Reflections of a Recent College Grad: 10 Tips for the College Bound

i started my senior year of college ready to be done with college. coming back after that last summer, knowing that you’re preparing to enter the home stretch, is an amazing feeling but a seemingly daunting one at the same time. you feel as though, at this point, you’ve learned just about all you’re mind can handle, you’ve made all of the friends that you’re going to make during the college experience, you’ve had your turn up time… now you’re just ready to take your diploma and find a job so you can start paying off loans. as i prepared to leave home that last week in August, my dad shared with me the following words which became my personal mantra throughout that last year: “9 months, baby!!!” 9 months. 9 months. 9 months… He followed it by saying something along the lines of, “9 months is all you have left; August through May. You know what can happen in 9 months? A baby can develop in 9 months. That’s not a whole lot of time. Put the petal to the metal, and keep your eye on the bouncing ball.” well, my foot may have slipped off the petal a few times and my vision strayed from the ball, but one thing is for sure: i made it through those 9 months. my final year ended up being the most transformative of my undergrad years. i did better academically than i’d done in any other year, i learned a lot about myself, i came to realize that i have some amazing friends and family, and i figured out what i want to do with my future. now, sitting here reflecting in mid-June, i know for a fact that my senior year was much needed. had i, for some reason, not embarked upon the journey, i can’t say that i would be the same girl that i am today. so to all those preparing to go to college for the first time here are a few nuggets of wisdom to keep handy on your journey:

1. If you don’t know how to already, LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR TIME! Lack of time management is what set me back from the start. I carried bad study habits from high school into college, and just weeks into my first semester I was in a pile of work that I had no idea how to get out of. In any area of study, you need to manage your time well. Plan out when you’re going to work, where your study place will be, whether you can effectively study in groups or not (I really couldnt!), and then decide the times when you’re just going to chill out. Balance is key.

2. Develop solid morals and values (if you don’t already have some!) and stick to them. The college years are very transformative, as I mentioned. You will change and learn a lot about yourself. In doing this, you DON’T have to get buck wild! A lot of people go to college and act stupid. They lose any sense of morality that they had when they arrived just because they don’t have to go home to their parent’s house at the end of the night. The younger generations have the power to be very influential. This influence can be exercised positively or negatively. Decide whether you want to be a game changer or another statistic.  

3. Be open to change; college will be different than anything you’ve experienced thus far in life. One of my favorite things about college was living with my friends. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, only being around people who are close in age to you for the majority of your time. Take advantage of this in every way possible! Learn from people, stay up all night and have movie marathons (not every night!!), go for late night bonfires on the beach, do things you’d otherwise not have the opportunity to do.

4. Get all up in your professor’s faces. They are there to help you! Even if they seem like they don’t want to be bothered, they’re only employed because of the money that someone is paying for YOU to be there!! So bug them!! Learn their teaching style, how they give exams, what they expect from you. More than half the battle of passing a class is figuring out the professor’s methods, so learn quick! Also, take advantage of the TAs. They’re super knowledgeable, and the good ones will give you hints about the prof’s teaching/testing style.

5. Find a mentor. You’re probably going to get tired of being around people who know just as much as you do, which might not be that much, in that first year, so find someone a little older and wiser who you can  relate to and can escape to when college life gets overbearing. Whether it’s a faculty member, church friend, minister/pastor, family friend- just find someone who is able to pour into you and act as a support to you during your college years and hopefully beyond.

6. Make friends for fun and latch on to peers who will act as resources to you. We all know when we meet that one person who we just click with and you know you’re going to be friends forever. Then you meet a few other people who are equally cool and ya’ll form a lil clique. Then there are those people who you say hey to in passing and have a good conversation with every once in a while. Then there should be those people who you know are straight-A-material who you have class with – latch on to them!! These sorts of people need to become your best friends in the classroom. Who knows, that friendship may extend beyond!

7. Don’t take more classes than you can handle in a semester!! I did this one too many semesters and it was miserable. Not only does it destroy your GPA, but it is stressful. You feel overwhelmed, and you are not able to give 100% in any of the classes you’re taking. Talk to your advisor, ask them what you should do; talk to upper-classmen- they are sometimes better resources than advisors!!

8. Take summer classes and don’t be afraid to take courses at other universities. Taking summer classes takes the weight off of you during semesters, allowing you to take fewer classes and do better in them during the year. Summer classes are a great way to get courses out of the way, but Beware! These classes cram a semester’s worth of material into 4 weeks!! So you already know you’re going to be hustlin’!! If you have the strength for it, do it! I wouldn’t take more than one at a time in the summer though. Also, there is nothing wrong with taking courses at community colleges! Just make sure it is a decent one and knock the class out with an A!!

9. Get involved in extracurricular activities, just not too many! You’ll need an outlet and a release from all of the school work. Join a club sport team, if you’re school is D-3, join the varsity team! Sing in a choir, join the debate club, the multi-cultural club, join a small group/bible study, get involved with a local church; find something extra to do that you enjoy other than school work- remember, Balance is Key!!

10. Finally, don’t get so caught up in the individual trees that you forget to take in the beauty of the forest as a whole. Think about your future but not too hard. You’re going to have a lot of memorable experiences and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Don’t turn down awesome offers or potential experiences because you’re doing last minute studying for an exam or hustling to finish a lab report that’s due tomorrow (this is where time management comes in!!). I found, too often, that I got so caught up in the nitty-gritty things of college that i was forgetting to enjoy the ride. Be sure to take it all in; it’s a one time deal.

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