August 2, 2016

College Dos and Don'ts: What's Actually Important

Today's post is my attempt to cut through all the crap that's out there, please excuse my less-than-eloquent choice of words. I've read countless articles and blog posts on what to do to be successful in college, what you need to do going into college, etcetera, etcetera. What "tips" are actually legitimate and important, and which ones are overemphasized and clichéd? This is by no means a be-all end-all list, but I think having two years of college under my belt affords me at least some credibility, right?

DO take your core classes first.
A lot of incoming freshman do this but just as many don't. As someone who has changed her major more than once, I can tell you from experience: do not take classes for your major until you've completed most or all of your general education requirements! I know it's tempting to sign up for a bunch of cool classes on subjects that interest you or relate to the field that you want to work in, but trust me: you could change your mind and then be stuck with all these credits that are now just electives or, worse, useless (it happens!). Even if you've known since you were eight years old that you're going to be an international lawyer, and you are absolutely, positively sure that you won't change your mind, wait. Those classes will still be there in a few semesters, and, if you do end up changing course, you'll be so glad you waited.

DON'T order your textbooks in advance.
I feel like this tends to be the norm; of course you want to have your books in case the prof assigns work the first day of class. But, I can tell you from experience that it might not be in your best interest to overnight all your books via Amazon Prime. The second semester of my freshman year I thought I was being so proactive by ordering all nine or so books for my freshman seminar before class met for the first time. Come the first day of lecture, the professor told us the textbook list was just a formality and that we didn't actually need any of them. A very good-natured friend and I spent a good 40 minutes taping labels and postage to textbook-filled packages so that I could mail them all back. If you're cool with risking time and money, order ahead, but I personally prefer to wait for syllabus day.

DO find your study spot.
I personally do my best work and get the most work done in cafés or coffee shops, where there are other people and lots of white noise, but maybe you can only work at home or at the library, where it's completely silent. I also listen to music while I'm working, and I'm way more likely to crank out a seven-page essay at my favorite local spot while listening to The Wombats than in a quiet place. My point is that finding the right study spot is the key to productivity in college.

DON'T feel pressured to get involved.
Everyone will tell you that you have to "get involved." Rush, write for a student publication, join student orgs, play an intramural sport. It's totally cool if you want to do any, or all, of these things, and, yes, you'll likely have a lot of fun if you're doing something that you enjoy, but it's also totally cool if you don't want to get involved. People love to tell you that you need to get out of your comfort zone by participating in college activities, but not participating does not mean you're staying comfortable (is that even an expression? lol). Should you try something out? Yes, probably. But if it's not for you, don't force yourself into it! It's okay to have a life off campus.

DO utilize campus resources. 
Campus resources include the more obvious things like the library, the career center, and student counseling, but one of the most important campus resources is the professors and faculty. These are the people who can help you find internships, guide you in your studies, and even connect you to your post-grad job. Your professors are extremely intelligent and know a lot of people, so take advantage!

I'd love to know what you think of these!

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