10 Quick Tips to Conquer Your First Week of College
- Get Your Lazy A** to Class! Of course, no one should already be “lazy” by Week 1, but after orientation sessions, dorm socializing, and new sleeping arrangements, you may not feel as perky and full of life as you’d like. TOUGH! It’s time to get focused and fired up, and your number one priority is your classes. Get there. Get psyched. Learning really is fun…. embrace it!
- Be Alarmed By Your Alarm. If your alarm (or phone or whatever you use to wake yourself up) is next to your bed, fully equipped with a snooze button, and too easy to ignore, you’re off to a bad start. Put it on the opposite side of the room, so you MUST be on your feet to deal with it. Once you’re on your feet, you’re up. Stay that way!
- Take Note of Your Notes. As soon as you walk into class, be ready for note taking. Have a plan and a system that will work for you. (Yes, you can be flexible and adjust your system as you go.) There’s plenty of note-taking software to choose from, but many believe there’s benefit from hand writing your notes and then revisiting and reorganizing them after each class session. (And you could do this reorganizing by hand or by typing. Your call. See what works.)
- Ain’t Nothin’ Silly ‘Bout That Syllabus! That special piece of paper (or electronic file) you get in every class is your contract for that class. Read it in its entirety to make sure you’re in the right class at the right level. It’ll also tell you how the course will progress, important dates, and what the professor deems important. If there is ever any question, concern or conflict related to course materials or deadlines, you and the professor will always refer back to the syllabus where it’s all “set in stone.”
- Don’t Forget Your First Date. That’s right! Every date on your syllabus matters, and you should enter all of them into your personal calendar before you begin Week 2. This allows you to see the big picture, find conflicts, plan accordingly and…. I dunno… meet, rather than miss, important deadlines. Duh!
- Buy Your Books. You will hear a lot of chatter about what books you may need or not need for class and how you could avoid buying some. During your first year, plan to buy your books (or rent them). Ask each professor if used books are okay (e.g. you may not need the new book with accompanying DVD or workbook). As you progress past your first year, you can learn tricks of the trade and make informed decisions about the resources you’ll need for your courses moving forward. Do you truly believe, however, that you’ll be able to borrow your friend’s book right before finals? You should probably have your own.
- Scope Out Your Silent Space. This may take longer than one week, but begin exploring special spaces on campus where you could “get away,” avoid distractions, and get some serious work done. (Hint: It’s probably not your dorm room!) It may be an outdoor bench when the weather is nice, a quiet room upstairs in the library, or that tucked away spot in that back hallway of the engineering building where you can still get a glimpse of that cool sculpture. Whatever it is, be sure you enjoy being there, so you’ll return again and again and be productive.
- What’s the Score on Your New Social Schedule? During orientation, you may have gotten in a groove, having lunch with some new friends. Once classes begin, all of that could change. So, scope out the eating scene to see who might be available for meals when you are. If your dorm mates aren’t around, it’s a great opportunity to ask any new classmates if they’re up for lunch. More important, don’t be afraid of eating alone every now and then. It’s a good way to recharge your battery or catch up on email. Or, you could put your electronics away and enjoy some people watching (and you may have a chance to wave to someone from class – a.k.a. New budding friendship possibilities!)
- Hop on Your Healthy Habits. Once you have your class schedule, you should be able to plan your sleep, eating, exercise and “spiritual renewal.” If you’ve got an 8am class, but your roommate doesn’t, you need to talk about bedtime and grab your earplugs & eye mask (or try this t-shirt trick from CarpeCollege.com). Find the healthy foods and your exercise ritual right away and lock ‘em in.
If you need some peace and quiet to connect with more than the cacophony of your college campus, maybe with your God, or the Universe, or your inner self, then where and how will you find it? Whether it’s religious services, meditation, yoga, or a walk in the park, find it early to make it a habit.
Routines become… well…. routine. If you do not take care of yourself right out of the gate, it can be hard to rectify those bad habits later.
- You’re Not Too Cool for School. Seize every opportunity presented to you early on. If you’re invited to go to dinner, do so. If you’re invited to check out a club, join an intramural activity, or attend a campus event, do so. If you’re invited to help a professor in class, do so. These are all rich experiences you are paying for, and they will pay great dividends as you progress through your college life.
(NOTE: Many campuses use email to let its members know what’s going on around campus, from concerts to guest lectures to theatrical events. These notices may come fast and furiously, but do NOT be tempted to block all campus emails. Find a reasonable way to check them regularly without being overwhelmed by them. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on some truly cool stuff.)
BONUS TIP: See the “Three Week Streak” at the CarpeCollege.com blog for additional tips to get you through your first few weeks.
Michael Metzler is author of Carpe College: Seize Your WHOLE College Experience. He’s been an educator for nearly two decades at both the high school and college level. To learn more visit About the Author at CarpeCollege.com
© 2015 Michael Metzler, Author of Carpe College! Seize Your WHOLE College Experience