As you settle in to your college lifestyle, here are some bits of wisdom to make your experience one that is productive, safe, and fun. Sure, along the way you will make some mistakes—life is about making mistakes, picking yourself up, and moving forward. But don’t let these college mistakes get in the way of you having the best college experience possible.
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1. Showing up anywhere in your pj’s
You might think that showing up to class in pajamas, bunny slippers, and with your hair half-done makes you look cool. You know the “I’m-too-busy-being-cool-I-did-not-have-time-to-put-on-pants” look. Really, it makes you look sloppy and out of sorts. You want to make a positive impression on your professor and your classmates and show that you care about and respect the course. And honestly, it’s really hard to take someone in bunny slippers seriously.
2. Not going to class
Worse than showing up in pajamas is not showing up at all. First of all, each hour of class is costing you between $80 and $180. Whether your parents are footing the bill or you have taken out loans, this is real money that you don’t get back. And class is the main reason why you are in college in the first place. You are there to learn and you certainly can’t do that if you are an absentee student. Even if you are not prepared for class—show up! If you don’t, it becomes more and more difficult to catch up.
3. Being too attached to your cell phone
Life is happening all around you. Don’t go online to see what your thousand friends are doing at every moment. Rather, spend time having experiences and meeting new people, and really absorb this amazing opportunity that you have. Twenty years from now you are not going to laugh about an amazing text conversation you had with someone. You are going to want to reminisce about real life and real moments. Your phone is just a tool, not your BFF.
4. Not giving yourself enough time in the morning
College students are notorious night owls, but no matter what time your day starts, wake up at least one hour before you have to be somewhere. Have a relaxing breakfast. Hit the gym. Read the news (maybe even on real paper). Call your mom. It does’t matter what you do, but use the morning to get ready for your day. If you start each day by rushing around, then that is the tone you set for the rest of the day.
5. Checking your email all day long
You will never be fully caught up on email. It does not matter if you check email every hour or every five hours. More and more will come through. Rather than constantly being stressed about answering each message, pick two or three times during the day when you can respond to the really important messages. Create folders in your email so that you can go back to emails easily. Perhaps one folder per class, one for family, one for friends, and individual folders for activities and other opportunities. Only check email when you really have the time to craft a good response. No one expects that you are ready to reply to their email the second you receive it.
6. Not taking care of yourself
At home, your parents might have had a strong say in what you ate for dinner and when your clothes had to be washed. At college, you are on your own. Try to have a healthy diet. All you can eat does not mean that you should eat everything. Make sure to wash behind your ears. Don’t assume that no one will smell your three-day old t-shirt. And be sure to get enough sleep—not three hours at night and two hours for an afternoon nap. All of those behaviors that your parents tried to indoctrinate into you, they did with the idea that one day you would be able to handle being independent.
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7. Relying on your memory
There are these really amazing tools called calendars and planners that can make your life incredibly more organized. You can even download one on that phone you love so much! You will be expected to show up on time, get work completed efficiently, and remember tasks. There is certainly no need to schedule every minute of everyday, but keeping track of the important stuff will make life a little less stressful. And make sure to schedule in some fun stuff as well!
8. Mistaking multitasking with being productive
Texting while watching YouTube while checking Facebook while reading for your Western Civilization class is not a skill. It simply means that you are actually not studying. Rather than trying to multitask, focus on one or two tasks at a time. Do them well and then move on to something else.
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9. Believing that you are invincible
College is an amazing time. You have freedom. You have choice. You have infinite opportunities at your fingertips. But you are not invincible. Please use common sense. Do not walk around in the middle of the night by yourself no matter where you go to school. Do not accept anything from strangers, especially drinks. Never get into a car with someone that has had even one drink. Do not assume that everyone at school is innocent and nice. If you ever have a bad feeling about any situation you are in, get yourself out of it quickly.
10. Thinking that you are smartest or dumbest person on campus
No matter which college you attend, you will at some point look around and have these two thoughts: “Wow—how did he/she get in?” and “Wow—how did I get in?” Do not get smug and do not get deflated. Know that you are smart enough to do the work, but you have to put in the time and effort. Relish the challenge and also realize that every single person has something interesting and unique to offer.
Purvi Mody is the co-owner of Insight Education and Education contributor to the Daily News, Mercury News, and StudentAdvisor.com and has been interviewed for several articles, books, and radio and television shows. She has worked with students across the US and in other nations including India, China, Korea, United Arab Emerites, and the United Kingdom on the increasingly complex college admissions and financial aid processes.