As I start to wrap up my senior year of college, I can’t help but think about how much I’ve learned these past 4 years. Not only in terms of nutrition, but also just how to stay organized and be a student. Coming into my freshman year, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that the next 4 years were going to be challenging, but beyond that, I wasn’t sure. If you’re an incoming freshman, you’re probably feeling the same way. That’s why I’ve come up with a list of things that I’ve found to be really helpful during my time in college. Unfortunately, it took me a few years to figure most of these things out. But my hope is that those reading this post won’t have to learn these things the hard way like I did. So keep reading college kids!
This list is a bit more specific than your run-of-the-mill college tips, but that’s because I’ve perfected them over the years and I want others to benefit from them! My freshman year was rough to say the least. I simply was not accustomed to the academic work that was required of me and I really had a hard time adjusting to my classes. If I had even a few of these tips going in, I really think I would’ve been so much better off! So give them a try!
Keep a Well-Organized Daily Planner
Ok, I know this one sounds cliché, but it really is essential to success in college. Whether this is online or a written planner (I personally like to write things down), you really need it to keep track of assignments and to-do’s. Every single day, I start a new list of the things I need/want to get done that day. Sometimes I get everything done; sometimes I only get the “due tomorrow’s” done. Either way, it’s a great way to have everything you need to do in one place, and it can make you feel much more organized and on top of things! Personally, I like to put little checkmark boxes next to each task and check them off as I go. Doing this not only makes your planner look neater, but it also gives you a little sense of accomplishment each time you finish a task!
Always Have Your Syllabi Handy
The use of syllabi is one huge difference between high school and college. Though most high school classes technically have a syllabus, they are not used nearly as much as they are in college. For a college class, the syllabus is your bible. I usually check mine every single day, to look at when assignments are due, what’s on the schedule for class, how to contact the professor, or how the class is graded. Personally, I like to keep all of my syllabi for the semester right on my desktop (see above). That way I can easily access them at any time and instantly find the information I need, rather than having to go online to find them. I highly recommend trying this out. It really does make your life a lot easier.
Don’t Feel The Need to Take The Same Style of Notes For Every Class
This one may sound a little confusing so let me explain what I mean. I am a very Type A person. I like to take notes a certain way and I like them to be neat and easy to understand. But when I came to college and tried to take notes the same exact way for every class, I was painfully unsuccessful. I had to learn the structure and teaching style of each class and adjust my note-taking accordingly. For example, there were a few classes that were very fast-paced or mostly practice problems during the lecture. So for those classes, I would read the book before coming to class and take neat, detailed notes at my own pace. Then I would bring them to class and take extra side notes in a different color. This was so helpful and I was really able to get more out of the lecture. For other classes, it’s slow-paced enough for me to take notes while in class. And for mainly discussion-based lectures, I didn’t take notes at all.
I was forced to adapt and step out of my normal note-taking comfort zone. But it really was essential for my success in those classes. So my advice to you is, go in on the first day of each semester with an open mind and really try to understand what type of notes the class is going to require. Eventually you’ll get into a routine for the semester and taking notes will become second nature!
Plan Your Workout Schedule Ahead of Time
You will usually get your semester schedule a few months before the start of classes, which gives you plenty of time to plan around it, specifically your workout schedule. College is weird because sometimes you have random gaps of time in the middle of the day. Or you may start later one day or end really early another. While it may seem like you have a lot of free time at first, your time will quickly fill up with all of the tasks you have to get done. So the best way to ensure you get a workout in is to have a set-in-stone written workout schedule for the semester that works around your classes. Make it specific and include times. Many of my classes don’t start until 9am, so I am usually able to get in a morning workout. But for those earlier days, I have to make a different plan and either have a rest day or do my workout later. You just have to find the times that work for you each week. Also, don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to change and get to the gym.
Keep a Semester Calendar
This is one of the single most helpful things I have ever done in college. If you only remember one thing from this list, I hope it’s this. I started making semester calendars my sophomore year and it made a huge difference. Once all of my syllabi are out, I map out every test and assignment that I have due in the next few months. I always use a template from Cornell University’s Learning Strategies Center. (The one pictured above is from their site.) I like to color coat each class and make it my own. Then I put it front and center at my desk so I always know what I have coming up. Not only is this great when you’re looking ahead at the week you have, but it’s also great for long-term planning. For instance, if I see that I have a really heavy week the 2nd week of February, I plan to get started on assignments or studying early. I also make sure I don’t have too many commitments leading up to those days, so I don’t get overwhelmed once it’s crunch time.
Make Your Bed Every Morning
Ok I know it sounds crazy, but making your bed every day really does make a difference in productivity. At least for me. When I walk in to my room and see a nice neatly made bed, I instantly feel like I have my life together (even on days that I really don’t). And it’s really encouraging when you have a lot to do, for some reason. It’s the same when I have my desk cleaned off and organized. I feel ready to get things done, because everything is in order and I have my work cut out for me. I realize that this is difficult to do when you have a lofted bed. (That was me my freshman year.) But if you think it will help you and you’re dedicated enough to accept the challenge of making your bed from 6 feet up every day, then do it! And for the rest of you who are on the ground, you have no excuse! This is a simple, easy way to boost your productivity and enhance your overall sense of accomplishment and well-being. Try it and see how you feel!
My Special Announcement!
Ok, enough about college survival tips and on to my little announcement. As many of you know, I am a senior undergrad student majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics. While I am finishing up my undergrad years, I still have a bit more schooling before I can become an RD (registered dietitian). Before taking the RD exam, all nutrition students must complete what’s called a Dietetic Internship. There are programs across the country that offer them, but still the selection process is extremely competitive. (There is only about a 50% match rate!)
Fortunately for me, my school has what’s called a “pre-select” program, which gives certain undergrad students automatic admittance into their Dietetic Internship and Master’s Program if they meet certain qualifications. And I’m lucky enough to be one of those students! The program starts in May and ends the following August. Because of pre-select, I was accepted in January rather than having to wait until April, and it’s a huge relief! (To any other nutrition students, I know you understand how stressful this whole process can be.) This is something I’ve been incredibly stressed about and overwhelmed with for the past few months. So I just wanted to update you and share the exciting news with my readers so you can all go on this journey with me! I’m officially one step closer to becoming a Registered Dietitian!