Hello Everyone! My name is Catie Moran and I am a Practice Assistant at Project Thrive CT. I am currently working toward my Master’s degree in School Psychology at the University of Hartford. Prior to this, I graduated Summa Cum Laude, Honors Program Scholar, and as Valedictorian of the Psychology Department at Central Connecticut State University. Along this arduous journey, I learned many tips to help me succeed and make the most out of my undergraduate experience.
If you did not get a chance to read part one of my “how to succeed in college” blog, please feel free to check it out on our blog from February 22, 2021. To recap, tips 10-5 were as follows:
10. Remember it’s not a race
9. Get involved
8. Friends make a difference
7. Learn the schedule that works best for you
6. Take advantage of office hours (whether you live on campus or not)
5. Don’t let other people’s comments influence your choices on schools
4. Remember to take breaks
College can often feel very overwhelming. People are trying to balance their academics, social life, workout schedules, significant others, sleep, and many other life elements. We often put too much pressure on ourselves that we must do all of these things perfectly, which adds unnecessary stress to the college experience. Often, during the most stressful times (midterms, finals, any time with a high workload) we eliminate breaks and hobbies to make more time to complete our work. This is not only a challenge on your mental health, it ends up making you more stressed so that it becomes harder to successfully complete anything.
To avoid this vicious cycle, schedule in your breaks. One effective strategy for this is known as the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management system that involves working (or studying) for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break. After about 4 Pomodoro’s, take a longer 15–20-minute break. This may work for some people but do whatever works best to you! Some other break techniques that I have found to be effective include, taking a walk around campus, putting M&M’s down the page on the textbook I am reading, having a quick Facetime with a loved one, and making a snack.
3. Take care of yourself
For many people, college is their first experience being away from family and friends for an extended period of time. It is also an adjustment to deal with longer classes, more assignments, and greater independence. With all of these big life changes, it is easy to become overwhelmed and forget to take care of yourself. Remember, if you’re not at your best, you won’t be able to thrive whether that’s socially or academically.
With everything going on, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. When people are overwhelmed, they drop things such as hydration, eating enough, and getting exercise. The best suggestion I can give is to create a detailed daily schedule. I would plan when I was going to wake up, eat breakfast, go to class, study, exercise, complete assignments, go to clubs, etc. Organization is key to being able to accomplish whatever it is you set out to do.
2. Find your rhythm
Not everyone is most productive first thing in the morning. This is a common misconception that you will hear time and time again. People are unique in so many ways, so why would natural rhythms be any different? There are 24 hours in a day. If waking up with a cup of coffee at 5 AM and getting work done before class, power to you! Or, if you prefer to sleep in until 11 AM, roll into class, then stay up late finishing your assignments, that is totally fine too! You should not feel lazy if you are more productive when you sleep in and do your homework late at night. Just make sure, regardless of your schedule, you’re still getting enough sleep.
This revelation took me three years of college to finally realize. During my thesis writing class, I had a professor who shared that her natural rhythm was sleeping in during the day and writing in the evenings, often late into the night. That was the time that she felt most inspired. I had spent three years forcing myself to wake up early to “be more productive.” I would sit at my desk and get nothing done because I could hardly keep my eyes open. However, later in the day when I already had my classes out of the way and I was feeling more awake, I was ready to be productive. So don’t be like me and force yourself into a schedule that you think you should be doing, just find whatever rhythm suits you and watch how you will flourish!
1.Find a good advisor/mentor
This is my absolute number one most important tip for being successful in college!! Your advisor is the person who assists you in making your schedule every semester and ensures you are on track to graduate when you are intending to. I can’t tell you how many classmates I knew who did not have a good relationship with their advisor, so rather than meeting with them, they send an email asking for their registration pin. Often, they end up falling behind on the number of classes they are supposed to be taking, or they sign up for classes that are unrelated to their major; thus extending their program. While these are worst case scenario situations, they are not entirely uncommon. However, a good advisor has the potential to successfully guide you through the college process including graduation and beyond.
When I entered college, I had a terrible experience with the advisor who was assigned to me. She was fixated on the credits I was coming in with, she did not agree with the schedule I came up with, and she did not understand my ambition to graduate early. I left her office feeling frustrated and uneasy. However, I could not let that keep me down! I sought out a professor in a course I was taking who I admired based off his research interest and commitment to office hours. I asked if he would take me on as an advisee and he was glad to. Through this relationship, I ended up doing research with him which I presented at several conferences, he helped me decide on my future career, he assisted me in the graduate school application and interview process, and he has written me numerous letters of recommendation. I feel so grateful to have had these experiences and I am confident that I would not have had these opportunities if I had not changed my advisor. So, if you’re reading this and you’re not sure where to start, find a professor who you’ve enjoyed one of their classes or they seem nice, and go to their office hours to find out if they’re accepting new advisees.
Bonus: take advantage of the free aspects of college while you can!
College is expensive, there is no way around it. However, they offer a lot of opportunities for free things and experiences. If you’re living on campus, go to the programs offered by the Resident Assistants. I’ve gotten free clothing, decorated flowerpots, made gingerbread houses, and so much more. I have also attended fairs (for residents and non-residents) on campus where they give out free food, t-shirts, and host games. I’ve won an Amazon Alexa at bingo night, eaten amazing food from food trucks that come onto campus, and attended free yoga classes. They often host movie nights, sports games, and clubs may fund you to travel (I was funded to go to Philadelphia and New York City to present research!) Most campuses also have a mental health resource center where you can receive counseling, which is an amazing opportunity especially for those without insurance. Overall, you’re paying a lot to be there, so take advantage of it! Best of luck this semester!
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