I started taking college classes when I was a junior in high school. Since then, I have done online community college; I’ve done StraighterLine; I’ve attended two different private colleges (on-line and in-person at both institutions), and I’ve got a page-long resume of extra-curriculars, internships, and job experience to boot. I say all this not to brag (well, perhaps to brag a little) but mostly to prove that I have come at college life from every angle and the bumps I have hit along the way have culminated into a strategy for what I believe helps me get the most of my time in school. So if you are struggling to adjust to the chaos that is higher education, if you are looking for some tips and tricks, or if you are just wondering how someone else is making it through these crazy four (give or take a few) years, here are my two cents.
Don’t knock the planner.
Whether it is a note in your phone, a wall of sticky notes, Google Calendar or the Wilson College Blue Book, you have got to keep track of yourself. Part of this means knowing what is due every day; For me, this means writing each assignment in my planner on the day it must be submitted. Nothing feels as good as putting checkmarks next to projects you have finished! If you are extra like me, you can color-code it and use your syllabi to fill it out a month in advance, but even if you are just scrawling in assignments with a pencil, I guarantee you will be more on top of things. The other part of keeping track of yourself means knowing where you will be every day. Do you have in-person classes? A shift at work? Coffee with a friend? A Billboard meeting (wink wink)? I guarantee if you do not write these things down somewhere, you will forget to show up or double schedule yourself. College is not only about educational development, it is a chance to prove to the rest of the world that you are capable, on-time and organized. And if you are not all of these things, a planner can at least help you fake it.
Don’t underestimate yourself
It is tempting to sit quietly in classes when you do not feel like you have much worth sharing. It is also tempting to pick an easy topic for your paper rather than a heftier one that interests you, but will end up being harder to research. And it is certainly easier to stick to basic, required courses, and shy away from the many minors you could pursue at Wilson. But even making it to your first day of your first semester takes intelligence and strength, so there is no doubt you have it in you to push yourself in your classes. You are capable of excelling in college, but you cannot have a mindset that constantly feeds into the question, “Can I really do this?” Do not be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling, but never forget that you have to be your own supporter too.
Seek new experiences
Seeking new experiences can look different for everyone. Whether it is taking on an internship, joining an on-campus club, attending Common Hour, sitting with someone new in the dining hall (six feet apart, of course), walking around Chambersburg, going to dorm events, or hopping on one of the numerous informational Zoom meetings this semester, there are a million ways to grow at college. For commuters, residents, and online students alike, fostering a sense of community and involvement at your institution is what makes it a true “college experience.” Very rarely have I forced myself out of my comfort zone here only to be disappointed. There are friends to make, causes to fight for, foods to try, languages to learn. Do not miss out on a chance to make some memories because you are holed up in your dorm room with a bag of Doritos (although there is a time for that too).
Carve out “Me Time”
This is one that comes naturally to some and not so much to others (me). Remember that no matter how many assignments you have to do and how many quizzes you have to prep for, your mental health is also a huge factor in your academic success. Burnout and depression are common among college students who are constantly on the move and forget to take time for themselves. There should be balance in everything. So reward yourself occasionally by watching a movie, taking a walk, playing a (socially distanced) game with a friend, or whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed and most like yourself. College is inherently stressful, but do not let that stress consume every waking moment. Take a break!
Don’t forget what you’re paying for
For most of us, college is a very expensive endeavor. I consider it a privilege to be able to study topics and ideas that interest me, and to be connected to a great number of faculty and staff who want to help me gear up for life after my degree. Professors are not here to stand around lecturing to a room of glazed eyes; they want us to get involved! This is your chance to ask questions and to receive the education toward which you put your money. I encourage you to make it your primary goal to learn as much as you can while you are at Wilson. These years of intense studying will (hopefully) help you develop into a well-rounded person who feels confident pursuing the next steps in his or her career. If you do not have a passion for the field you are studying, it is going to be hard to buckle down for the rest of your time here. Find what you love to learn about and throw yourself into it. Feeling like you are getting the most of your time in the classroom is ultimately more important than the final letters on your transcript.