College is an opportunity to build the foundation for a successful career. It is also a time for fun and making new friends. Many students struggle with finding a balance that works regarding school, social life, and finances. While everyone’s situation is different, there are some common threads you can use to navigate your path.
Don’t Overbook Yourself
When you first arrive on campus, you may be tempted to participate in every activity that comes your way. You want to get used to the campus, meet people, and take part in everything your new life has to offer. You should take time for activities that interest you, but you need to maintain a balance. When scheduling fun, be sure there is time to keep up with your schoolwork as well.
You may have been able to comfortably keep up with your classwork in high school without too much outside effort. Don’t plan to keep this up. Instead, consider class time as the beginning of your work, and plan to devote time outside of the classroom for each of your classes, every week. Once you settle into a routine, you will have a better idea of what works for you. You must start the semester off strong. Under schedule your social life and leave more time than you think you will need for your studies. If you fall behind early on, it can be nearly impossible to catch up.
Make Time for Focused Study
It isn’t enough to make the time in your schedule to study, you need to have a plan and be in an area where you can concentrate. Some activities, such as studying for a test, may be conducive to working in a study group. Asking and answering questions with classmates can help break up the monotony of this type of work. For activities such as focused reading or writing, you will probably work better on your own. It may be tempting to hang out in the lounge with friends, but your work will suffer. It is better to buckle down, do the work you need to do, and then socialize guilt-free.
Many new students have trouble with studying. Too often, high school was a series of late nights spent cramming for tests. This is not the best choice for college. Staying on top of your classes allows you to spend a reasonable amount of time studying before a test without fear of failure. If you wait until the last minute to study, you may find yourself struggling pretty early on. Every instructor will give you a syllabus. Don’t just toss this in your bag, use it to create a map for your study schedule. Once you have each syllabus, sit down with them and a calendar. Write down due dates for assignments and tests, and work backward, creating deadlines for yourself. You will see if you have big projects or tests due in different classes, and create a schedule that takes that into account.
Try Not to Focus on Finances
Finances can be stressful during college. Regardless of your family’s financial situation, this may be the first time you have been responsible for managing funds on your own. As you are sure to find out, financial worries can be distracting. Constantly worrying about how you will cover tuition if you will be able to travel home for the holidays, and other concerns can create stress that disrupts your sleep and creeps into your mind every time you bend your head over a book. Taking out private student loans from Earnest.com can help ease some of the stress that comes with worrying about finances. You can use these loans to cover much more than tuition. They can be used for living expenses as well, which frees you up to focus on school.
Stray from Your Intended Path
If you know exactly what you want to do with your life, that is great. If you aren’t sure, this is the time to explore your options. Taking a variety of classes allows you to explore different careers that you may find interesting. Even if you are sure you know what you want to do, taking electives in different areas may have you looking at your intended career through a different lens. Following various interests while you are in college allows you to find areas that you would like to explore further. It will be more challenging later in life to do this type of exploration. Once you are out of school and employed, it can be difficult to give up that security even if the work is less than ideal. Taking the time now to indulge in your interests can help ensure you settle onto a career you find interesting and rewarding.
Take Part in Clubs and Organizations
Academics are only one part of college. Take time to join clubs and organizations that you are interested in as well. Whether they are recreational clubs or career-focused, taking part allows you to get time away from your studies and network with a different group of students. Volunteering with a non-profit that works with your school is also a great option. Volunteering in the local community can help you feel more of a part of the community. It is also a great way to give back to the place that will be your second home.
You’re Not Perfect
You can start the school year with the best of intentions, and then a problem crops up. Perhaps you struggle more than you expected with one class. Maybe you are sick and miss a few days. Perhaps you let the fun of college take over and you oversleep, missing an important test. At some point, regardless of how responsible you try to be, you will probably find yourself unprepared. When this happens, learn from it. Don’t let it ruin the rest of the semester. Learn what you need to do to reverse the damage. What you should not do, no matter how much you are tempted, is to let one mistake snowball into more. Get back on track and keep moving forward.