Tag Archive | life

On Learning Things You Can’t Find in Books

Coming from an intense, private college-prep high school, I was ready for the heavy load, the writing and the boring lectures. There are a few things that no amount of studying could have prepared me for.

When packing for college, there are a few approaches you can take. You can shove everything you need haphazardly into your car or meticulously pack and label. Then, as you pack to go home from college, you don’t realize how much stuff you have acquired in the last school year: the things your parents bought you when they visited, your cool aunt has sent you things, the stuffed koala your first college boyfriend won for you, and now there is no room in your car on the way home. I would suggest donating items you can live without to a local thrift store.

When shopping for school supplies, never buy anything at the overpriced University bookstore. If your University does not have textbook rental, Barnes & Noble has a rental program that costs about $30 per book with free shipping on orders over $25.

If you can’t find a job, email your favorite professors and ask if they need help in their office. Still no job? Try posting flyers at the local library for services you can provide such as mowing grass, moving help, elementary tutoring, typing, editing, babysitting, dog walking or anything else you can think of.

When doing laundry, you can use Shout Color Catchers to prevent your clothes from fading or bleeding when you forget to or neglect to sort them. If you have multiple loads, remember you can usually shove two loads of wet laundry into one dryer.

Pizza, chicken nuggets, potato soup and biscuits and gravy happen to be the only decent food that’s constantly available at my school. Pace yourself and try to find healthier options. When I had a meal plan, I spent most of it on coffee and cookies in the library and went grocery shopping for real food. Also, go ahead and buy a reusable water bottle and never pay for water again!

When all else fails, make friends with older college students and ask them for advice!

On Organization

If you ever plan on graduating in a timely manner, you’ll have to be organized. Luckily for you, I have my fair share of time-tested organizational tips that will make you a more efficient student and help you graduate on time.

Growing up, my mom often had a daily planner to keep all her appointments and events in one place and boy did I think that was nerdy. I couldn’t have been more surprised my freshman year when I was given a free one in an orientation goodie bag and decided to fill it up with the information in my syllabi; like due dates of assignments, tests, quizzes and papers. It wasn’t long until I found myself going back to it regularly to check things off that I had finished and to make sure I was on-track in each class. I kid you not, getting — and properly utilizing — a daily planner will greatly increase your likelihood of passing classes and graduating on time.

On almost the same level as daily planners, accordion file folders are well worth the few bucks you’ll spend on them, considering the amount of time and frustration they’ll save you later in the semester. These things are pretty self-explanatory, it’s a binder that folds out like an accordion to let you easily store papers from multiple classes into their own slots so they don’t get mixed together. They also come with little tags you can put class names on to be better organized. Much like an accordion, it folds back up nicely and conveniently so you can take all your papers to campus while keeping them neatly organized.

Finally, and what I think should be the base of your organizational system to success(™ coming soon), is the arrangement of your main study area. It’s important to have a desk dedicated solely to your school work. Make sure it’s always mess free to avoid distraction, and in a place where you can completely drown out all other stimuli to focus on your work. Facing a wall is an easy way to get rid of visual distractions, but sometimes drowning out the noises of your house, apartment or dorm can be slightly more challenging. For that, I would plug my headphones into my laptop and go to Simply Noise, select a tone and volume I liked, and go to work. With this noise generator, I often found myself taking fewer breaks and feeling my thoughts flow more smoothly, ultimately finishing my papers faster than I would otherwise. I tried listening to my own music library, but quickly found myself jamming out to the music and not doing any work. Everybody sings alone in their cars, so sitting alone at a desk will probably yield the same result. Good luck.

On Dining Halls and the Freshman Fifteen

One of the most obvious problems facing incoming freshmen who are planning on living on campus is the struggle of nutrition and of learning to control their own eating habits. Most schools attempt to thwart this conundrum by offering various meal plans that allow students to purchase meals at the various dining halls located on campus.

As time has progressed, most student bodies on campuses across the country have led initiatives to force their schools to offer healthy options for students. The problem is that along with the promising nutrients of all the healthy options, students seem to have little to no control over their own consumption.
Healthy Options at the University of California, Irvine Dining Hall

From my own experiences in the dining hall, I would often see students bypass the leaner options and head straight towards the pizza and burger station. My freshman peers would walk to their tables with multiple plates of food, washing their greasy meals down with endless cups of the various sodas that flowed freely. Even if they were full halfway through the meal, they would most often continue eating the food they had gotten in an effort to not waste anything. After months of doing this they easily put on quite a few extra pounds.

So, what is the easiest way to fix this? I need to preface this by saying that I am in no way a dietitian or nutritionist, but simply a student who successfully made it through the first years of college in a relatively healthy state. The main way to combat this overconsumption is to simply only grab a single plate of food at a time. This forces you to have to continually choose whether or not you want to eat more, rather than simply having all of the food in front of you. Most dining halls that I have visited are wholly fine with students going back and forth between tables and the food areas, so no additional charges are levied. Getting into the habit of forcing yourself to a single plate can easily help keep off the excess weight.

Students who live on campus are offered meal plans of various sizes, and most of my fellow students made the expensive mistake of purchasing the largest meal plan. It is easy to have the mindset of “Of course I’ll need to be able to eat at the dining hall three times a day!” More often than not, you’ll skip a meal each day because of classes, outings, or just pure apathy. Unless you are absolutely certain that you’ll need to eat in the dining hall for all three meals each day, go for a smaller and ultimately cheaper plan. Almost everyone I knew at the end of each school quarter had extra meal points remaining, which was a complete waste of money.

Living away from home for the first time can be an amazing experience, but it is easy to ruin your body and time by eating terribly in the campus dining halls. Avoid the pitfalls of overpaying and always remember to stick to a single plate.

On Time Management

In case you feel as though you’ll be overwhelmed by college, relax; it’s easier than you think.

Most colleges require around 15 units a semester (or 12 units a quarter) to graduate in four years. Units can typically be understood as the number of hours a week you will be in class. If you compare that to the 30-35 hours a week spent in high school, there should be no reason you shouldn’t graduate in a timely manner. Yes, classes are harder than those you took in high school and will require more time for homework, but given the amount of free time you get, it’s more than reasonable.

Accordingly, if there’s one thing you will need to get used to in college, it is the amount of free time you’ll have. Getting a job will help offset the free time and besides; there are few things better than a steady paycheck, whatever the size.

One of the main problems I saw in college, was the ways in which students abused their free time. As soon as classes got out for the day or for the week, my classmates would immediately immerse themselves in partying or video games that would last until hours before class began again, leaving little to no time for studying or homework. I’ve witnessed numerous people fail classes because they were not able to find time to put in the work, despite the substantial amount of time they were given.

When I would get out of class, I would head back to my apartment and finish most of the homework assigned to me that day, and only after that I would feel ready to begin socializing with friends. This routine worked well for my first year, then I began giving myself a little more leeway as I became more comfortable with it and because my work hours didn’t always allow me to do so. Regardless, I still completed assignments and papers as soon as I could. I would suggest you try this first semester to avoid being overwhelmed by deadlines and due dates, instead of waiting until it’s too late. After you get used to this system, try adjusting it to see what works best for you.

Now don’t get me wrong, partying and hanging out with friends is great, but there is a happy medium between socializing and studying. Though it may vary from person to person, it is out there, and finding it for yourself is well worth the satisfaction.

On Expectations

Regardless of where you end up going to school, college will not be exactly what you expect it to be. We’ve all seen the films Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds, or viewed one of the many shows that MTV has played over the years to suggest to our young minds what our lives at university will be. You’ve invariably built up some notion of wild parties, free-flowing alcohol, and unforgettable antics that somehow combine to form this four-year extravaganza. While I promise you that this does exist somewhat at every school I have visited; this is not college. If you go in only expecting this, you’re in for a wake-up call.

College is better. For a very short four years of our lives we are given the chance to use the amenities of giant institutions across the nation. The amount of resources that school’s put at a student’s fingertips is absolutely astounding. From endless library access, to a whole host of professors and classes conveying light on every imaginable subject; the chance to gain knowledge is easily there.

I’m sure this does not impress many of you. You’re thinking something along the lines of “I’m going for the college experience, not just to learn! I don’t care about libraries!” Sure, I firmly believe that the importance of college is not academic learning. But ignoring the academics all together has gotten many of my fellow students in heaps of trouble, so I thought I’d try to get you to realize the value of some of the resources before you forget to utilize them. The faculty and staff are literally there to help you, don’t be afraid to ask them any question.

But back to expectations, it’s probably safer to lower your own. That isn’t to say that college won’t be a life-altering experience, but it is simply your own journey. For the next few short years of your life, you’ll be able to completely redefine yourself and fully grow in to what you want to be. You’ll get to meet people from all around the world and try out a myriad of different activities with little to no real world consequences. You want to play a unique sport? You want to try your hand at being a painter? You want to become a published physicist? Then do it! College not only allows for this, but also encourages it.

The main thing to take away is that everyone’s college experience is unique. With such an opportunity ahead of you, its important to utilize all of the benefits of being a student. You don’t have to be a character out of some party movie, but you also don’t have to be so studious that you have no life. Your education is not only about the grades your earn, but also about the life lessons your learn.  Live a little, learn a little, grow a little and simply enjoy it.