Is that time of the year again…I know I can’t believe it either. School is about to start again and summer is almost over :-(. Seems like it was just yesterday that we were making our summer plans and utterly excited for the season. Well, like they say…all good things must come to an end.
I was lying comfortably one night reminiscing on my University days and this piece came to me (ok…it hasn’t been that long…although it feels like it has). I was thinking about my highlights, and my not so highlights as a student. I thought to write and give you all young/semi-old/mature students out there, going back to school this September/January some practical tips to aid in your success, and make your experience a little better.
Either you are entering from high school, or have had a taste of the post-secondary life; my intent is that you find a tip here to ease you through this awesome journey. I love school, love the student life, and of course I love the challenge of academia (yes I’m a little nerdy I know :-)) The fact of the matter is, school is not easy…this is why I salute all the students in the world, who are dedicated to educating themselves to serve our world, and making it a better place. I wish you all from the bottom of my heart, nothing but victory on your educational pursuits. Enjoy this experience because it is one of the pivotal ones in life.
With that well wish, I want you to take these tips, use them as a guide among the many you will discover along your journey:
- Know your priorities
University or College is exciting, but can also be overwhelming. There is a lot to excite you, a lot to confuse you, and a lot to drift away your focus.
Knowing, and setting your priorities straight from the get-go is especially so important for the young ones; the ones going straight from high school. This is a very special time for you because for the first time perhaps, you are free…free from your parents, free to make your own decisions, and of course free to break all the rules your parents had set at home….this is your moment right? But hold on…don’t forget, with freedom comes responsibility.
Yes! You’re free at last….but not really. Transitioning into this freedom is probably going to be the toughest, and one of the most overwhelming new experiences you have had yet. Because now you are suppose to be a responsible adult (don’t worry, you will understand what I mean here in your second year).
This is what I want you to do…know your priorities…set your priorities and keep them set. Utilize your time wisely. Have a daily planner…plan your hours, days, weeks and months ahead. Get a calendar or a student agenda, and organize your activities from most important to least important (post this somewhere visible in your room). This way you have a weekly visual of your activities….this also serves as a reminder as you will have a lot happening at the same time. Remember this important advice…the habits you engage in (good or bad) in your first year can either make you or break you. However it serves you…it will make an impact in your journey, and changing it won’t be that easy. So ensure they are good habits in order to serve you in a positive way. If you won’t take my word for it….ask someone ahead of you in the game….but I’m sure you’re not just reading this, you’re taking notes right?. Good.
- Remember who you are
Like I said…freedom comes with responsibility. While you learn, discover, and evolve….remember to remain true to yourself (your goal shouldn’t be to fit in but to stand out in your authenticity). If you have never experienced peer pressure before…get ready to experience one. But know this….it is better to be different than to be like everyone else. Own your weirdness…because that’s how cool people became cool. By staying true to themselves….accepting who they are without apology.
You will be pressured by new friends to adapt to habits like smoking, drinking, staying up all night, doing God knows what….whatever it might be. If you don’t want to fit into the crowd then don’t! it is okay to be different. If something wasn’t your thing prior…don’t start making it your thing now all in the name of making friends. Don’t allow another student, a professor, whoever…tell you who you’re not…tell them who you are…do this by refusing to accept whatever is imposed on you. Listen to that small voice inside of you…speak up for yourself, as intimidating as it might seem among new friends….you can do it! And with time you will attract people like yourself who will help you through the journey. A good way to stay true to yourself is to frequently think of why you are here…and what you want to achieve at the end of your journey. The truth is this: if you stay true to yourself…you will make real friends who can become long life friends.
- Fit in…the good way
In staying true to yourself…join something that resonates with you. Join a club…Universities/Colleges always have tens of clubs students can join. It keeps you busy…it is an excellent way to get connected with people with similar interest. Here you can actually make real friends…friends you have something in common with. If you’re going to fit in…you might as well fit in the good way right?
One thing I regret about my university experience was not opening myself up to meet new people…from all faculties. I always hanged out with people from my faculty…and I really think I missed out on great experiences and great people. I know this because I finally decided to join a hiking club my last year…and I had so much fun, met great people from different faculties with same outdoor interest. And I thought to myself had I explored more, I would have had many more exciting experiences to share, and think back on. Joining a club opens up your connection with people….its also a great way to make friends outside your program. And of course…is an excellent way to de-stress from long hours of studying and preparing for presentations. Is a breath of fresh air if you ask me!…so why not.
- You can’t do it all alone
Realizing that you can’t go through this journey alone will take a lot of pressure off your shoulders. When you realize that you are not or can’t be good at all your courses, it actually serves you….and I will tell you why. Because no body is good at everything….one may be really good in math and totally suck in writing. I was really good in writing papers…but really sucked at statistics. So you guessed it right…I got myself friends who were better in statistics than I am, and ended up doing really well. Any area I saw a gap in my learning….I observed while in class and made friends with those people better than me in those areas. Like they say…if you want to be good….you must associate yourself with great people (pay attention to what I said…associate with, not good people but great people). In other words, you won’t be smart in all courses so find and associate yourself with those smarter than you in the area you struggle in. You can also teach them in the areas they have learning gaps. So in essence, you are helping one another to succeed. Don’t keep to yourself; look until you find the people who can help you thrive. Two heads are better than one.
- Be a friend!
Be a friend…help another student who needs your help. Time is of essence as a student (I know)…but don’t get too consumed in your own world. Extend a hand of help and it will be returned to you one way or another. Being a student is not easy…if another student needs encouragement…needs support…be a friend to them. Tell someone they can do it…cheer someone on…stand-up for someone. It may not seem much at the time…but it is. I had a lot of good friends when I was in school…and sometimes when I think back on the tough days, I think had I not been blessed with great friends I probably wouldn’t have made it. So go ahead…cheer someone on. It will elevate your spirit in a way you didn’t expect.
- Lastly…Take care of yourself first
Like I always tell my good friends…take good care of yourself first. It is only after you have cared for yourself you can function effectively, and extend a hand of help. You do this by getting enough sleep; don’t stay up too late if you don’t have to (social media isn’t one of the reasons to keep you up late by the way….sorry!).
Set a time routine to go to sleep and wake up, this helps your body to get use to a sleep pattern, and makes it easier for you to sleep and wake up….insomnia is not a very pleasant feeling my friends. You may not always get in everything you have to get done during the day, and so you might have to sleep late occasionally. Which is understandable, but don’t make it a routine.
Sleep is one of the best ways to keep your body healthy…it gives the body the ability to heal itself…and will help your body to control the stresses of due dates and test anxiety. According to research, sleep also helps to improve memory and aids in better focus and concentration (which is what you will want…to get those A+).
Have a proper diet. Try and get breakfast in every morning before you go for lectures, or write exams….it helps to concentrate. I remember going into a three-hour exam without breakfast and literally had a go find food to eat after an hour and a half in because I had such tough time concentrating (eat before you go in…even something as small as a banana will help). Ensure you are not just eating but eating right (eat healthy…so your body can function accordingly).
Exercise…even if you can’t go to the gym, go for walks regularly. Exercise releases endorphins…which triggers a positive feeling in the body to reduce stress, anxiety, increases your energy levels…the list goes on. And of course, stay away from drama!…it won’t serve you trust me.
Well there it is. Everything I am telling you I have practiced it, and I know if you really take note of these, you will do better than I did….and that’s exactly what I want for you…to excel beyond your wildest dreams.
Lastly, Stay Positive…stay encouraged…stay confident because you do have what it takes to succeed. And above all I have said…enjoy the journey…have fun! 🙂
Cheers to your success!.
❤ gigi george.