So it begins. One chapter of your life just came to a close and a door has just opened to another bittersweet and exciting time. The summer after high school is the best summer yet because of the freedom and the excitement of new opportunities. You spent time with or avoided old friends for one last time before taking the leap of faith into finding yourself in higher education.
All of a sudden, the first week of class begins. Once you get your head out of the clouds, there is a harsh realization that living on your own is a lot more difficult than expected. Responsibilities from the depths of your nightmares become reality. For example, doing your own laundry. Suddenly you have to go to class while working a job at the same time; and you are surrounded by deadlines and obligations seemingly all at once. There has never been more freedom in your schedule, yet it all seems so overwhelming.
Not to worry, general life skills that so many young people lack are often acquired through practical application with no need for lecture in a classroom. However, a little guidance is always helpful. This brief guide will offer some insight and list a few skills and habits that will improve a student’s college experience.
Listed below are three skills that every freshman should acquire in order to lay the foundation for a successful college career and life beyond academics.
1: Time management skills.
During my freshman year, I was required to take the now defunct Campus Compass class. The only part of that course that I actually found useful was the section in which we were given an empty schedule to budget our time and write in what our daily routine would consist of. Class, work, and sports practice were the first slots filled in; after that we filled in the remaining blanks. From setting aside time for eating, studying, working out, and sleeping, it was surprising how quickly those personal time slots filled up. However, your life does not have to be filled with nothing but school, work, and sports. It is good to have your priorities straight, but it is also important find balance between work and play. Come on, you’re in college, set aside time to have fun during the appropriate time of your life.
This is an expertise that affects every aspect of your life; from budgeting your money, getting to class on time (or getting to class at all), and what food you eat. This is a hard one for most people. With the freedom of no real requirements to go to class and a carte blanche meal plan, self-discipline can be a challenging skill to acquire. The simplest way to explain how to acquire self-discipline is to be proactive, not reactive. Plan your days ahead. Go to each class with the purpose of getting something out of it. Just because you don’t agree with a professor’s teaching methods does not mean that you cannot learn anything. Even when none of the class material is sticking with you, your general skill of being a student is always sharpened a little bit after passing each class.
More importantly, just show up to class. A difficult or boring subject does not give you the means to short yourself out of personal development in higher education. Consistently hold yourself accountable to do simple routines daily can take you a long way. It is not always fun, sometimes it is just work. Just because work can be mundane, does not mean that it is not necessary.
3: Look for and take advantage of opportunities
I remember during orientation my freshman year, a piece of advice given to us was to get involved with activities around campus. I never realized how important it was to be more involved until all my days were spent studying and working. Rocky Mountain College has so much to offer with clubs and activities. Outdoor Recreation is one of my personal favorites because of the activities it offers for FREE. They also have a variety of outdoor gear available to check out for your own personal adventures. Rocktivities puts together free events for students on a consistent basis. Those of you who like to debate and vent on controversial topics, keep an eye out for other activities like Coffee and Conversations, which is held every other Tuesday at the coffee shop from 6-8 pm. Outside of clubs, work study can offer opportunities for jobs on campus, and is a good way to establish rapport with employers outside the college as well.
Another aspect of Rocky to take advantage of is the size of the college. It is quite the adjustment for those of you who originate from large high schools. You can actually get to know your professors and smaller classrooms provides a better environment to learn your craft.
Notice that these three pieces of advice are not particular to any field of study. The most common struggle in the first year for many freshman is uncertainty. Will your field of study provide a fulfilling career? Nobody knows. A managerial accounting textbook by Ray H. Garrison, Eric Noreen, and Peter Brewer once gave me some good advice: “we recommend deemphasizing what you cannot control about the future; instead focusing on what you can control right now […] What can you do now to prepare for success in an unknown career? The best answer is to learn skills that will make it easier for you to adapt to an uncertain future. You need to become adaptable!”
There you have it, some advice for the anxiety stricken, sweatpants wearing, sleep deprived, ramen noodle consuming college student. Apply this advice to make your college career the best it can possibly be. After all, college is the true time of your life. So it begins.