Over my last two years here at Bloomsburg, I have caught myself trying countless new things and learning from my mistakes. Looking back I typically say to myself, “If only I knew then what I know now.” Based on these experiences, I have put together a list of helpful college tips that I wish I had followed when I first started out.
Sit in on classes
Officially known as “auditing,” sitting in on a class is a great way to figure out what you want to do without all the burden and risk of a scheduled course. It’s learning when and what you want to learn, not having to learn it. Try sitting in on a few classes or two this semester, perhaps something you will enjoy. If it’s a large lecture class, nobody will know otherwise, and if the class is a small 30 person group, speaking with the instructor may be useful. Look into some of the interesting classes your friends have, and join him or her for the day.
“I may not have learned some Chinese, or become an economics major if it wasn’t for dropping in on classes”
Wake up early
Try getting up every day at 8 a.m. even if your classes don’t start until noon. The early morning hours are the most productive and you will be able to knock out any homework and studying in peace. This frees up your evening for more recreational activities. It takes about a week to adjust (try waking up 30 minutes earlier each day) before you are regularly waking up early.
Read the book/chapter before the class. It will help you soak more up (and your grades will be higher)
This is perhaps the second most important item that will help you make the grade. For the longest time I would get to the night before the test and find myself facing three chapters of reading and homework review. Read the chapter before the teacher instructs you to, their lectures will become less boring as you find yourself understanding the information. You are likely reading this thinking to yourself “yeah, yeah I know this already”. Knowing and doing are two different things. Go grab your book now and place a bookmark at the beginning and end of the chapter you are going to read today. Do it.
Professors are very helpful, just visit them
Professors aren’t just good for lecturing. Find out their office hours and stop by if you ever have a question. The question doesn’t have to be about the upcoming test. These wonderful people are full of knowledge, stop by and ask them about anything in their field that interests you. You will find yourself walking away more inspired and more motivated.
When else would you be able to learn stock trading, the role of psychology in education, economics of happiness, or even what it would be like to eat for under a dollar a day?
Have a dream? Catch it
Ever find yourself dreaming? “I have an idea for a (cool website, business, new club, or new board game), I want to learn to (play guitar, sow my own clothes, cook well, speak French, write a book).” The greatest advantage you have right now, is you are young and you can afford to take the risks. What would happen if you fail? You walk away more experienced and could do it 100 times better the next time. The help is everywhere be it your peers to collaborate or the faculty on campus. Seldom do you find places like universities with so many useful resources concentrated in one area.
“If you will it, it is no dream” -The Big Lebowski
Eat Well, Travel Lots (or just a little (but do travel))
Treat yourself to one of the amazing restaurants here in town.The cost is reasonable for you and your friends to eat out, giving your taste buds a new flavor once a week. Buy a bus ticket to New York, Harrisburg, Philly, and just roam with your friends. Jump in a car and drive until you can’t drive any more. With so many places to see, so many things to do, it is surprising where you can go on a college student’s budget. A road trip or bus ride somewhere can be the cure for a boring weekend.
You hear everybody say it: “Have fun, enjoy it.” Sleep for a minute if you need to, but live every moment because it will go so fast that in 3 years this day will feel as if it was only a month ago. There is so much you can do. Go golfing, play tennis, participate in a 5k, go out with your friends. Spend a lazy rainy Saturday afternoon lying in bed all day watching TV as you order delivery pizza. Everybody has their own definition of fun, so an afternoon bowling for one may be like a night at the movies for another. Think for a minute every morning what fun means to you and make it happen.
So give it a shot, try some of these ideas out for yourself. In two years you won’t be the one saying to yourself, “If I had only known earlier.”
You can follow Dave on twitter @davestanwick