's your major?"
“What other courses are you taking this semester?”
MAKE FRIENDS OR ACQUAINTANCES IN YOUR CLASSES! You may miss a class and need someone to give you notes! Or you can study together before exams! AND should a group project arise, you already have a group of people you trust! Or hey, you may find a new friend! Just introduce yourself. You don't need to spend all your free time with them but at least you will know people in your class. Sit down, turn around and say hi. It will make every class you take A BILLION times easier. I PROMISE.
6. Take Care of Yourself.
I say this in all seriousness, take care of yourself. You know how to feed yourself by this point. Should you eat tater tots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner just because you can? NO! Terrible idea! Remember to include fruits and vegetables into your diet. If you are in an apartment, learn to cook! Learn how to grocery shop for items other than pop tarts and bagel bites. And exercise! I cannot stress enough how important exercise is in college. If your college offers a gym, establish it into your routine early on. Just hop on an elliptical and have at it for 30 minutes. It will do wonders for your stress levels and it will help you feel in control when things get crazy. Routine is a wonderful thing.
7. Watch Your Drinking
Let’s get serious for a minute. We all know that some of you are going to drink the alcohol in college. You have sat through more than enough Health courses to know that drinking can be dangerous. When I first went off to college, I remember seeing a lot of people get really, really sick because they didn’t drink responsibly. But I get it, no one is around to tell you what to do so you get too turnt up! Drinking responsibly doesn’t mean boring you guys. Drinking responsibly means reaching for a water bottle in between drinks and watching out for the people around you. Anyone who says anything to you about drinking a water I give you permission to punch in the face. Because that person is saying, "I am a huge dick." Blacking out is dangerous. When you black out, your body is shutting down. YOU GUYS, IT TAKES 30 MINUTES TO FEEL THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL. That means if you take 1 shot of liquor, it will take more than 30 minutes to feel it. BE PATIENT! Don't go knocking back shots! Don't "pound" alcohol. I'm not saying don't drink, I am saying drink responsibly. AND NEVER drink on an empty stomach. Always eat a real meal if you plan on drinking. And if you’re learning how to drink, remember that those sugary mojitos, margaritas, beer, etc etc are empty calories. The freshman 15/30/50 comes from drinking alcohol.
And most importantly, if you see someone who looks too drunk, call for help. You may get in trouble but saving someone’s life trumps a few weeks on probation. People die from alcohol poisoning. That ACTUALLY happens. Help those who are in a state where they can’t help themselves. You are gonna drink, it's a given. Just be smart.
And enjoy yourselves! Study abroad! Take classes that excite you! The entire point of college is to spend those four or five years before you enter into the adult world learning about yourself. Major in something you are passionate about, not something that you think will pay the bills one day. That is my biggest piece of advice for you. If you love what you do, you will make opportunities for yourself. Don’t be afraid to major in the arts or the humanities, don't be afraid to go for a pre-law or pe-med degree, just go for it! Don’t worry about that future job. Intern! Ask people for favors and advice! Try everything and meet everyone! Just have as much fun being young and learning as you can. Immerse yourself in your surroundings. Try new things, meet new people, and suspend all judgments. And care!!!! Because these next few years are going to fly by.
Until tomorrow my young adults, #RunSelfieRepeat.