First year college student advice

Emily Hays is a writer and a member of a non profit development team in Brooklyn. She earned two undergraduate degrees at the University of Idaho in English with a concentration in technical/professional writing and French. Prior to moving to New York, she lived in 8 states from the West to East coast and spent time living in Europe as well. Currently she is developing several writing projects and collaborating with local artist.

Congratulations on makin’ it to the big leagues! You are among the ranks of people who through privilege or blood, sweat and tears made it onto a college campus. Now, assumedly you’ve been on the school grind a few years, and for better or worse you’ve got a system. You carry your class groupings of color coded notebooks and folders, clack away on your laptop, or perhaps you, like several of my college compatriots keep your class papers in a spherical wad at the bottom of your backpack, which powers your rain man, super intelligence.

Whatever your strategy or lack thereof entails, be ready to revise it if you find yourself lost in the weeds within the first few weeks of your classes. But, for now you’re set. You’ve got your backpack on and you are ready. Let’s review a few simple ways to help ensure you’re not a member of the crew of semester 1 flops who will return to homeward to explain that, fall recess does not in fact extend into February.

A. How to not flunk outta undergrad like a chump

I. Ass-in-chair time. Yes, grab your highlighters for this one and underline it twice. A dear college instructor of mine introduced me to this crucial success strategy coined by writer Frank Conroy. To be a successful writer (or a successful anything for that matter) you’ve got to show up and put in the time.

The first and most important step to knockin’ out killer grades in your class is to show up! We all logically know this, but putting it into practice for that early morning math class is another matter, especially after an evening of socializing.

Truly, one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to show up to class no matter what. It will score your points with your professors which is always a good thing, help you not miss important material for your exams and get you the most bang for the many, many dollars you are spending or will be spending to attend school! Get it. You’re paying for it.

II. Take it easy on the sauce! Having a few drinks with friends is absolutely a part of being in college and socializing. It is also a means by which some people cheat themselves out of their education by going hog wild and derailing their chance at success.

Just BE COOL! No one looks at the slobbering freshman who’s peed themselves on the couch and thinks, “Wow, I gotta get to know that person.”
And now class, should we overindulge, as most of us will do at some point, how do we proceed Monday morning? If you answered, “Go to class”, you get a gold star. Refer to section I. in the notes! Extra credit if you grab a mint and a bottle of water on the way.

III. Ok, so obviously you’re pretty smart. You’re reading an article about how to be successful in school and if you’ve reached this point you actually have surpassed the average 15 seconds most people spend reading an article on the web. Let’s carry this into your scheduling of classes shall we?

There are gonna be a lot of adjustments coming up. You may be living somewhere different, you’ll have lots of new stuff to learn on the daily and plenty of homework. There will be parties, and school clubs, internships and maybe you’ll even have a job on the side.

Big parts of your life are going to change. Don’t underestimate this by loading yourself up with a packed schedule of super challenging courses back to back. Be realistic about what you can handle and factor in time to enjoy yourself.

If at all possible, leave some time in between classes to review material, finish up a last minute assignment or grab a snack. Factor in how far away your classes are. You don’t wanna be the perpetually late, sweaty guy/girl in class who’s doing the elbows out race-walk across campus.

And for the love of late night pizza, if your mom had to drag you out of bed till the day you graduated from high school, early morning classes are not for you.

In summation: do it like you mean it! Arriving at this point took many years, so hit those books and get your A game on.

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