Starting a new semester in college is exciting. It's stressful, crazy, nerve wracking, but exciting.
Because you get to enter into another semester of learning, and if you're a total nerd like me, there's nothing better.
But there's the scary part -- the part of not knowing if this semester you're going to hit a slump, get destroyed by finals, or fall so behind you're staying up all night to finish work and hating every minute of it.
People have experiences like this in college all the time: they can't get that paper in on time, finish the reading for class, and they don't feel on top of their game.
And that's not exciting. At all.
Often it's not just one paper that you'll miss the deadline for. It's one, and then another, and another. And you worry that your grades won't hold up because you're not holding up-- and you bomb a test because you were too tired to study, or too tired from studying.
Even with the best time management strategies in place, it's a struggle to complete all the work on time all the time and perform to your best abilities consistently.
So people will tell you all the time that college is hard. It's a lot of work. But they won't tell you how to make that workload less, or how to reduce stress and overwhelm.
I struggled ALL THE TIME in my first few years of college.
My first year of college was chaos. My second year was a total bust -- I was told by my college counselor to take classes that didn't end up contributing to my major! I spent an entire year of hard, fun-less classes that didn't end up transferring when I went to UC Berkeley.
It took me YEARS to figure out how to feel amazing in college and not worry about missing deadlines, class, and how to get around other college problems.
I unlocked a nest of secrets that allowed me to lower my stress about everything and figure out how to turn a college "negative" into a hard positive.
Want to know how missing class can make you more impressive to your professors?
These are the secrets no one will tell you, but that will propel you into a reality where you're a cool-headed, confident, and utterly competent college student.
7 Things You Ought to Know about College (but no one will tell you)
#1 Nothing is set in stone
And I mean nothing. You may get a firm “no,” miss a deadline that can’t be stretched, or submit an unconvincing plea for a grade change, but these aren’t impediments to your success.
Because nothing is set in stone means your attachment to getting that yes is also fluid. Missing a scholarship deadline isn’t the end of the world. Missing a paper deadline won’t kill your A GPA. You, like everything else, are fluid and that means you can adapt to any situation and remain positive.
A positive mindset goes a long long way in helping keep motivation and confidence high.
So the next time something goes wrong in college, assess the damages. See how that "no" hurts you, and figure out if you can release attachment to that particular thing, or find a new way to get a "yes."
I struggled so hard the first few years of college because I invested a huge amount of significance in certain “hard rules” like deadlines, bureaucratic procedures, and prescribed ways for doing work like presentations and writing papers.
I would freak if I saw a deadline looming and was way too far from finishing a project to make it.
Stress bandaged itself around the wounds of my too busy life.
I too often believed in the myth of college: that it is a set in stone world where I can interact with it, but can’t change any of it.
But that’s simply not true.
On one level, you have the power to adjust deadlines with your professors or argue your way out of a bureaucratic misstep. On a grander scale, you have the power to start a movement that can affect serious change.
In 2016, students at Stanford and UC Berkeley fought to change the names of buildings that honored people connected to slavery and colonialism.
Your own obstacles may be much smaller: getting a bill refunded, asking to change an unfair grade, adding a class late, or withdrawing from classes.
How can you change a concrete obstacle into something fluid?
Educate yourself about the issue.
Can you make a direct change?
If not, can you make a change indirectly?
Take notes on the situation and do research. Rules and precedents will help you.
Formulate a plan of action.
Do you need to send an email?
Should you schedule a meeting?
Is a phone call appropriate?
Execute your plan.
Talk to that professor, or speak with the financial aid dept -- whatever you need to do.
This is where educating yourself about the issue really pays off: if you know what you’re talking about you can come across as an authority -- and you can find where loopholes or missed logic exist that will help your case.
Arguing your way to a yes is a skill that can be developed, and in college you’ll have plenty of practice.
#2 Your COLLEGE will make mistakes (and so will your professors, counselors, regents, and the rest of the college system)
People have their specific jobs, in which they may be highly skilled or only partly. A big theme in this post is that all these people you're dealing with in college are just that, people.
You have the power to ASK -- which is one of the best ways to ensure your success as a college student.
Don't be shy. If you want something to be different, ask around and see what you can do to make a change.
Be aware. If something doesn't sound logical or right to you, investigate. Arm yourself with knowledge and a will to get to the bottom of things.
I was incorrectly billed on several occasions -- and to be honest, more than once I had to fight for weeks to get a bill overturned. By the "rules" I may have fallen under correct billing -- but once or twice that "rule" didn't make sense for my situation, so I fought back -- and won.
Don't mistake a person with authority as being infallible.
You're more knowledgeable about your personal situation than anyone else is in the college system, so it's up to you to educate them and work to find the solutions to college problems that will best serve you.
Which leads nicely into #3...
#3 Rules are what you make of them (It can pay to break rules)
GO TO CLASS.
It's one of the most touted "rules" of college.
And I think it's the best one to break.
Ok, I’m not advocating for playing hooky all the time. You're paying a lot of money to learn this stuff, so you better learn it.
If you have a really good reason, like being super sick (or if, and let's be honest, you really need to skip class for a mental health day, or to catch up)...
and NOT hungover (you owe it to yourself the punishment of showing up with hangover!)
....or because you’ll be in New York for some swanky VIP event related to your major (more on how to get to that elite level here)
you can skip class and make yourself look AWESOME to your professors.
Learning how to skip class properly literally changed my life (and doubled my SUCCESS in both college and business when I figured it out).
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Whether you're sick, overwhelmed, missing an assignment, missing class, scheduling an office hour, sharing a cool noticing...I've got you covered. You'll find examples to use that will make your professors fawn over you -- and remember your name!
#4 Your professors are real people (so connect with them like one)
The best thing you can do for yourself in college is make friends with your professors. This has led to me being asked to speak on panels, win scholarships, and attend special events.
All of these were highly enriching to my education, enabled me to network and meet famous professionals, and allowed me to launch my career while in college.
I didn't treat my college professors like unapproachable people. I made a point to connect with them, often in unusual ways.
Things I’ve done with my professors:
Invited them to events at my art galleries
Invited one to trivia night at a local bar (group invite, not one on one!)
Installed blinds in a prof’s office (with no know-how, I just did to be helpful!)
Went to a Shakespeare play (with a group)
Asked one prof who was a very dear friend to officiate my wedding
Invited four professor friends to my wedding
Try something different and don't be afraid! Connect with your professors as if you were making a new friend. After all, isn't that what you're doing?
#5 You can’t do all of the reading
A LOT of work is required of you in college.
You will drown if you try and do it all.
And the best news is, you don’t have to.
The best education comes from maintaining a high ROI (return of investment).
In college, time is your big investment. How much time you spend on reading, homework, and other things is going to inform how well you do in college.
So you should study allll the time, right?
Because there’s this thing called diminishing returns, which means that the benefits you gain can become less than the amount of time or energy expended to get them.
When you study for four hours straight, your brain stops functioning at its maximum ability. Some researchers say the cut off for studying is 1-2 hours, which is why programs like the pomodoro study method are so popular.
Learn when to skip, skim, or scour when you read.
Schedule frequent breaks to reset your brain power. Don’t take your focus away by multitasking or finding a distraction (that means no checking email, text messages, or social media). Instead, go for a walk, grab a tea or coffee, or eat a snack.
Let other people do the reading for you. Ask your peers what they got out of the reading, then pay attention in class and take notes. Just don’t speak up this time, or you could flounder.
#6 You can get A’s without being crazy smart, organized, or having all your sh*t together
I’m a pretty disorganized person. My handwriting is barely legible, my notebooks have drawings and circles and lines all over the pages like some ancient cryptograph.
Yet I was able to run 3 full-time art galleries and get straight A’s as a full time student at UC Berkeley (I even took grad classes as an undergrad!).
Having different colored markers for every subject and hearts over your “i’s” isn’t going to make you a better student.
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#7 You can either spend $60,000 on your degree or your social life (or you can get the best of both)
When it comes down to it, you’re paying for college for a reason. That reason may be to have a rocking social life, but that’s a pretty hefty price tag to pay for some drunken nights. Keep your motivation and focus up by establishing your goal -- what do you want to get out of college? What do you need to do to get there?
The GREAT news is, you can have a TON of fun in college, make a LOT of friends, and stay social -- all while keeping your grades up. How?
Mix school and pleasure.
Form legendary study groups, attend outside events that are both entertaining and related to your major, and create your own unique happenings that will boost your career and your social life at the same time.
Honestly, you need to be working smarter to get the grades you need with less stress.
After all, you are spending a hefty chunk of money on college.
You're wasting all that time and money if you're not using these methods to gain freedom and lower your stress while getting the best grades of your life.
Which of these strategies will you use to do better in college?