Welcome to College!
Since I’ve been performing in the college scene for nearly a decade, I’ve gotten to talk with a ton of people who care deeply about helping students make the most out of their time in college.
The start of the academic year can take a lot of adjusting, so I wanted to share some of the most useful tips, tricks, and ideas I’ve heard about from the wonderful activities and student life pros over the years.
In no particular order. . .
1) Your Mental Well-Being MATTERS
This can’t be overstated. It’s easy to make getting good grades and appearances first, but that’s a losing proposition. Mental health takes hard work, too, and shouldn’t be neglected.
2) Take Your Time Making Friends
If you don’t make friends right away, it’s easy to think something is wrong with you. There’s not. Feeling lonely is completely natural. Even the people who appear to have it all together probably feel lonely, too. Give yourself the space to take the time you need to find the right people. Don’t rush it!
3) Define Success
Even in the business world, success means different things to different people. Make sure your idea of success is your idea; not someone else’s. Take time to really think about what you want out of your 4 (or 5, 6, 7, or 8) years in college.
4) Don’t Compare Your Behind the Scenes to Others’ Highlight Reels
Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter are not real life. They’re platforms for people to pick and choose the best parts of their life to share. If you compare your everyday experiences to other people’s “best of” posts, then you’re going to feel like you’re missing out. You’re not; life can’t be only highlights.
Find somewhere to recharge. It can feel like you’re never alone because, well, you probably aren’t. Find somewhere on campus where you can go to be alone with your thoughts and you don’t have to feel like you have to be “on” for other people.
6) Find Resources
Know where to find what you need before you need it. Whether it’s health services, counselling, or whatever it’s good to know what’s available before it’s too late.
7) Start Conversations Early
Talk with your professors. Talk with your professors before you have problems in class. Dealing with issues before they become big issues is much better than ignoring them and hoping they go away.
8) Accept Help
If you need help, get help. Don’t try to “man up” or feel ashamed for reaching out. Doing things on your own is a recipe for disasters.
9 ) Pay Attention
How are you feeling? What do you want? How is all that partying and drinking affecting you? Don’t ignore the answers! It’s easy to get swept up in the herd mentality of doing what everybody else is doing, but you’re the one who has to live with the consequences of your actions. Don’t ignore your body’s warning signs that you might be overdoing it.
10) Make Friends with Advisers
They care about you, and want you to succeed. They can give you a lot of good advice from the perspective of someone who has seen many people in your same situation, and all the ways it can play out. Don’t just rely on your own ideas; get an experts opinion!
11) Love Yourself First
Take time for yourself. If you have the tendency to put others first, you’re going to wind up burning out. Don’t sacrifice your health for other folks; you’re too important.
12) Drop Classes
Sure, in high school you took AP classes and they were easy. But here’s the thing; you’re not in high school any more. If you bit off more than you can chew, it’s ok to think about reducing your load. Recognize you have limits, and that you might have gone past them. Don’t try to stick it out at the expense of your sanity.
Just like you have to examine your course load, you should also reexamine your expectations for your friends, your major, etc. Having unrealistic expectations will rob you of enjoying how things actually are. Be honest with yourself about what you want, and if that doesn’t match what you thought you wanted, that’s ok.
14) Resist Justifications
You don’t have to build an airtight court case for asking for help. Sure, there are always people who have it worse than you, but that’s no excuse for not getting help when you need it. Those resources you found are there for a reason; you!
15) RA’s are Not Your Enemy
RA’s are not authoritarian rule enforcers; they care about you and want everything to run as smoothly as possible. They’ve been around the block and can be a fantastic resource for advice & insight.
16) Sleep Isn’t Optional
Pulling an all-nighter is a badge of honor, but one you shouldn’t get. Sleep is absolutely essential for you to be at peak performance. If you find yourself having to stay up all night on a regular basis, your time management skills need improvement. The less sleep you get, the more problems you’re going to have. Being tired is the fastest way to feel like all your problems are 10x worse.
17) Don’t Isolate
If you feel like you’re drowning in obligations, school work, and problems it’s easy to feel like pulling away from your friends and support networks. Resist that temptation! The more you want to pull away, the more you should reach out.
18) Know The Difference
Stress is a part of life, but did you know there are two types? Distress is stress that’s damaging to your well being. Eustress is stress that helps you perform at your best. Learn to identify what’s distress & eustress and take steps to limit bad stress.
19) Should, Would, Could
Don’t let your idea of success get in the way of actually being successful. Reevaluate your assumptions about how well you should be doing, and pay attention to what you actually want. Don’t compare yourself to others and think you should be doing what they’re doing. Chances are, they’re struggling just as much as you!
20) Ease Off the Gas Pedal
It’s tempting to be an overachiever, but fight that urge! If your calendar puts Tetris to shame, you should make some changes. Find a comfortable routine, and stick with it for awhile before thinking about adding on more obligations.
21) Get Connected
There are so many groups, organizations, and clubs on campus! Go find one you like, and participate. It’s fun to find people who share common interests, and can be a great way to build your community. (Why not try the student activities team?!)
22) FOMO is Your Enemy
Allow yourself some down time. Don’t over exert yourself because you’re scared of missing out. It’s ok to decline invitations you get; you don’t have to say yes to everything!
23) Don’t Look Back Too Often
There’s a reason a car’s windshield is so big, and the rear view mirror is so small. Looking back is only useful when it helps you move forward. Be sure to maintain healthy relationships with folks back home, but not at the expense of being able to thrive where you are.
24) Take Breaks
Even if you have a million things to do, take a break, and take it often. Not allowing yourself any rest is like only breathing out; eventually you’re going to pass out. When you take a break, you allow your mind to relax and it will come back with more energy to tackle those problems you’re working on.
25) It’s Ok Not to be Ok
Listen. You’re doing the best you can, and sometimes it’s not good enough. And that’s ok. Asking for help is not a personal failing, it shows smarts to reach out. Don’t let things get out of hand before you admit to yourself you need help. There are so many people who want to help you succeed; find them!
What Do You Think?
Have any tips to add? I’d love to hear it! Drop me a line, and let’s start a conversation.