By: Dani Kessel
I am a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree. I am extremely proud of this. College wasn’t an easy road for me, but I got through it. Now that I am finished with my bachelor’s, I am a part of my alma mater’s alumni program. They host a variety of events and networking opportunities. But, a big part of my alma mater’s alumni outreach involves young and new college students calling the alumni to discuss what’s going on with the campus and trying to get money for the scholarships funds. Whenever they call, there is one question these students almost always ask.
“What advice do you have for students like myself who are just starting out on their degree?”
If you are like them, wondering what will help you survive college, I’ve got 7 major tips which will help you along the way.
1. Take notes in class.
When you’re in high school, you are told to take notes. You probably brushed this off like I did up until my first semester of college. Truly, you never realize how important this skill is until you are in a lecture hall with 100 people, and the professor is speaking a mile a minute. With so much material to cover in every class, you are bound to forget things from the lecture. That’s just natural. But, not all professors and/or TAs make their slideshows or lecture notes available to students. Even when they are available, it is often in shorthand that doesn’t make a ton of sense to anybody. You retain more information and have a better chance of succeeding when you take notes.
2. Use your college’s resources.
Most colleges will have a tutoring program of some sort. Often, they will have a writing center too. University libraries frequently host study groups for specific courses or subjects. Many schools also have a disability resource center which will accommodate a variety of students’ needs to the best of their ability. Larger colleges usually subscribe to a research database (or multiple) of some sort that students can access. Some colleges offer online or hybrid versions of courses for little to no cost difference. Learn what resources your college has available and use them when need be. Chances are that your student fees are paying for these resources anyways, so you might as well take advantage of all the help being offered.
3. Go to your professors’ and TAs’ office hours.
Professors and TAs have office hours for a reason. Going into office hours allows you to ask questions that weren’t covered in the lecture. You can ask for clarity on points which confused you. Furthermore, taking the time to go into office hours can show a dedication to the course that professors and TAs will appreciate. Many times, they are more willing to work with life complications or emergency situations if you are regularly going into office hours.
4. Keep a well-organized planner.
If you are balancing many classes at once, you are bound to forget what assignments you have and when they are due. This is especially true when you take into consideration any life obligations you have like appointments or work. Keeping a well-organized planner will really help you from getting overwhelmed. Write down due dates. Add a reminder at least one week before the due dates. Include notes about what specific requirements the assignments have. (This was particularly helpful for me because some of my classes wanted MLA formatting and others required APA.) Schedule out study time. I cannot stress enough how much a planner will help you through college.
5. Make time for self-care and your mental health.
If you do not take care of your mental health in college, you will eventually struggle and burn out. College is immensely stressful! Try to make sure you are getting consistent sleep. Attempt at eating healthy. Take any daily maintenance medications. Shower. GO SEE A COUNSELOR! There is no shame in therapy; in fact, many colleges even include a counseling center or service with their student fees. Self-care and mental health care are more important than you will realize. It may seem like a hassle in the hectic world of college to do these things, but they will really keep you going.
6. Don’t criticize yourself if it takes more than 4 years to get your degree.
I was a college student for 5 years due to medical problems that kept my class-load low. I know many people who took 6 or 7 years to graduate because they were balancing college with other life obligations like family, kids, working multiple jobs. There is nothing saying that you have to graduate in 4 years time. Give yourself some compassion if you are taking longer to get your degree. We all work at our own pace. We all have our own needs. There is no shame. Just do what is best for you!
7. Have fun.
College isn’t just about going to classes and learning. It provides you with new experiences and environments. If you spend the whole of your college years in the library or studying in your dorm, you will end up regretting the opportunities you missed out on. I’m not saying to neglect your studies. But, it’s alright to take a break and go spend an hour at the college’s events.
I hope these suggestions help you survive college. Working to get a degree is not easy no matter what path you take. Still, with just the right amount of organization, effort, and care, you are more than capable of making it! Like the post if you find any of the advice helpful. I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have. And, if you already graduated, feel free to share your own tips down in the comments below.