With only one month left of summer, the fall semester draws nearer and nearer. Whether you’re a freshman waiting to begin or a returning student coming back to your home away from home, the excitement of going to college has started creeping in. After a long summer off, the fall semester seems great.
You return to football season, frat parties and long-awaited freedom. But you also go back to classes, stress about passing and the realization that all your free time pretty much evaporated. Though the fall semester has its ups and downs, that doesn’t mean you can’t conquer it.
1. BE OPEN-MINDED
Pesky gen-ed courses fill almost every freshman’s first-semester schedule. Some may seem interesting, while others might make those thousands of dollars seem like a waste. Having an open mind at all times can help. Universities offer so many courses to choose from that you’ll definitely find something you like. Don’t shut the door on classes that don’t seem interesting, though.
Believe it or not, some professors can make not-so-enjoyable classes the best class you ever take. “It’s important to be ready to take it all in and to learn something new,” Penn State professor Trudi Gilfillian said. Be open to everything, and you never know; you may find your favourite class yet.
2. GET INVOLVED
Besides scheduling courses, college (and fall semester especially) is the best time to sign up for clubs and other activities. Go to your school’s involvement fair and sign up for everything that sounds interesting. “All of the people and connections you make by being involved at school really does not compare to what you would have if you were not involved,” Penn State student Caroline Layden said.
It doesn’t matter if you sign up for 10 things and only end up joining one. Clubs range from swimming and environmental clubs to quirky clubs like scuba diving or even a Netflix club for those who love binging Orange is the New Black (which is pretty much everyone in college). Whether you love academics so much you want to do more in your free time or prefer to get sporty, the options are limitless.
3. TAKE NOTES AND PAY ATTENTION
No matter the class, you must pay attention. Though this seems like a no-brainer, it can’t be stressed enough. Whether taking notes stresses you out or your memory compares to a sponge, you should still be listening. If you don’t have any notes to fall back on when you’re in the library studying until 2 a.m., well, you might as well go to sleep now.
Make sure that you take notes that are legible and cover the most important points from the class. Learn how to only jot down the most important key points from the PowerPoints and lectures and figure out a short-hand method that works best for you.
4. KNOW YOUR TEACH AND YOUR TA
Yes, I know, the horror. Though approaching your college professor (especially if your class has 700 students) seems intimidating, make sure you get to know them. Building a solid and healthy relationship with your professor and your TA won’t only help you in the long run (hello recommendation letters) and the short term. Go to the professor’s and the TA’s office hours to ask for help whenever you need it. They want to help and teach you, and office hours are free!
5. DO NOT PLAGIARIZE
Now that we live in the digital age, books may seem like ancient history, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Using your textbook to find answers and study helps enormously. Just make sure not to plagiarize when looking for help online or in the books. In college, professors won’t just give you a zero if you plagiarize, like in high school. If you plagiarize on the collegiate level, you’re screwed. Make sure to use all your resources wisely.
6. KNOW HOW TO EXERCISE TIME MANAGEMENT
With all this new freedom, learning time management skills can be difficult. Suddenly, you find yourself struggling between balancing classes, clubs, work and a much-needed social life. Trying to do your homework and studying for exams can seem impossible with such a busy schedule.
“It’s important to find a balance between your social life and to study early on because both are really important to have not only for your state of mind but also to succeed in school,” Penn State student Savannah Miley said. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do, try getting an agenda or planner to set a schedule for all the work you have to do without being too overloaded.
Stress happens to us all. If you’re a freshman, get ready to stress out even more. “Remember to stay calm because college can be stressful, so give yourself time to relax sometimes,” Penn State student Maureen Ansel said. Easier said than done, I know. After studying or doing so much homework, your brain might feel fried; try exercising, take a quick nap, or eat a healthy meal to get reenergized.
Good, positive habits help relieve the stress that’s been building up since your professor said there was an exam coming up. You’ll also feel like a brand new person again. So chill out, man. It’s not the end of the world.
8. DON’T PROCRASTINATE
You knew it was coming. Probably the most important tip of all. Procrastination creates a huge problem for college students. When you have a project due in a month, please don’t wait until the last minute to complete it.
Work a little each day, so you don’t have to cram everything on the last day and show up with a mediocre presentation. Aside from the fact that this can boost your grade immensely, starting ahead also relieves a ton of stress (see number seven). Trust me; you don’t need any more added stress to your already busy college life.
Though college students cherish sleep more than anything else, we do not get much of it. Between juggling classes and extracurriculars, sleep often gets ignored first (even though it shouldn’t). Sleep couldn’t be any more important than breathing itself. If you’re in college or are about to start, you’ll realize just how awesome it is to take midday naps or have the option to sleep for more than eight hours. Try not to pull all-nighters studying or staying up binge-watching Netflix series. Heed my advice and catch some Zs.
10. HAVE FUN
Now, this is more like it. College blesses us with time to let loose, fun and, quite frankly, not give a damn. Though we have classes and responsibilities to manage, that shouldn’t stop anyone from having some good ol’ fashioned fun. “The most important thing a student can do not just to survive but to thrive in college is, honestly, to have a sense of humour. If you can laugh at simple things and find joy in small moments, you can survive every 3 a.m. cram session, disappointing grade, lab report or paper,” Penn State alumnus Carly Doucette said.
We have parties to go to, football games to tailgate for and countless other awesome activities that you can only appreciate while in college. There’s a reason they say college is the best four years of your life. Try not to take everything so seriously, and have a little fun.