When I was in high school, I went through a long-winded country music phase. One of my favorite songs at the time was “Don’t Blink” by Kenny Chesney. The song talked about how quickly life changes. We go from childhood naps to full-grown adults in what seems like no time. I feel 10 times wiser than I did at 18. Yet, it seems like just yesterday I was graduating from high school. Now, I am preparing to wrap up my undergraduate degree and move on to graduate school and eventually, a career. If I’m honest, I blinked a lot in the last three years. But, I still learned some lessons along the way. Here are seven tips for all those undergraduate college students.
- Get involved early
When I first came to college, I thought I had all the time in the world to find activities I was interested in. I convinced myself that my extracurricular life didn’t matter anymore. I had already made it to college. But then I remembered that I wanted to go to graduate school, and they didn’t want to be looking at the same resume I had from years prior. It took me some time to plug into programs that I was passionate about, but they did exist. Don’t let high school burnout get the best of you. It’s alright to take some time to transition into college, but take advantage of the new opportunities that come your way when you’re ready.
- Don’t be afraid of the online classes
Now that we’ve had a year in Zoom university, it’s hard to remember when online classes weren’t the norm. But, I have always been a fan of the online platform. Every semester I try to take one or two online classes. It helps me keep my sanity. Online classes tend to be more flexible and allow students to somewhat work at their own pace. It cuts out the time it takes to commute too. I used online classes to create “off days” in my schedule when I didn’t have to go to campus. This allowed me to hold a job or do other activities I wanted since my time was flexible. I know online classes aren’t for everyone, and after this year, you may never want one again. But if you can self-motivate long enough to wrap up a semester class, I’d highly recommend taking a few online.
- Know how much time you have
Time management is key in college. I would have lost it a long time ago without a planner to help me keep track of assignments and important events. If you space out your studying or know when you have a big project coming up, you can better prepare yourself. However, it’s important not to begin stressing about these big grades too early on. Living in a constant realm of stress isn’t good for anyone. Instead, know that you have something big coming up, create a game plan and stick to it. When I took statistics my freshman year, I started studying for exams two weeks out. I would do a practice test every day, and in the last few days, I did the practice tests until I was getting A’s on all of them. I developed a game plan, and I kept to it. Knowing how much time you have is the first step toward a successful strategy.
- Living with your best friends might not be a mistake
While I was still in high school, a teacher of mine said that it would be the biggest mistake to live with my best friends in college. My best friends and I did end up going to college together, but we didn’t live with each other for the first few years because we were worried about becoming enemies. I don’t know that all friendships would benefit from living together, but ours certainly has. Rather than having to call each other up to have a freak-out session, we just convene in the living room. While I’m sure that teacher’s advice came from a place of care, no one knows your life like you do. Be confident in your decisions, and don’t let other people’s experiences dictate yours.
- Call your parents when you need them
I talk to my parents a lot. Usually, I call my dad in the morning and my mom in the afternoon on most days. Our conversations tend to go over the normal checklist: How are you? What are you doing? When are you coming home? But I also call them when the adulating world becomes too much for me to handle. Battery of my scooter died? Called my parents. Needed to jump my car? Called my parents. Couldn’t remember what medication to buy? Called my parents. Wasn’t sure how long I needed to cook salmon? Called my parents. The truth is, my parents have been adults much longer than I have. Sure, I could have looked those things up online. But calling my parents reminds me that I’m not alone in the world, and I have a support system that’s there to help me work through my problems.
- Your plans are flexible
The most common thing you hear coming into college is that everyone changes their major, and it’s OK if you do. I never changed my major. I came into college as a journalism student, and I will be graduating as a journalism student. For some reason, I thought my commitment to my major meant I had developed a thought-out plan that I could stick to for the rest of my life. Sometimes, I want to slap some sense into the younger me. Most of my plan changes didn’t come until my last year of college when I chose to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), apply for a master’s program and explore other career paths in the future. The changes didn’t come within my major, but they were evident in the rest of my life. I’ve always said that I have a plan until the plan changes. I meant it as a snippy answer for my parents, but it’s something I have to keep reminding myself of these days.
- Enjoy the road
The road to graduation is filled with ups and downs, as is the road in life. I’ve done the late nights studying, the group projects that never seem to end and the tears of exhaustion. There have also been spring break trips with my friends, early morning donut runs and new life experiences. I don’t know if I’d appreciate the highs in my life without enduring the lows. In the end, everything turns out the way it’s supposed to, and I wouldn’t trade my college experiences for anything else.