As a recent college graduate, it is my duty today to share the love and offer my advice for the newbies. I blogged various tips and such during my freshman year, but after four years, I have an even greater perspective. So here are my final and biggest pieces of advice for incoming college freshmen!
1) Use RateMyProfessors.com. After a highly negative experience with one professor, I found this resource where students can write and read reviews of the teachers at their school. You have to be able to interpret these reviews wisely, of course--some teachers will get rated lower for having higher difficulty classes, rather than for being lesser skilled teachers--but for me, it's been incredibly helpful. I used it when choosing courses, and I added my own ratings too, to pass the assistance on.
2) Eat wisely, and more importantly, exercise. I managed to gain almost 40 pounds in my four years at college, which I am now in the process of losing after my doctor's recommendation. I'll tell you upfront, I am the most unhealthy eater ever. I hate cooking and I love delivery and I really love sugar, so that's a huge factor. But I also let my exercise routine slip the last couple of years when I should have made time for it. Honestly, exercise is good for your mental health and your academics just as much as for your body. So keep an eye on your calories! Right now, in order to lose weight, I'm using a great app called Lose It!
*Reminder that any focus on weight should be about health rather than image or self-worth and that becoming obsessive about anything is unhealthy. Take it from someone with actual obsessive-compulsive disorder.*
3) Most colleges have free mental health services. Use them. As a population, college students are the most likely to suffer from mental illness related problems. This is due to a number of factors: the conclusion of brain development, living somewhat independently for the first time, increased stress from academics, and more. A lot of the time, as in my case, mental disorders will have gone undiagnosed for years, but become more difficult to manage in college. In other cases, a new disorder may develop, or stress/relationship problems could cause temporary issues. Whatever the case, don't be afraid to get help. Trust me. Even if you think you probably don't have it that bad, you may be surprised how much it helps.
4) Don't be afraid to change your mind. I've found that most college students, by the end of their run, are nowhere near where they thought they'd be when they started. Life is like that, especially as an adult. New problems come up, new information is added to your arsenal, new experiences may alter your feelings. And yeah, it's hard to let go of the plans you had before. I'm not saying you need to let go of them all, but you need to be prepared for things to run differently than you expected. Most college students make significant changes in their majors or even transfer schools. Many end up needing more than four years to get the job done. During my undergrad time, I dropped one major, changed my focus area within both my attempted majors multiple times, and transferred to a new school. I also found out I had OCD and that achieving my goals as an adult was going to be much harder than I expected, due to my personal limitations. It makes me feel pretty lost sometimes, but it's something I have to accept. So be ready for that moment to come.
(On a more minor level, if you are a planner like me, be aware that registration is the devil and you will have to change your planned class schedule multiple times. Like, so much. It can be really frustrating trying to get the classes you want, which is also a good reason to register as soon as possible.)
5) Be aware that your roommates come from different backgrounds. The main trouble I've had with college roommates has been a cleanliness thing. It's not the only problem I've had, but it's a major one. Some people come from home lives where they were taught to do a number of chores. Some don't. Some come from homes with less strict standards of cleanliness, some from homes with stricter standards. This applies in various areas, but it seems hardest for people to understand in terms of cleanliness. The fact is you all have different standards and different skill levels, and that means you have to cooperate and communicate with each other. There has to be a compromise on what is acceptable for cleanliness, and those who are used to doing certain chores need to be understanding of those who have never done them before. Don't be unnecessarily harsh with roommates who honestly have never learned to live the way that you do.
6) Take your education into your own hands.
a) Try out different stuff! Gen eds help with this (although they can also be incredibly boring), but definitely try various electives. You need to be aware of prerequisites and difficulty level, but taking a class in an area besides your major/minor can be a lot of fun and teach you important skills you never knew you needed! I also recommend trying online classes. For some people, they won't work at all, particularly ones who need the lecture setting or are bad at getting work done on their own. For others, they are an incredible resource that can speed up your track through college and keep you busy during off semesters. I love them!
b) Don't stick around if you don't want to. I had a wonderful realization my junior year of college--if I didn't want to be in a class, I could drop it. You'll want to drop early in the semester, of course, because it's not allowed later on, but if you feel like a class or teacher just isn't going to work for you, take the leap. Get out! It's a totally acceptable decision to make as an adult human being, and it's super empowering, too. Find the classes, teachers, and styles that work best for you and make the most of your education.
7) Balance things (i.e. take time for your social life). I'm pretty much the worst at this ever, as a disabled mentally ill introvert, but looking back, I do wish I'd made more of an effort with people at my school. I had basically no friends at BYU-Idaho. A lot of that was out of my control: as a disabled person, I had very limited transportation, so I couldn't join any clubs or go to events. But I could have reached out more to those acquaintances/almost-friends from classes who I did have outside contact with, through social media or phone numbers. Why didn't I? Mostly, I thought they didn't want me in their lives. But I should've taken the chance, because I realize now that a lot of them did like me and would have enjoyed hanging out, even just watching TV at home. So be brave, little introverts, and take that step. As for the rest of you, "balance" might mean taking less time for your social life and focusing more on school, or work, or whatever. Just get your priorities in order and remember all the different aspects that make a life full. Like me, you may have a very limited amount of energy to work with, which means more extreme prioritization, but you can do it.
8) For the love of all that is holy, do not take a class before 9am. I don't care what time you got up during high school, this is different. You don't want to do it. You just don't. Unless you are a total enthusiastic, slightly irrational morning person, run away. I also recommend not taking classes that have a more than two hour block or that are hybrid online/in-person. I have yet to meet anyone who actually enjoyed the hybrid class experience. You really do need one or the either, online or in person. It just gets weird trying to do both in one (not to say that in person classes shouldn't have online resources, because of course they should nowadays, but if the class is called a hybrid, trust me, it's not good).
I'd say that covers the key points for me. Any other advice from my readers? Questions? I hope this helps, and I'm happy you came around to read it. I'll be back on Tuesday with another Top Ten post!
Images via theodysseyonline.com, colorado.gov, blog.sheaapartments.com, and jeffmcclung.com.
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. More than anything, stories are my life.
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