Surviving freshman year of college

Kasey Varga is a Miami-based writer and musician. After earning his degree in English literature from the University of Miami, Kasey worked as a copywriter before finding creative freedom as a freelancer and blogger. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading, composing and producing music, swimming or surfing in the Atlantic Ocean, cycling without hands, or climbing a tree. He plans to earn his Master’s degree in English within the next few years so to be an effective and engaging English instructor at the high school level. His interests include but are not limited to: education, music, literature, artisanal industries, sports, and politics.

A new semester is afoot, and it’s official. Syllabi are distributed, and as per usual, there are at least two exams staring you down. You think to yourself, “it’s only the second day of class, why am I stressed already?” You scan the details of your schedule and rediscover that you’re enrolled in six classes worth 18 credits. The distraction that accompanies the start of a new semester can cause you to lose sight that this semester is going to be different. This semester is going to be different in a good way though. It shouldn’t be seen in a bad way because you’ve committed to take on an increased academic workload – you’re fulfilling a good portion of your college obligations in a short period of time. While some see it as either a curse or blessing, it’s best to simply take the semester step-by-step and not get ahead of yourself. If you budget your time carefully, stay healthy and active, and focus on your classes as needed, you can maintain a much-needed balance throughout the semester.
To make sure you don’t fall behind, look at each assignment and determine what resources will be required to complete it on time. If you’re assigned a review testing your understanding of an assigned reading, make a list of the questions your professor listed on the review. As you read what was assigned, you can glance at the questions and find the answers to them quicker. When notified of test dates, study the material on a daily basis, and have your peers quiz you. You can also make flashcards and quiz yourself. When you’re assigned something long-term such as a research project or term paper, keep in touch with your professor for guidance. Professors are glad to oblige your inquiries and point you in the right direction. They can recommend supplementary readings for your research project or provide a springboard for your term paper’s thesis. Don’t be afraid of your professors. They are willing to help you as long as you demonstrate a willingness to learn.
Maintaining your health will also help you balance the demands of a credit-heavy semester. Considering the hard work you’re putting in, it is important to treat yourself, but you should maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Cardiovascular exercise, for instance, helps keep your blood pressure at a healthy level; in turn, you can navigate the academically demanding semester with equanimity, an excellent trait for nearly any situation. Resistance training (e.g. weight-training, calisthenics, etc.) is also a good way to maintain strength and foster a positive self-image. You should also stay hydrated, incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet as often as possible, and get enough sleep. That will be especially easy given how much you mentally and physically exert yourself.
One mistake students often make is underestimating classes. A simple truth remains in college curriculum: “all course demands are created equal.” Do not underestimate any classes. Not even if you fancy yourself a rock n’ roll historian and enrolled in a “History of Rock n’ Roll” course. Rarely does any college course prove to be a pushover. The professors teaching these courses are often quite passionate about the course material. Moreover, professors teaching such classes often test their students on obscure and difficult information and assign a good deal of work to keep the class on its’ toes. Students, when choosing their classes, sometimes “choose books by their cover,” and alongside courses like calculus and econometrics pick – a “piece of cake” (or so they think) – such as “History of Rock n’ Roll.” These classes can be difficult, so attend them, take notes, and study the material. If you do that, you’ll be in good shape.
You will likely find that a 15- to 18-credit semester precludes participation in activities you were involved in past semesters. At first, the increased workload may not be an easy pill to swallow, but any resentment or regret will fade as you excel throughout the semester. 15- to 18-credit semesters are worthwhile commitments only if you tend to your academic demands. Friends will understand why you cannot attend certain events, especially if they are college students themselves. It is healthy to stay in touch with friends though, by phone, texts, and e-mail (never while driving though). Your friends can be a great support system even if you don’t see them as frequently as in past semesters.
Remember that, in taking 15- to 18-credit (and beyond) semesters you’re in good company, and that you can fulfill a good portion of your college obligations in a short period of time. It just takes focus, dedication, organization and a healthy body and mind. If you maintain such an approach, you will perform exceptionally during credit-heavy semesters and the rewards will be well worth the sacrifice.

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