By Claudine Vainrub
Unlike high school, college is the embodiment of freedom. Your parents aren’t there to make sure you wake up in the morning, do your homework and stay out of trouble. You’re free to study as much or as little as you want, and with only about 15 hours of class each week, you might think you have plenty of time to spare. However, did you know that to become a great college student the rule of thumb is first and foremost is to study for four hours outside of the classroom for each lecture hour you attend? When you do have spare time, participating in extra-curricular activities can provide leadership opportunities and even open doors in the future as you network with peers and faculty. A detrimental alternative is simply to use this time to get into trouble. Did you know some students get so involved with the bar-scene that they flunk out their first year? Yes, this happens even to bright straight-A students who fail to remember what got them into college in the first place.
Here are some things you should consider as you make your transition from high school to college:
Choosing/Changing Your Roommate/Dorm: Unless you choose to live off campus, chances are you’ll be living in a dorm room with one roommate or more (single rooms may be available but are more expensive). Usually, colleges send a questionnaire on what you seek in a roommate, they will want to know if you’re neat, messy, etc., so they can find you somebody that is most likely to get along with you. Some colleges have specialized dorms for international students, honor students, freshmen, single-sex and even co-ed dorms. Talk to students and others on campus to find out what each dorms is really like, some might have a reputation for being quiet, some are perfect for football players, journalism majors, and others have a reputation for being loud party dorms. In case you have problems with your roommate or dorm, talk to your resident assistant (RA) and ask to transfer to another dorm. Seek help from the college’s housing department, that’s one of their duties, to support you in case of need.
Good Study Habits: The typical student may think that “this is my time to have fun because life after college is boring.” That is a myth; a good college education can provide you with great fun in the future if you make sure to spend those four years wisely. So consider the following study habits that will help you succeed.
A. Take notes and/or record the class: Doing this will make you active during class time which will improve your data retention. When you record your classes you are able to you listen to your professors while you’re walking, working out at the gym, riding the bus and in other instances.
B. Avoid Facebook/Texting/Social Networking in class: Multitasking by listening to a lecture while texting your friends and having fun with a blog will get you distracted and force you to study more when you’re not in class. Remember, your parents aren’t spending more than $20,000 a year for you to waste your time in class. Facebook has become very controversial for college students prompting some to unite into groups against the habit-forming site. These students claimed that their use/addiction to use Facebook was taking time away from their studies, and their grades were suffering because of this. Don’t let this happen to you – remember, the key to success is balance. However, if you can’t control it, it is wiser to drop it than to allow your college work to suffer because of your participation in this or any social network.
C. Do your homework on time: If you were studying French, would it be easier to learn 10 words a day or 100 words for tomorrow’s exam? The answer is obvious, if you complete your homework assignments and study every day, you will not have to stay up all night preparing for an exam and you will be more likely to get a better grade.
D. Seek Help: Almost all professors have office times to meet with their students so they can help you with any questions. You can also seek tutors from the university, find out about different study groups, and work with your academic adviser to drop a class if the course is too difficult. In college, you will find that professors want to help you, most of them want you to succeed. If you are having a tough time with one course, be prepared to go the extra mile, do extra work, ask questions to the faculty and personally sit with them until the task is successfully completed. This will support you in getting closer to the grade you desire.
Extracurricular Activities: Engaging in fun/educational activities outside the classroom will help you keep your spirits up, network with future leaders and even spice-up your resume. Just like Journalism majors often write for the college newspaper, it’s not uncommon to see Business majors participating in clubs related to entrepreneurship, finance/venture capital management, and marketing, while other majors join political or even bizarre clubs. Fraternities for example are a great place to develop leadership skills and become part of a very special organization where the loyalty between members outlasts college – it’s no secret that frat brothers and sorority sisters often hire their own.
Homesickness: It’s not uncommon for students to miss their families, but thanks to technology we are all one step away. Call them from your free long-distance cell phone account (that’s what it is for), e-mail them, and even visit them in your computer screen. To avoid getting homesick, you should try contacting your parents at the very least once or twice per week. Let them know how you’re doing, ask them for advice, this will not only show them how grateful you are for everything they have done for you, but it will keep your spirits up in the most difficult times.
Date Rape: Colleges recruit students from all walks of life and unfortunately, we can find students amongst our peers that do not have good judgment or are up to no good. Incidents of date rape do happen, some rapists try to put a “roofie” in your drink to make you fall asleep which is why you should protect your drink at all time (if you’re old enough to be drinking). Others may try to get you drunk so you’ll be more likely to agree to sex or not have the power to resist an advance. If you find yourself in a place where you feel unsafe, seek help from campus security. Do not risk walking back to your dorm alone if late in the night, do not open your door to strangers. Never abuse alcohol – remember that you have to take care of yourself and if you are not in your senses, it is easy to fall into traps where others could take advantage of you. If you become a victim of rape, call the police immediately and don’t take a shower because that removes crucial evidence.
Illegal Drug Use: Movies like Animal House show a world where using illegal drugs has no consequences, this is not so. Schools are becoming stricter about drugs, some will even expel you not just for your own drug use but the drug use of your roommate if you know about it and don’t report it. In some cases just having drug paraphernalia can get you expelled, so aside from the usual dangers of drugs, getting expelled from college can have disastrous consequences for your future. Also, corporate recruiters nowadays are very thorough in testing you for drugs. Many test through hair, which can carry a history of two years in some cases. Any trace of illegal drug use can become a factor when hiring you for employment following your college years. Don’t let a bad decision mark your future, there are certainly some things worthwhile not trying in life – drugs is one of them.
Spring Break: Because 18 is the legal drinking age in Mexico and drugs are common and easy to find, a lot of young college students that vacation there during spring break. But it’s not all fun and games, in Mexico people can and do get arrested and when that happens they face a legal system where you are guilty before proven innocent.
Psychological Issues: From eating disorders to depression, the college experience can bring out more topics than an entire year of The Tyra Show. The good news is that almost every college has a counseling center with trained psychologists at no cost to you, they can help you get your life back on track and avoid letting a small problem becoming a big one that ruin your academics and your life.
Don’t try to do it all: “Jack of all trades, master of none” applies to students who learn about everything but specialize in nothing. What good is a Communications degree if you can barely work a camera, barely write a screenplay, barely direct a movie/TV show and barely write an article? Smart students do their best to find their passion and master it. This will not only help you find a great job right after college, but it might save you having to enroll in a technical institute to learn what you didn’t learn in college.
Don’t Cheat: From hiring a student to write your essays to cheating during exams, some students play tricks with their college education in order to get better grades. If you get caught doing this, you could be put on probation or expelled. If you don’t get caught, you might end up doubting your abilities because you’ll know you’re a cheater and if you have a conscience, it will affect you. Colleges are very strict with plagiarism too, and professors are instructed to check all work for originality. The honor code in most colleges is extremely rigid – colleges will trust you as a principle, but if they ever find out that you cheated, you will not be forgiven. It is not worth the risk to test the system and try to cheat. Stay true to your work, make your best honest effort and this will get you far.
In conclusion, use your college years wisely, avoid drugs and alcohol, remember that the courses you take and activities you participate in can affect you in many years to come. Value your academics, because a high GPA can help you land the best internships and someday the highest paying jobs. Strive for your best, with vision and heart, and you’ll really enjoy the best years of your life!