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10 Things to Remember in College

Advice

Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

College, especially freshman year, can be the most fun part of life and the most stressful part of life.  Freshman year, for many, is the first taste of the real world, and many are out on their own for the first time.  Students come from all around to get a certain level of education.  They will learn academics and vocational skills, but they will also take away life lessons from university.  These young adults will learn social skills, independence, time management, and other things high school couldn't teach them. Freshman year of college is new and exciting, but it can also be extremely overwhelming.  There are new responsibilities put on these kids, and they are on their own for the first time. Therefore, there are some key things for college students to remember if they want to stay sane.

1) Don't stress about finding a major.

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My freshman year may have been the most miserable time for me.  They tell you to pick a major when you apply, and this is a serious question to ask someone who is just starting their lives.  They were asking for me to choose what I wanted to do for the rest of your life, or at least, that is what I thought.  I eventually decided to go into nursing, which was the worst decision.  I thought that it would be a stable career, and I like helping people.  However, during my first two years, I took many classes for nursing and electives, and I realized that I hated the idea of nursing.  I took a gap year during what would have been my junior year of college, and that year was terrifying.  I had no idea what I was doing, and I was scared for my future.  I had no idea where I saw my life going, and I was stressed.  I still don't know what I want to do, but I did choose a major that I love.  I am now majoring in psychology with only one more year, and while that gap year put me pretty far behind, I feel great now.  When they ask you what your major will be, this is not going to be the rest of your life.  Most students change their major 2 or 3 times within the first couple of years, and I wish I had known that going in.  There is no point in panicking over what career you want, for these first two years are designed to help you find your niche.  You will find interests and talents you didn't even know you had, and eventually, you will find something that fits with your personality.  A student could go into college knowing exactly what they want and still change their mind.  Therefore, a student should use their first two years to find what they like, and they will, eventually, find what is right for them.

2) Everyone is in the same boat.

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If you are lost and afraid, your classmates probably are too.  Do not be afraid to talk to people in your class and make friends, for they may be able to help you more than you think.  In many classes, I have started group chats with classmates, and we work everything out together.  If we have homework, we plan for each person to do part of the load, and when it is due, we put it all together.  If you don't understand an assignment, your classmates will help explain it.  If you need help studying, chances are, your class does too.  Study groups will be your saving grace in college, and the only way to form them is to reach out to people in the class.  College courses are hard, and some are harder than others.  Some may have tests every week; some may have tons of homework, and some may not assign anything.  I've had classes where no amount of work would have gotten me a better grade, and I've had classes that I didn't even pick up a book for.  In those harder classes, the help of friends will be beneficial to you, and in easier classes, you can help each other be lazy.  You might even find some life long friends.  

3) Talk to your professors.

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If your classes are hard, you should always ask professors for help.  They have office hours specifically there to help struggling students.  Every student learns differently, and one on one help might be the difference between failing and passing for some.  Professors also have access to more resources, and they know where to send you if they can't help.  They can recommend a tutor, administrator, or even and adviser that could provide assistance. Also, it shows effort.  By going to your professors after class, you are showing how serious you are about your education, and this makes them more eager to help you.  It also could open up opportunities.  In one on one conversations, they will be more likely to remember you, and because of this, they will be more likely to choose you for any internships, TA positions, or research assistant positions.  Therefore, do not be afraid to approach your professors for help.  Most professors are eager to help their students and teach them.

4) Use the resources provided.

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College is extremely expensive, and many of these expenses come from what they provide with your education.  Most universities and colleges provide a gym, a library, tutoring, counselors, advisers, cafeterias, printers, and computers.  Students are paying to use these materials, but many of them don't.  Everyone uses the computers, cafeterias, and even the library, but the tutoring and counseling goes unnoticed.  The school provides tutoring, especially for harder courses.  Therefore, students have "free" access to this extremely valuable resource.  You are paying for these people to be around to help you in your tuition, but you don't use it.  If you are struggling in a course, this resource could be the most useful to you.  Also, many students forget about the most important resource provided: counseling.  College is stressful, and this can cause anyone to become mentally unstable, especially if there are pre-existing mental disorders.  These people are there to listen to you and make sure you make it through college without becoming unhinged.  If you are depressed, lonely, or stressed, you should see the counselor.  You are paying thousands of dollars every year to go to school.  You should use what is provided, for it is all there to assist you through college.

5) Go to your advisors.

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College is normally where people get their first taste of independence.  You go in feeling like you need to do everything yourself, and you are too scared to ask for help.  However, you are not just being thrown into without help.  The school provides advisers for you. My first couple of years I refused to go to advising because I figured I would do it myself. I did pretty well on my own, but if I gone to my assigned adviser like they recommended, I may not have wasted 2 or 3 years on nursing. Advisers are for more than just getting into classes. They are there to help you find a career and make sure you're on the right path. I love my adviser now, and I go see her whenever I have a chance. She has helped me out of a crisis, and I know I am where I need to be. They are also assigned based off of the department. For instance, I am majoring in psychology, so my adviser teaches psychology. Therefore, she also helps me through classes. Since I am comfortable with her, I go to her to ask her questions on things I don't understand.  Freshman students should especially be visiting their advisers and get to know them, for this first year, being a transition year, will be your hardest.  Your adviser will help you adjust, so you should use them to make your first year easier. 

6) Find a desk job.

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There are some people that are able to go through college without paying a dime thanks to parents.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I wish I could've had that same opportunity since college is ridiculously pricey.  However, most students, like me, must take out loans and find a job to pay for it.  My first three years of college I worked as a nanny.  While this was a fun and easy job, I was constantly entertaining, helping with homework, or driving these kids places.  I don't regret one second of it, but at my current job, I work as a concierge in a nursing home.  I have tasks and residents to tend to, but I sit behind a desk most of the day.  This gives me a chance to study, write essays, or do homework for my classes.  This is the most rewarding thing for me.  By the time I get home, most of my assignments or studying is done, and I have more time to sleep or just relax.  Therefore, I highly recommend finding a slower paced job that allows time for schoolwork.  I know this isn't always possible, but it is worth it if possible.

7) This isn't high school.

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I worked hard every day in high school to keep up appearances and make friends.  I had plenty of friends, but I never truly fit into a clique which always bothered me a bit.  College is so different.  There is no need to dress up every day or look good, and most students come into class wearing pajamas or sweats, especially morning classes.  This isn't to say you can't dress up, but there is no one to impress.  Everyone is exhausted and ready to go home, and no one is judging your looks.  I occasionally do my makeup and look nice to make myself feel good, but most of the time you'll find me wearing an oversized t-shirt and jeans.  That's on a good day.  There are no cliques, and people don't judge your clothing.  I've seen people walk around in onesies, and others bring blankets and pillows.  You could make great friends in your classes, especially if they are the same major.  Don't be afraid to speak up and make friends. Everyone is in the same boat, and we are all here to have fun and get an education.  High school doesn't matter anymore, and people in your field will have more similarities to you than anyone you met in high school.  Start introducing yourself.

8) Don't push yourself too hard.

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When I first started college, I was taking around 15-20 hours a semester, for I thought I was supposed to.  I wanted to be out in four years, and I didn't want to slack off.  I believe 15 hours is considered a full load.  It sounds like what you're supposed to do, but full load means the max amount of hours you should be taking at a time.  This does not mean you need to take 15 hours.  Harder classes require a couple of hours a day to study and do assignments, and that is for each class. If you are taking 15 hours of classes a week, have a job, and have to study for each class, you will never find time to relax or sleep.  If you still want to graduate in four years, summer classes are always available.  Some people can handle 15 hours.  It isn't impossible.  It just takes away from sleep and fun.  Therefore, if classes are hard, it is better to take a smaller load to ensure passing, than it is to push yourself to take a larger load and risk failing.  

9) Live with parents for as long as possible.

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This doesn't necessarily apply to people moving from out of state, or those that have parents that kicked them out.  If you choose a college near your hometown, you should take advantage of that opportunity.  I moved out my freshman year despite have the ability to stay home, and I was paying $300 a month in rent.  This is cheap, but it was a huge waste of money considering I didn't have to leave home.  Surprisingly, most college students do live at home unless they are not from the area, so it is not an embarrassing situation.  College life is expensive, and if you can live somewhere for free, everyone should use that. The best decision I ever made was to move back in with my parents. 

10) Have fun!

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We are all in college to get a better education and build careers, and education should be taken very seriously.  However, this is not to say you can't have fun.  College can either be the best time of your life or the worst, but the decision is yours to make.  There is no need to be constantly stressed and miserable.  This is another reason why taking a smaller course load will be helpful.  It gives you more time to relax and be with friends.  Everyone needs to time to sit back, laugh, and even party, and college is the perfect place to have fun.  You'll make tons of new friends and meet new people, and you all need time to let loose and have fun. 

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