Mackenzie Hurlbert, a self-proclaimed “word nerd,” is studying English, marketing, and journalism in New Haven, CT. She is editor of Folio Literary Magazine, managing editor for her campus newspaper, president of the university’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter and has been in literary publications such as Fresh Ink, Radical Dislocations, We Walk Invisible, and Folio. After graduating in May, she plans to continue freelancing and pursuing her passion for writing.
While movies and the media have created false perceptions of college life, with focuses on drinking and exploring sexual advances, the truth is that pursuing higher education takes time, effort, and determination. As a college senior in New Haven, Conn., I’ve seen my fair share of partiers and club rats, and as a resident advisor, I’ve cleaned up the ugly side of this seemingly glamorous party life more times than I care to count.
Nonetheless, your college experience does not have to be all books and homework! You can still have fun without getting sucked into the stereotypical partier-life. The following tips are lessons I learned throughout my four years of college from making my own mistakes or by listening to others’ guidance. By following these three keys to success, you can be sure to have a rewarding, purposeful, and enjoyable college career.
1) Finding a healthy balance
We all want to have fun in life and it’s important to make time for it daily. While plenty of college advice articles will say, “Focus on school, do your homework, and work hard,” and though that is important (and necessary), it is equally important to make sure you’re enjoying your time at college. Give yourself time to unwind. If that means going dancing every other week, do it! If that means watching your favorite TV show on Wednesday nights, make it happen. Make sure you do what you love and give yourself a little fun time.
I often use my fun time as a reward for hard work, so if I’ve written a paper for English class, I’ll reward myself with some Netflix time. If I know I have a project to get through, I’ll give myself a deadline and order my favorite Chinese food to be delivered at that time. That way I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. By rewarding myself this way, I have an incentive to work harder, and it ensures I’m balancing out my work with some enjoyable, stress-free time.
2) Knowing when to ask for help
The main thing students love about college is their newfound independence. While it is important to embrace this independence and mature, you should also know when to ask for help from your parents, advisors on campus, and even friends. No one is perfect, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If you get a job and have to file taxes for the first time, don’t be too proud to call mom and dad for help. If you are having problems determining your direction for a major, consult your advisors. As a college student, you have more support systems on campus than you know. Most campuses offer free counseling services, so if you are having an especially stressful week or recently experienced a bad breakup, do not be afraid to visit counseling services and get that off your chest.
3) Exploring the unknown
If you’re heading into your freshman year of college, you’ve got about 18 years of life under your belt, most of which has been formed and affected by your parents and family. Who are you when you aren’t around your family and friends from high school? Do you know what you like and what your hobbies are? College is the ideal time to explore your interests and try new things. If you like to read and write, join your campus newspaper or literary magazine. If you like to travel, join a study abroad club, a geography club, or even an international students club. No matter what your interests are, there are other people who share your passions, and joining a campus club is one way to find out more about your interests in a passionate and supportive community.
Be sure to visit the campus club fair at the beginning of your first college semester and sign up to be on the mailing lists of clubs that catch your attention. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new! Join a service club on campus to contribute to the community, or join the campus rock climbing or karate club. When going to college, you’re entering a community of people who don’t know your personal history. If you want to reinvent yourself, go for it! Nothing is stopping you. Get involved in new activities, explore new interests, and find out who you truly are as an individual.