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Tips for New College Freshmen
Oh, college. It's that time when many young people finally leave the fluffy confines of home to prepare themselves for the incredibly crazy realm of the "real world" (gasp). For some, the time spent here is far too short, while others take the marathon route that seems to drag on for decades. Meanwhile, every college graduate as well as undergraduate has experienced the dreaded freshman year.
As I participated in my daily jog around the campus the past week here in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I noticed hordes upon hordes of youthful, starry-eyed 18-year-olds aimlessly wandering around. When I came to the realization that I wasn't, in deed, in the middle of a zombie infestation, I decided that these kids need some guidance. Therefore, instead of ruining the nice run I was having, I chose to sit down and write down some tips I've gathered over the years I've amassed while in academia.
1. Be Social
For the love of all things you hold dear, get out and do things before schoolwork swallows you whole. Yes, college is a time that history has set up as a learning experience, but throughout my tenure, I've found that the "book learning" aspect of university life is a mere portion of the overall experience. For instance, I've progressed through three different colleges during my time. With each change, the classes were largely the same. You had a professor, some fellow students, and work you needed to complete to progress further toward to graduation. I can rest easily knowing that these aspects will not change in any American university.
What does change, though, is the campus lifestyle. With each new place I settled into, I've met some of the most awesome people anyone could ever meet. Many of which I still keep in contact with periodically (If I don't, give me a call sometime. You know who you are). Anyway, the inherent tendency with many students is to stay locked away in their dorms and tackle schoolwork the entire time. Apparently the only method to enjoying campus life is to join a fraternity or sorority.
I can't knock the Greek life at all because, honestly, I probably would have gone that route, but I played baseball throughout my undergraduate studies, which was virtually a fraternal experience in its own right. Still, these groups are still a minority among all the students at colleges. Most students won't automatically be given a group of friends upon arrival on campus. This doesn't stop you from getting involved with things going on around you. To quote the Legend of Zelda, "It's dangerous to go alone!"
In the free-for-all known as the "real world," we're pretty much forced to interact with other people on a daily basis. College also prepares us for this aspect of life because we are literally entrenched in a culture full of others. The advantage we have is that we all automatically have things in common: we are roughly the same age, and we're in college. Boom, a social life is just waiting to happen.
2. Actually Go To Classes
This may seem like a no-brainer, but paired with my first point up there, this idea becomes a bit of a struggle at times. I can't even place a number on the people I've known throughout the years that have flunked classes and even flunked out of school for simply missing too many classes. Just because you don't have those demonic overlords (A.K.A. "Mommy" and "Daddy") telling you when to be home and in bed every night doesn't give you free reign of the night.
It's easy to get caught up in the social culture of college life and totally forget that there are, in fact, classes you need to attend. Don't tell your parents about this next thing I have to say, though.
Are they gone?
How about now?
Okay, look, for especially the first couple of years at the undergraduate level, simply showing up to classes is enough to pass. That's it. Show up when you need to. Do your work. Earn good grades.
3. Form Relationships with Classmates
Did I say earlier that you weren't automatically given friends when starting college? Okay, I kind of lied. In each one of your classes, you are seated within mere feet of other people at any given time. Try this, talk to a few of them. This idea is beneficial to everyone involved.
In my past experiences, I've often found myself up a creek when attempting to remember certain guidelines with homework, projects, papers, etc. You know the feeling. You're sitting in class while your professor drones out specific things about what you need to do, but you're thinking to yourself, "Oh, I'll remember this stuff. It's no big deal." So you give your aching writing hand a break for a bit. Suddenly you sit down to tackle this stuff at your desk, and you realize that you have no idea what you need to do.
Hopefully, you've developed some kind of relationship with a classmate, so that all you need to do is shoot a quick text or email to get the specifics that you failed to jot down. Also, if they find themselves in the same situation later on, you're there to help them out to. This is what the Biology department refers to as a symbiotic relationship (you're welcome).
4. Don't Get Overwhelmed
We won't even get into the rite of passage known as bumbumBUM "Exam Week" at this point because the terrors of this time have long been documented in the annals of many a campus soldier. Still, there are many times when students consider curling up into tiny balls of despair when confronted with mounds of assignments to take care of.
I could take this time to preach against procrastination, but let's face it, procrastination is as much a part of college as toga parties. Therefore, I tell you, unknown freshman reading this, you will face some crazy situations. Unlike high school, professors don't attempt to coordinate curricula to facilitate your workload. More than likely, no two of your professors will even know each other. You'll be expected to tackle some assignments that seem... un-tackle-able? Don't let it get to you, though.
First of all, others will be going through the same things at the same time. Utilize them, even if its only for moral support. Set up study sessions in the library or dorm room where you guys can just sit down and plow through everything. If you're going at it alone, mentally prepare yourself and get to it. If you give up, you'll only continue to pile up assignments until you're forced to just quit.
Fear not, though, all-nighters can work out to be amazing experiences, too. Just ask anyone who has been there before.