The 10 Things I Learned in My First Semester

I've been here at AU for a semester now. This is me on move in day in August,

and this is me on the last day of the semester.

I've come into a good groove, so I wanted to share some lessons I learned because I felt like it might be helpful to someone out there. These can apply to almost anyone, from those still in high school to those about to graduate. So listen up because here are the top 10 lessons I learned in my first semester.

Disclaimer: These are by no means in any order.

1. Go to Office Hours

Don't you love it when a teacher calls on you by name? In high school, I took that for granted because by the second week of school, all the teachers knew my name. In college, your professor can go the entire semester without knowing your name. That's why it is important to go to office hours. Professors are also super helpful if you have any questions about course material. After all, they're the ones teaching it. If you connect with a professor, you can ask them to write a recommendation for you, but you can't do that if you've never gone to their office hours.

2. Make Time for Activities

My best memories have come from spontaneous trips downtown. Yes, you have to make time to study, but who can study all day? Save some time to go out and have fun with your friends. Go to a museum, shopping, or out to dinner. You don’t have to spend money to have a good time, just grab your UPass and hop on the metro.

3. Keep Up With Your Deadlines

I am the kind of person who can't start something 2 weeks in advance, but power to those of you who can. For those of you like me who don't submit your assignments a week in advance, it is so important to keep up with your deadlines. Even if a professor says you should have your outline done by a certain day but they won't collect them, you should try to get it done that day. Most people turn their assignments in on time, but keeping up with the smaller parts of a large project can be stressful so make sure to spread them out.

4. Go to a Party or Two

Before I came to college, I had never gone to a party. Now, I would say I go pretty regularly. I don't go every weekend because sometimes I like to go to sleep early, but going to parties is pretty fun. You don’t even need to drink to have fun! Dancing is a good way to de-stress, and no one will even remember or care how bad your moves were.​

 

5. Talk to People on Your Floor or in Your Classes

The first week of school my roommate and I kept our door open in an effort to meet people on our floor. People would walk by and introduce themselves, and while we aren't super close with everyone on our floor, we got to know most of them. Don't be afraid to ask people in your classes to study because you might end up making really good friends. I Facebook-messaged a few people in my classes to ask if they wanted to study and now I have study squads in two of them.

6. Go to Class

I have skipped class 3 times this semester. Twice because I was sick, and once after our last exam because I needed to work on a project. I don't know about you, but when I miss class I feel like I am a whole week behind. It is not like high school where you have class every day. You only have it once or twice a week, so every single class is important. Many professors takes attendance, so not showing up to class can affect your grades.

7. Utilize All Aspects of the Library

The library is more than just books. They have study rooms, computers with every app you might need, and electronics galore. I needed a microphone and a flash drive, and I was able to borrow both from the library. The silent floors are scary, but no matter where you are people are courteous of their noise. It never gets rowdy, so it is the perfect place to study.

8. Keep Your Window Open at Night

This may seem strange, but my room gets super hot at night even if I don't have the heat on, so we have to keep the windows open just a crack. Even though it is cold in the morning, it's worth it because I can sleep through the night without getting hot. I also took the block off of my window at the top so I can open it all the way, so now we have great ventilation.

9. SLEEP

I cannot stress this enough: you really need sleep. My roommate and I turn out the lights before 12:30 every night, and I've never felt like I was going to fall asleep in class. Nothing is worse than not getting a full night's worth of sleep. Even when I have an 8:10, I can wake up as long as I go to sleep on the early side.

10. Outline Your Papers

It saves so much stress, especially when it comes time to write it you already have all the ideas! If you put all of your quotes in your outline, it makes it even easier. I can write my papers in just a few hours if I have a good outline.

BONUS: 

Keep an online calendar with your class schedule, club meetings, and other special events so you never miss anything important.​ I also have a physical planner that I bought on sale at Michaels so I can write down my homework as it is assigned.​

 

College is very different than high school, so even if you think you have it all figured out (like I did), you probably don't. There are more responsibilities in college, and your parents aren't going to be there to make sure you meet all of your commitments. This means you may have to be more organized than you were in high school. The transition itself is difficult, and you need to adapt to a new environment sometimes for the first time ever.

The best thing you can do is take advantage of everything your school has to offer such as clubs, Greek life, theater groups, off campus events, and speakers. It is possible to balance your school work with your social life as long as you’re organized and understand that sometimes you need to put school work first. I am becoming more involved in my school community during my second semester, so it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep up with my work. However, I am making time to go to the library and get work done because if I am trying to work anywhere else I get distracted. While I work, I give myself breaks to check my phone and respond to texts and Snapchats because it helps me stay focused for longer.

My number one piece of advice is to find what works for you and stick with it.​

(All photos belong to the author)

Hi, I'm Anna, I'm a freshman at American University in Washington D.C. I grew up in Rye, New York, but have always felt like I belonged in the city. I love going to baseball games with my friends (go Yankees and Nationals!), watching Netflix (Gray's Anatomy ftw!), and reading my New York Times Daily Briefing each morning. Some other favorites include Bryce Harper, Barack Obama, my best friend, and of course Panera Mac and Cheese!

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