As a high school student, you hear a lot about how fun and exciting college will be. No curfew! Tons of friends! All that freedom!
And all that studying.
No doubt about it, college is cooler than high school. It's also a lot harder. College is work. It takes effort, discipline and sacrifice. Getting everything done and keeping those grades up may mean a few late nights and an occasional early morning. But take it from two guys who've been there, done that: It's well worth the effort. So as you prepare for your first year, here's how to get started—and get started right.
First things, first
College should be fun, it really should. Hey, we had lots of fun! But, it also takes getting your priorities straight. And your top priority is class work.
Think of it as having a 40-hour-a-week job. You need to split those 40 hours between time in class and time completing assignments. When you've put in those 40 hours, then it's time to play and have fun. An honest employee wouldn't think of sneaking out early and cheating their boss. It's kind of like that for you, too. Only as a college student, you're both "boss" and "employee." So don't cheat yourself!
Now to get real practical: Let's say you just finished your 1:00 class and don't have another one until 4:00. This is not the time to take a nap or play Ultimate Frisbee—especially if there are assignments to complete.
But skipping that Ultimate Frisbee game is only half the battle. You can still waste your study time if you don't find the right place to study. Loud dorms with a football flying down the hall (and whacking your door every 10 minutes) is not ideal. OK, it's the last place you'd want to study, right? You need to find a place that's quiet—and that's away from your bed. Naps can be major distractions and time wasters.
Student lounges might work, but they still can be pretty noisy. A quiet study desk in the library? Now that's a place where you can get some real work done!
During my junior year, I (Chris) finally realized that serious studying did make a lot of sense. (Yes, sometimes I'm a rather slow learner.) So I found a little secluded area in the library's rare books collection. It may seem strange, but studying around all those old classics was kind of inspiring. I guess that musty smell just stimulated my brain cells. Seriously, I could concentrate in the quietness, avoid distractions from other students, and get down to business.
A friend of mine studied in an empty Sunday school room at a nearby church. The building was open all day and she got permission to use the room. On her way to her "study room," she would stop by the sanctuary first to pray about her academic life.
Getting serious early on about your studies will help you avoid a lot of frustration, stress and regret in the long run. As one serious college senior told us: "Get eight hours of sleep a night, do all your homework, do the work of a student nine to five, and you'll most likely get straight A's." OK, so maybe you won't get all A's. But you will have a better chance of learning what you need to learn if you commit yourself to disciplined study times.
As you prepare for your first year of college classes, it's a good idea to get answers to four basic questions:
1) What are you required to take? Most colleges have some form of core curriculum you're required to take before graduation. For a list of these required classes, consult the college's course catalog. Then plan to get those requirements out of the way as quickly as possible. We know, you may not be interested in taking one more English class. Or maybe the thought of another math class makes you a bit ill. But get those courses out of the way so you can move on to stuff you're really excited about. You'd be surprised how many college seniors end up in lower-level language classes because they didn't take them early on.