How to Survive College
College is an exciting and transformative journey that presents numerous opportunities and challenges. It’s crucial to approach college life with a well-rounded strategy encompassing academics, social engagement, career exploration, and mental and physical health.
In this comprehensive college survival guide from Bold.org, we’ll delve into these aspects of being a college student, providing you with practical tips and insights to survive and thrive during your college years.
With so many responsibilities to juggle, college can move at a fast pace for many college students. Worrying about paying for tuition and fees only adds to the stress of academic and social life. Luckily, applying for scholarships for college students can help reduce the financial burden of higher education, allowing you to apply your full attention to social and academic happenings.
Create a free Bold.org account today and apply for hundreds of scholarships for college students and high school seniors. And don’t forget to check out more exclusive blog posts like this one to learn more about making the most of your college journey.
Time Management and Organization
Many college students live away from home for the first time in their lives and have complete control over their schedules and how they spend their time. As a result, first-year students may struggle to adequately manage their time and maintain a consistent routine that will allow them to succeed.
Time management tools and strategies can help you balance the responsibilities of college life and stay on top of your academics.
Tip 1: Utilize Digital Tools
In the digital age, it’s crucial to harness the power of technology, and being a college student is no exception. Take advantage of calendars and planners on your phone, tablet, or laptop to help you keep track of classes, upcoming due dates, exams, internship applications, and more! Having your commitments time-blocked in a calendar or planner allows you to accurately estimate how much time you have to complete your work and balance academics with extracurricular activities and social life.
Tip 2: Break It Down
One of college’s most common - and most detrimental - pitfalls is procrastination. With so many aspects of college life to manage, many first-year students can feel overwhelmed and resort to putting off their assignments or studying until the last minute. Unfortunately, doing so can result in poor academic performance and low grades, delaying your progress toward your degree.
To avoid procrastination, break down larger assignments into smaller, manageable tasks and use those aforementioned digital tools to create a study plan. Be sure to keep distractions out of reach by leaving your phone out of sight or installing apps or programs that block distracting notifications on your phone or laptop.
Tip 3: Plan Your Studying Ahead of Time
It’s a good idea to set aside time during the first few weeks of the semester to plan your studying for major assignments and exams. Most professors provide a class syllabus in the first week of class, which details all of the exams, projects, and assignments for the entire semester. Utilize your course syllabi to your advantage and plan your study schedule for major exams so you’re not left cramming the night before.
Check out this exclusive blog post to learn more about how to get good grades in college!
College is more than just attending lectures and taking notes. It’s about actively engaging in your coursework, absorbing knowledge, and developing critical thinking skills. Active learning not only enhances your understanding of the subject matter but also helps you retain information more effectively.
Tip 1: Attend Class and Be Present
Active learning begins in the classroom. While it might be tempting to skip large lectures where professors don’t take attendance, attending classes is key to retaining the information you’re learning and getting good grades.
When you attend classes, lectures, seminars, or labs, be fully present both mentally and physically by:
- Participating actively: Don’t be a passive observer. Engage in class discussions, ask questions, and share your thoughts.
- Take meaningful notes: Instead of transcribing every word your professor says, focus on capturing key concepts, insights, and ideas. Use abbreviations, symbols, or different colors to highlight important points. Taking meaningful notes encourages you to listen critically and identify essential information, helping you stay on top of material in demanding classes.
Tip 2: Utilize Study Groups and Other Study Resources
Study groups are a valuable resource for active learning. They provide opportunities for discussion, collaboration, and peer teaching. Learning centers within your department or college may host study groups led by upperclassmen or graduate students.
Discussions with your peers in study groups can deepen your understanding of the subject matter and encourage critical thinking. Not to mention, teaching is one of the best ways to learn! Explaining concepts or problems to your study group members forces you to clarify your understanding of course material and identify gaps in your knowledge.
Read this blog post to find the best college tutors to help you succeed in your classes!
Tip 3: Regular Self-Assessment
To ensure you’re actively learning and retaining information, engage in regular self-assessment, even if you don’t have an impending exam looming over your head. Regularly testing your knowledge of key concepts will ensure you’re well-prepared for cumulative midterms and finals and lessen the amount of studying you must do before these large exams.
Especially for STEM subjects like math, science, or engineering, practice problems are essential to performing well on exams. Continue solving problems independently outside of assigned homework to keep your problem-solving skills sharp at all times.
Tip 4: Connect with Professors and TAs
Don’t forget to take the time to attend your professors’ and TAs’ scheduled office hours to ask questions and get feedback on assignments. Most professors schedule office hours at a designated time each week. During office hours, students can have 1:1 discussions with professors on course material, get answers to questions, and receive in-depth feedback on assignments and essays.
Taking the initiative to attend office hours and build connections with your professors will help you develop a comprehensive understanding of the course material. Furthermore, regularly interacting with your professors can help you build relationships and find mentors in your field.
Here are some tips on how to successfully transition to college!
Social and Extracurricular Enrichment
College isn’t just about academics–it’s also a time to explore your interests, develop soft skills, and build lasting relationships. Active participation in social and extracurricular activities can be as valuable as your coursework during the first year of college.
Here’s how to make the most of extracurricular and social offerings during college:
Tip 1: Get Involved
College campuses are hubs of activity with numerous clubs, student organizations, and events. Don’t limit yourself to the classroom - make time to explore and engage in social and extracurricular activities. Participating in the campus community can help you meet new friends and make new connections with your peers.
- Join campus clubs and organizations: Seek out clubs and student organizations that align with your interests, whether it’s a professional organization, a cultural club, a debate society, a sports team, or a community service group. Joining student organizations can help you meet like-minded individuals and develop new and existing passions.
- Volunteer and give back: Consider participating in volunteer activities or community service initiatives–both on campus and in the surrounding community. Giving back to the community not only feels rewarding but also builds empathy and social awareness–two essential qualities for any profession you decide to pursue.
- Attend campus events: Most colleges host fun and enriching events throughout the year that are exclusively available to their enrolled students, such as an annual campus dance or on-campus music festival. These events serve as opportunities to bond with fellow students and take a step back from the stress of academics.
Tip 2: Leadership Opportunities
Taking on leadership roles within clubs and organizations can be immensely rewarding and provide valuable skills for your future career. Here’s how to make the most of leadership opportunities within student organizations:
- Run for positions: When elections or leadership applications arise within clubs, don’t hesitate to run for a position. Leadership roles allow you to influence change and develop crucial teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills.
Tip 3: Balancing Commitments
While getting involved in social and extracurricular activities is an essential component of college life, it’s essential to maintain a balance with your academic responsibilities.
Once again, effective time management techniques are key to juggling academics, extracurriculars, and personal life during college. Create a schedule that allocates enough time for studying, attending meetings, and relaxation. Don’t overload yourself with more activities than you can handle.
Additionally, don’t forget to prioritize self-care! Maintaining mental and physical health is essential to success in college. Take breaks when needed, get enough sleep, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Prioritizing Mental and Physical Health During College
While college is a time of academic growth, it can also be a period of significant stress and challenges. Prioritizing your mental and physical well-being is essential for a successful and fulfilling college experience.
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy balance as a college student:
Tip 1: Self-Care and Stress Management
Make it a priority to care for your physical and emotional needs; remember, self-care is a necessity, not a luxury! Neglecting your physical and mental health will negatively affect your academic performance and enjoyment of your college experience.
- Adequate sleep: Establish a consistent sleep schedule and get enough sleep each night! Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to recharge your body and mind, even when it’s tempting to pull an all-nighter to study for an exam. Sleep deprivation's long-term consequences can seriously impact your physical health if you don’t prioritize sleep during college.
- Regular exercise: Incorporating forms of physical activity accessible to your body into your routine can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
- Balanced diet: Fuel your body with a well-balanced diet. Whether you’re a STEM major with a demanding academic course load or a D1 college athlete, eating nutritious meals can boost your energy levels and improve your concentration.
Tip 2: Seek Professional Support and Counseling Services If Needed
College life can be overwhelming at times, and it’s essential to recognize when you need support. There’s no shame in getting professional help and getting the help you need will enable you to reach your goals during your four years.
- Health and counseling centers: Most colleges offer counseling services to students at their health and counseling centers. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment with a counselor if you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or mental health. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Talk to friends and family: Establishing a strong support network of trusted friends and family can help you tackle your challenges and concerns during your college years. Speaking honestly and openly about your feelings with loved ones can provide emotional relief and remind you that you’re not alone in your college journey.
Applying for Internships and Preparing for Postgraduate Success
College is not just about the four years you spend on campus; it’s also about preparing for the future. While four years might seem like a long time when you’re entering college, the undergraduate years fly by with how busy most students are!
Securing internships and planning for postgraduate opportunities are vital steps to ensure a successful transition from college to your desired career path after you graduate.
Tip 1: Exploring Internship Opportunities
Internships offer hands-on experience in your field of interest, helping you bridge the gap between academia and the professional world.
Here’s how to make the most of your internship search:
- Start early: Begin searching for internships as early as your freshman year. Many companies offer internships for students at all levels, and taking on internships in your earlier years of college will help you build experience toward more competitive internships in your junior and senior years.
- Use career services: Your college’s career services office is an excellent resource for finding internship listings, preparing your resume, and practicing interview skills. Take full advantage of these services while you’re in college by scheduling 1:1 appointments with career counselors to get feedback on your resume and cover letters.
- Network: Leverage your academic and extracurricular network! Your college’s alumni network is one of the most valuable resources you gain as a college student. Professors, alumni, and even fellow classmates can provide valuable leads on internships and job opportunities and provide recommendation letters for your applications.
Tip 2: Planning for Postgraduate Success
While college provides a strong academic foundation, being proactive about planning for postgraduate success is crucial for your career aspirations.
- Self-assessment: Reflect on your strengths, interests, and career goals. What kind of work makes you excited? What skills do you want to develop further? A clear understanding of your aspirations is the first step toward taking action toward a successful career.
- Seek guidance: Talk to professors, career counselors, and industry professionals about potential career paths in your areas of interest. Your network can offer insights into the job market, requirement qualifications, and emerging trends to help you build experience toward your career goals.
- Resume-building: Continue to build your resume with relevant experiences, such as internships, research projects, leadership positions, and volunteer work. A well-rounded resume that is tailored to your career of interest can set you apart in competitive job markets.
Frequently Asked Questions About College Survival and Success
How can I strike the right balance between academics and social life?
Prioritize time management and create a balanced schedule that includes study time, social activities, and self-care. Learn to say no when you need to focus on academics.
How can I build my professional network while in college?
Build a network by attending career events, joining clubs related to your field, connecting with professors, and using LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your area of interest.
How can I manage stress and mental well-being in college?
Practicing self-care, moving your body, seeking professional help if needed, and building a strong support system will help you manage your stress and mental well-being during your college years.
Scholarships are another valuable resource that can help you better manage your responsibilities and prepare for your future career while in college. Many scholarship programs provide students with networking and mentorship opportunities in their field of interest. Don’t forget to create a free Bold.org profile to start applying for scholarships!