Posts Tagged ‘college advice’
As the eldest child in my family, I wasn’t lucky enough to get my hands on those glimmering snippets of valuable college information. I knew my father had a college roommate who put on The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited,” and danced after his final class every Friday, and I knew that movies I had seen portrayed college courses taught in something more like an arena than a twenty-five student classroom. My concept of college lied somewhere between these two ideas, and regardless of that fact, I took my first steps on my college campus ready for whatever freshman year would throw at me! Having graduated in 2009, here are three things I wish I had known on my first day.
There Are Better Places to Get Your Textbooks
For the first two years of my college education, I took the option of having the college bookstore collect everything I needed for my courses, placing it all neatly into a huge box, taping it up, and giving me a call when it was ready. Don’t get me wrong: this was highly convenient! I didn’t have to wait in the same line as the other hundred people looking to cash out, and I knew I had what I needed before the bookstore ran out. On the other hand, this was not the cheapest way to go, and taking back books professors decided they didn’t want the first week was a pain! If I had it to do over again, I think I would spend more time buying books off of Craigslist, buying used books online, or renting books!
Nobody Is THAT Perfect
My freshman year, I had big dreams, and I was going after them! For me, this meant getting to know the people around campus I idolized. I wanted to be like my RA, who was not only beautiful, she was brilliant in her double major, and a leader in a dozen organizations! I wanted to be like the president of one of my campus groups, who won tons of academic awards and everyone on campus knew him! I soon learned that my RA struggled with major body image issues and was miserable as far as relationships go. That guy on campus everyone knew? He frequently asked if he could copy my work. That’s when I learned these people weren’t perfect, and I was reaching for something that was never there. Of course, the lesson here is not to go around pointing out others’ flaws, but rather to not let the seemingly perfect perception of your classmates dampen your own confidence in yourself. Perfection isn’t a realistic goal, but improvement always is.
Not Everyone is Trustworthy
While there are certainly people I didn’t like, and who didn’t like me, I had not met too many people with truly poor intentions. My junior year of college, I was approached by a guy around my age who said he was selling magazines so he could study abroad. Seems legit, right? He wanted me to pay him in cash, and there just happened to be an ATM near where we were standing. How convenient, right?! After taking out a hundred dollars (he said he’d give me change), he took off with the money! I learned then that if something seems off, I would be willing to risk possibly disappointing someone to get out of the situation.
What’s so hard about college?
You might think it’s the coursework. After all, college level academics are more difficult than high school academics, and often times, the methods used to teach a college level course are unfamiliar to a freshman. You might think the hard part of college is making friends, as you’ve likely left most of yours, along with your family, behind.
While the academic and social aspects of college can be challenging, the students who haven’t figured out how to balance everything are those that have the toughest time. The demands of college students are high, and they’re coming from every direction: you have two professors expecting papers by the end of the week, your club meets every Wednesday, your RA is holding a mandatory event tonight, you have a group presentation tomorrow, Mom wants you to call her, and your best friend just broke up with her high school sweetheart and she needs you right now. Feeling stressed yet? Most college kids do.
So what are you going to do about it?
Well, you could simply throw your pens in the air and say, “Forget this! College is too hard!” and walk out. There are plenty of students who do. Or, you could learn how to balance all of these activities in a way that brings you success and happiness!
Your first lesson is a basic one: get yourself a planner (and use it)! Write down when your assignments are due and when you plan to do them. Schedule in your weekly meetings, even if it seems obvious that you’re busy at 7 p.m. every Monday. Note test days, birthdays, off-campus parties, visits home, group project meetings, campus events, when construction is going to be blocking your typical entrance to your campus, when you’ll need a new toothbrush, and everything else you need to remember. Color code it if you have to! Pour your life into this thing because your mind will not be able to handle it all.
Your second lesson, one that many people have a difficult time with, is being able to recognize when things are about to get crazy, and doing something about it. When you’re documenting everything in a planner, it will only take you a moment to realize there’s a dark and twisty Tuesday coming up where you have a twelve page paper due, two meetings scheduled for the same time, and coffee with your ex where you’ll discuss whether or not you’re getting back together. Yikes. Understand that this is a storm warning, and you’ll need to make preparations for it.
Your final lesson in performing a successful balancing act is being able to prevent spillage from one demand into another. Focus on the task at hand. If it’s homework time, don’t get on the phone for an hour. If your friend is visiting from another college, don’t spend that time polishing the final words of a paper. Think of your demands like paint: while a few mix nicely, too many mixed together makes an ugly greenish brown.
Even if you’ve known you wanted to graduate college with a degree in bio-physics since you were 7 years old, depending on which college or university you wind up at, there’s a good chance you’ll have to take some classes outside of your major. There are core classes you’ll be require to get credits for, and even just extra credits you’ll have to fill.
So, how do you choose classes that are out of your normal comfort zone? You’re in luck because we have to have 7 ways to choose college courses outside of your major:
1. Peruse through the entire course guide
If you’re at a larger university, this can be a daunting task, but you never know what you’ll find! There are so many intriguing, even fun, college courses being offered these days (like all of these pop culture courses). Make sure you look through all the classes so you don’t pass over something that might be right up your alley.
2. Choose by professor
Did you have a professor who just taught the most interesting lectures on what could be the most tedious subject ever? If you found a professor who can keep your eyes open and neurons-a-firing, don’t let him/her slip through your fingers. It’s kind of like what your grandma would say about your girlfriend, “She’s a keeper.” Find another class they teach and sign on up.
3. Ask your friends
Ask your friends if they’ve taken any classes that they recommend you take. Your friends are a great source of information because they know you better than any counselor or adviser. If they think you’ll enjoy Mummies 101, you should probably trust their judgment. That is, if you trust their judgment in judging what you’d like.
4. Do some research
Course selection is almost an entire course within itself. And just like any other class, you should probably do some research. If faculty reviews are public at your school, take a look-see. Insight into what others think about a class can help inform your decisions. You can also always hit up RateMyProfessors.com.
5. Take a class outside of your comfort zone
One of the best ways to expand your mind and widen your view of the world, is to take classes about things that might make you uncomfortable at first. Take a class in a religion that you don’t practice or a history class about a country you’ve never heard of before. While your major provides the opportunity to focus in on one field, your entire college experience is about widening your horizons.
6. Channel your inner artist
A lot of us have inner artists that come out to breathe less and less frequently as we get older. So, college is a great time to give your inner artist some oxygen. Take a painting class, bongo class, creative writing class–whatever it is–just sign up; give your inner artist some room to walk around and express itself!
7. Does it fit in your schedule?
The college student’s MO is creating a school schedule that fits perfectly with their nap schedule. Or work schedule. Or whatever. The cool part about college is that you have the liberty, most of the time, to design what time you wake up and what days you wake up. You could schedule a semester with no classes on Fridays, or no classes before noon. That’s why college is magical.
How have you chosen your classes? Leave a comment below!
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