Practical Guide to Your First Year in College

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Your first week in college was like your first trip to Europe. It doesn't have to do with art and history, which overwhelmed you after your first week in Paris. You realized that you have been a privileged teenager, and your new-found freedom put you into an unfamiliar position. You're not wishing your parents to keep an eye on you from a distance, but you're hoping that your first year in college would be a breeze. Fear not.

There's no doubt that you've been spoon-fed during your high school years, such that your English teacher didn't tell you to make an effort on your essay on "Washington Square". (Your sister is a huge fan of Olivia de Havilland, and you happened to watch the big-screen adaptation of Henry James's novel, with the actress playing Catherine Sloper. You didn't read every page of the 266-page book.) You thank your lucky stars that you didn't apply for a place in the Department of English (after you've learned about the discomfort of the dual-degree students), but it doesn't make coursework easier. If you want your first year to be a breeze, then you must make one major change in your life.

Discipline is the ability to choose between what you want now and what you want tomorrow (or the immediate future). You must meet the requirements, most of which have something to do with essay writing and examinations. It's the only way to graduate from college (and receive your degree), and it means one (and only one) thing. You must make a lot of sacrifices if possible. If it means putting a limit to your socialization, then you must think of other ways of making up on it. (You can invite your coursemates to a study session) This would put you in an uncomfortable position, but you should get over it sooner or later. What happens next?

3 Ways to Set Up a Solid Year

Go to lectures in person. You have learned that many colleges are putting their lectures online, but nothing beats the real thing. If you're about to complain about your lack of social life, don't miss your morning lectures. (Where else can you make new friends?) If you want your professors to notice your interest in the coursework, make your presence known in the lecture room. You don't have to be a wallflower, though. If you want to ensure your passing in every examination, pay attention to what your professors and coursemates are saying (during the lecture). Some could be hints, which would keep you from not spending a lot of time on a question (or prose). Always remember that your diligence to attend lectures would tell if you could finish your program or not.

Plan the week ahead on Sunday. You don’t need a planner on this one, as pen and paper would do. Make a list of what you need to do during the upcoming week. Decide which ones must be done immediately while you prioritize the others. The latter means that some can be postponed for the next week or the week after next. You already know that paper writing and examinations would be your top priorities, so allot a number of hours on reading and studying. It would leave you little time for loafing, if not indulging on your interests. (You can include socialization as well.) Plan it accordingly, such that you won’t lose a number of hours on sleeping.

Try to make the most out of your time. A large chunk of your time would be spent on waiting, and it could frustrate most teenagers. Patience may not be a virtue for most of them, including you, but you could practice on it. If you’re stuck in traffic, read a chapter of a book that is assigned by your professor. If you have to do the laundry (and it could take some time), read more books. Rainy weather could make your eyes go heavy, and caffeine might not be good enough. You could move around, if not do a series of cardiovascular exercises. (Jumping could be good to your heart.) It should keep you wide awake. You don’t have to do everything that you read (in this item), but you’ve been warned about falling asleep. (You must make sure that you have done most of the tasks.)

What to Do If You're Struggling or Overwhelmed

You’re barely a month in your chosen degree course when you’re struggling in the coursework. You’re becoming overwhelmed with what to study, and you get restless whenever you think of papers and examinations during the month of December. Is this a sign that you must change courses?

If you want to change courses, then you must decide before the end of October. Talk to your tutor about it, if it’s only a problem that most freshmen go through. If it’s something deeper, then you must deal with the consequences. Are your parents willing to pay for the additional expenses? If you’re a beneficiary of a scholarship, this change could result in a loss of your grant. Do you have alternatives? A change also means paperwork, and you might have enough of it. Are you willing to do it? If you do so, it could affect your schedule. There are other pressing things that could be affected by it. Making tough decisions is what adulthood is all about. If you choose to stick to your degree, you might learn something later. The journey will be worth it.

Thank you.

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