How to Survive College

Darling Tiara is a writer, thespian and educator. She studied Theatre Arts & Africana Studies at San Francisco State University. She harnesses the power of the human voice and believes her words are her greatest asset.

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At the end of highschool many are really excited while others are anxious about starting college. Some are just tryna get through the 4 years and others are in the mad dash to finish. No matter what stage you’re in no one gave you the “How to Be Successful in College Book for Dummies.” Your parents or counselors just expect you to go, become a nurse, a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Like those are the only professions in the world, but I digress. What you will find if you haven’t already is that high expectations are not enough to survive college.

You’re on your own now, no one is gonna make you do home work, get up on time for class or wash your underwear. That’s the fun part but it’s also the challenging part. As a college student I’ve lived on and off campus and have both LOVED and LOATHED school at the same darn time, so I know a little bit. And because I love you I came up with a list of tips & principles to help you survive The Hunger Games of college.

1. The Work- Play Balance:

In college people who study all the time are…boring and lonely, in contrast those who party all the time are reckless and probably failing. So it’s important to have a balance between the two. I think partying, or going out should be an award system. Like “If I get this assignment done by Thursday then I’ll go to the bonfire on Friday.” This way you’ll have an incentive to get work done. If you don’t get the assignment done by Thurday then go out on Saturday or Sunday or the next weekend believe me there will always be something to do. Be disciplined.

2. The Power of Electives

While you make think you want to be an engineer or doctor which is fine because the world needs those too, take advantage of cool electives that really interest you. The goal in life is to find what you’re passionate about, and you can choose to make that thing your career or hobby, but you have to find it. Having a passion and purpose makes life meaningful.

3. Explore!

Many of us go to new cities, states, or even different countries for college. This is your opportunity to explore a new landscape, try new food, and learn a different culture. So find a friend with a car or learn the local transit system. Traveling is one of the most amazing things you can do even it’s just exploring a new city or state. Don’t be afraid to ask around, befriend a local or get on Google and find something interesting to do.

4. The Science of the Mad Professor

Some professors love their jobs and want nothing more than to see you succeed, other professors…not so much.
So you have to treat all your professors like computers you gotta hack their systems and crack their codes. First you gotta do some research starting with the syllabus take special note of percentages for each component of the grade: tests, quizzes, exams, attendance etc. Each professor is different. Pay close attention to teachers who don’t offer extra credit work, who will kick you out for eating, texting or coming late. It will suck to be dropped from a class cuz you didn’t read the fine print. Also, be sure to go to those office hours, no matter how well you’re doing professors always respect you more when you do, and quite honestly it strokes their ego a little bit to know you care enough about succeeding in their course. Ask them what’s the best way to contact them in case of an emergency some of them NEVER check their emails while others live by it. And lastly remember being a teacher is hard, so be respectful even if you think they suck.

5. Prioritize

This is simple. Create a list of assignments, requirements, and due dates. Tackle the ones that are due first. If all your teachers want you to read a thousand pages make sure you at least take notes on the common themes. And if you have a big paper or assignment due its always best to tackle a little bit at a time, you can pull an all nighter too, but it won’t be the same. Remember most of us have short attention spans so study for 30 minute intervals take a break and then get back to it. And If you have a scholarship that requires a certain gpa stay ahead of it by being organized.

6. Allegiance to the Crew

Let’s be honest friends are important. At the end of he day when you’re away from your family they are all you have. Friends support you, study with you, party with you, compliment you. Not that frienships are perfect but know the “friendships” you saw on Jersey Shore or Love & Hip Hop are poor examples. So no gossiping, or hateration on the people you care about. Broaden your horizons and make friends of different genders, races, orientations and backgrounds, society without diversity might as well be the dark ages. Lastly, all your friends won’t be friends and that’s okay make time for them separately.

7. Should you date or nahhh?

All you have to do is look around, or turn on the television to see that America has lost the notion of dating, courting and healthy relationships. So I think its up to each of us to define what we want or require, otherwise someone else will define it for you. So make a list of what you want, and include yr deal breaker list like: can’t be an atheist or have slept with my best friend, whatever. Feel free to edit this list as time goes on.Take time to observe people and be their friends before you decide to date them or exchange bodily fluids, thank me later. After about 6 months everyones intentions will be clear.

8. The Real Hunger Games

Take advantage of the cafeteria and if you’re concerned about the freshman 15 then beware of the late night fast food runs. Keeping cup o noodles, trail mix, and sandwhich supplies on deck is always a good idea. When your mom or grannie asks you what you want for your dorm tell them a mini fridge. If you find yourself sick back to back or more tired than normal you need to drink more water, at least 64 oz a day and while you’re at it holla at the fruit and salad bar in the cafeteria. The body can’t run properly on Micky D’s and Sprite.

9. Financial Band Aid

Some of our parents make sure our finances or financial aid is handled, some of our parents don’t but either way make sure you understand the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, interest and all those words that make our heads spin. Each campus has financial advisors/counselors go see one each semester just to make sure you’re ahead of the game. Also budget your financial aid, buy your books and toiletries first you don’t want to ever worry about running out of deodorant or tampons, no bueno. Set aside an amount for travel, and an amount for an emergency then decide what to do with the rest. Also make a list of things you need and how much they cost so if your uncle asks you you know exactly what to say.

10. More Bang for Your Buck$$$

College is expensive and the debt is hard to shake so if you’re gonna go take full advantage of the knowledge, relationships, networks and experiences. There are clubs, associations, sororities & fraternities, grants, and scholarships. There are free lectures, workshops, shows and concerts right on campus, go check them out. Explore the whole campus not just the few buildings where you eat or take class, you never know what you’ll find.

I hope these tips and principles find you well, and I trust your big brains and big hearts will lead you to success.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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