This past year was absolutely crazy. I can definitely say that my freshman year of college was the most insane part of my life thus far. Stress, papers, projects, socializing, more papers, and did I mention stress? SO MUCH STRESS. Just the other day, my sister pointed out at least two gray hairs on my head. I’m EIGHTEEN.
If I had to describe my freshman year in one word or phrase (other than stress), it would be “learning curve.” My freshman year was a HUGE learning curve. First, I started working every day. With small children. I had to learn how to be patient and firm at the same time. I had to learn how to multitask. I had to learn how to go home frustrated and come back the next day with a smile.
Second, I switched from being in high school to being in college. At first, it didn’t seem much different. But let me assure you–it was a LOT different. Suddenly, I had to stop procrastinating and actually start doing stuff ahead of time instead of the night before. I discovered that it’s never a good idea to try to read fifteen chapters in one setting, no matter how much you enjoy reading. I learned that a consistent bedtime is a good thing, and naps are actually blessings from heaven.
Somewhere in the middle of the year, I decided to start writing down some of the things I was learning. I figured some day I could write a blog post about all these things for some of you who may just be getting ready for your own freshman year of college– and now here I am. Some of these are weird. Some of these are so practical that they sound like I got them from my mom. (Wait…maybe I did get them from my mom…oops) 🙂
1. Don’t get involved with drama.
Ever. Don’t do it. People do really stupid things all the time, but starting drama never solves problems. I happened to get involved in drama my freshman year, and I regretted every minute of it. I said things I shouldn’t have and now wish I could take back.
Life is so short. There are people around the world fighting wars, losing loved ones, dying of starvation and disease. And every time I found myself sitting at a lunch table surrounded with gossip or caught between friends fighting, I could only think about how petty it all was. Instead of taking sides we should have been loving one another, letting things go, and doing things that made us happy. Not trying to tear each other apart.
That’s why I put this part first. For anyone in any stage of life, not just for freshman entering college–stay out of drama of any kind. Your life and the lives of those around you will be so much better because of it.
2. Power Naps
I would have died somewhere between first and second semester without mastering the art of the Power Nap. Long nights, late assignments due first thing in the morning…getting six hours of sleep at night felt like a luxury. Somewhere around noon every day, I would inevitably hit a brick wall. But who has time for a lovely hour-long nap? Not this girl. I’ve got work to do, places to go. I had to learn to stop, lay down for fifteen minutes (yes I could usually fall asleep in that time because I was so tired) and only then keep going.
If you’re about to enter college, learn to take power naps. Especially if you work every day like I do. I discovered I could get through my days much easier if I had even a short fifteen-minute nap to keep me going.
3. WORK AHEAD.
Someone wise once said, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” It’s true. I tried too many times to eat my “elephant”–aka a research paper, midterm I didn’t study for, etc.–in one or two large gulps. It doesn’t ever turn out well that way, let me tell you right now.
College is different than high school in that many of your professors will tell you at the BEGINNING of the year what’s due all throughout the semester. They’ll hand you a syllabus and expect you to read, plan, and work ahead. If you don’t read, plan and work ahead, suddenly you’ll find yourself swamped with three papers, four chapters, and six projects due at the same time for various classes.
Did I say college was stressful? College is stressful.
To lessen that stress, I learned that working ahead, a little bit at a time, on projects was far better than trying to write three papers, read four chapters, and complete six projects in one night.
4. Get a bag with thick handles
This is for all you out there who are going into college thinking that some big bag with handles approximately 2 inches wide will be “totally fine” for going to class.
Maybe if you have one book and a pencil, nothing else…
But for the rest of us who have 13 textbooks, 19 folders, and who knows what else that we carry around, a bag with THICK handles is VERY necessary. I tried in the beginning of the year to carry around a big bag with tiny handles. The handles soon frayed, one of them almost entirely broke, and I ended up in square one with a regular ol’ backpack. Save yourself disappointment and frustration–get a backpack or a thick-handled bag (like these here and here). You’re welcome. 🙂
5. Keep track of your skips
If your college is like mine, you get a certain amount of times you can miss a class before it begins to lower your grade. For me, I had six skips for each of my Mon/Wed/Fri classes, and four skips for my Tues/Thurs classes. First semester? I took skips here and there, but when it came to the end of the year and I was sick, suddenly I had no idea if I still had skips left to take before my grade was docked. I hadn’t kept track of how many I had used, and I ended up sitting in class feeling miserable because I was scared my grade would be affected if I didn’t show up.
Second semester, I kept faithful track of how many skips I took for each class, and it was a lifesaver. I knew exactly how many I had left, and wasn’t left worrying at the end of the semester which classes were okay to skip and which were not.
6. If you haven’t already…
Learn what makes you happy.
Learn to relax, to pause.
I think I’ve already mentioned somewhere that college is stressful. It can be hard, tiring, disappointing, and a lot of fun all at the same time. It can be a whirl of emotions and deadlines, frustrations and learning curves. Amidst all that chaos, you will find yourself needing an outlet, a way to escape at least for a little while.
Start now learning to smile even when you don’t feel like it. Learn when you need to just hit the pause button on life, turn off your phone, and have some quiet time. Leave the deadlines, emotions, and frustrations at your doorstep for at least a few minutes, and learn to create time for yourself before it all becomes too much. Start working now to find those one or two things (like reading a book, watching a movie, listening to music, etc.) that will help your world to slow down and come back into focus.
Whatever you do, don’t just go, go, go until you can’t go anymore. Take time to pause. Take time to take care of yourself.
Related post: Simple Ways To De-Stress
7. Master skim-reading
College professors often think that we as college students have plenty of spare time on our hands to read eleven chapters in one night. Okay, maybe not that much, but it can certainly feel that way!
College usually involves a LOT of reading, and reading can take a LOT of time. Learn to capture the most important parts and keep going. It’s difficult to do at first, but it gets easier with practice. Unfortunately, it’s probably a skill you’ll be using for most of your college career! (And maybe beyond)
Most of these things I had to learn the hard way. Don’t get me wrong–my freshman year was a blast. I loved meeting new classmates and doing fun activities with them. I even ~relatively~ enjoyed most of my classes. 🙂
For those of you who have gone through college, what are some things you learned? If you aren’t in college yet, what are some things you’re looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!