How Do I College? Ed. 2 – Actually Learning 214

See, it’s really funny – the part that most people forget about going to college is the actual…college…part… With class, homework, and tests? It’s a weird concept, I know. But hey, I’m here to impart some of my wisdom – and by that, I mean point out all the mistakes I made.

1. Think reeeeally hard about what classes you’re going to take. Most people do this, but some sort of flagrantly just sign up for what sounds interesting (cough, me). This isn’t to say you should be taking all boring, major-requirement classes, but make your schedule work for you! Something I really regret coming out of freshman year was the fact that I didn’t look for what classes would “double-dip” my general education and major requirements. There were several I could have taken that would have fulfilled my GenEd’s while also fueling a photography minor – but, I didn’t take those. Also, annoy utilize your academic advisors the first few weeks and see if you can transfer if you’re not happy. A lot of people drop classes in that time, so if you couldn’t squeeze into a class during registration, you might have a chance then!

2. Buy school supplies. Again, what you would think to be a no-brainer that a lot of people skimp on. Since you aren’t sitting in a desk all day or needing mom to take you shopping, some people just assume they can squeak by on their friend’s sheets of papers and borrowed pens (again, cough, me). It’s much easier to buy everything at the start of school and then, if you don’t need the stuff, stash it away for later years. And if you think that you can do everything on your laptop – watch out. I had a few different teachers that didn’t allow laptops in the classroom, so sometimes you have to go old-school.

[caption id="attachment_90" align="alignright" width="123"] my favorite quiet lounge.[/caption]

3. Find a good place to do your work and stick to it. Now, when you first get to your dorm I want you to take a good, hard look at your desk. Analyze it. Meditate with it. Buy it dinner. But mostly, decide if you think it would make a good workspace. I knew a lot of people who worked at their desks at school, but then again I knew a lot that said they purely couldn’t focus there. That’s fine! But it’s loads easier to have a reliable place to always work than to constantly be moving around. First semester, I did nearly all my work at my desk and in between roommates and noise levels, it didn’t work out so great. I eventually realized that my dorm had its own quiet lounge on the ground floor, so I relied on that for when I needed to get stuff done. Other good places to work are coffeeshops, empty common rooms, and the cafeteria. But, above all, I urge you to stick to whatever place you choose since that does wonders for your productivity. I had my own special chair in the quiet lounge (and yes, I got weird if someone else sat in it) and it was a nice way of getting myself focused. When I was there, I was working, and when I was done, I left.

4. Study. You hear it all the time. You probably heard it in high school, maybe middle school, and you’ll hear it just as much in college. I honestly wish it was a four-letter-word because it fits the bill. STUDY. Now, depending on what major you’re in, you may do a lot of studying or hardly any. But hopefully in high school you honed your study skills and know at the very least how and when you study best. But what I have to say is this: don’t freak yourself out. I know a lot of people who assumed that in college, they needed to study 24/7 to get good grades and if they skimped, they’d fail. It really depends what professor you have and what you’re studying. And, tough break, but sometimes you study your little heart out and for whatever reason you just won’t get the grade you’re looking for. This happens. My trick? Study until you know the material and you’re comfortable with it. Then, walk away. Cramming works for some and not others. Flashcards, fake-quizzes, and drinking games work with mixed results, depending on the person. But overall, you know your mind best. So just put in the time it takes to feel content, and then stop worrying.

5. Show up to class. You don’t even have to be fully conscious, but at least show your face

[caption id="attachment_91" align="alignleft" width="164"] sometimes, Josh is a good place to study.[/caption]

(and God knows I was hardly awake for most of my 8.30 History lecture). If you’re there (and hopefully keyed in) you are already learning. It’s much easier to write the notes yourself than get them from someone else and you never know when quizzes could get dropped on you. Some professors take attendance, some don’t, but most notice if you’re there or not. I had a friend who skipped one of her classes all the time – and honestly, it was an easy one, so I don’t blame her – but when she got a bad grade on her test and wanted some help from the professor, they didn’t give her any. Why? Because they could tell that if she didn’t care enough to show up, she didn’t really deserve the help anyway.

6. Enjoy yourself. I’m anticipating that you’re going to school for something you love and are passionate about. You might not dig in to the major classes right away, but there’s always some cool class you can try out to experiment. Get to know your professors – usually they’re smart and have great stories about working in the field. Network with classmates – they probably love the same things as you. Really, just have fun. One of my dad’s favorite sayings is, “Go to college for an education, not just a degree.” Keep that in mind throughout all however-many years. Learn and be active in your education, and you’ll get a lot out of it.

Whew, okay, I swear I’m done with the uplifting, general statements. But I’m serious! College is loads of fun, but not just on the weekends. So grab your favorite journal, pick out the best ball-point pen, and get your learning on!

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