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Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
-Dr. Suess's Oh, the Places You'll Go
As you embark on your college adventure, you will receive advice from all avenues. Some good, some great, so terrible and some from Uncle Bill that should probably remain a secret. Learning how to distinguish the good from the bad is your first step in disseminating valuable information.
If you take nothing else with you before you go, some great advice may just go a long way.
1. Pursue a Passion or a Paycheck? - This one is a tough one, but only you have the answer. If you plan properly, maybe both entwine themselves into your college career and into your first job. Use this time to explore your passions and pursue those areas that reflect your strengths. If you see the world in numbers, then follow the path to a finance degree or a math major. Likewise, if you are a numbers person, but have always been interested in 17th century French literature, now is your chance to tap into that world. It's likely that you will never again have the opportunity to bounce between math theory and Descartes. Take advantage of your educational connection.
2. Be Prepared to Work Hard - Univeristy is no joke. You might find that balancing work, school, social activities, and sports can be a challenge. Working hard often leads to more success than simply being an intelligent student. Natural intelligence is no match for a dedicated student, as college oftentimes reminds you that you still have a lot to learn.
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3. Enjoy Being an Adult - You have so much more spare time, enjoy it, and use it wisely. It may take a semester or two to find the perfect balance, but you will learn to carefully manage your time. There won't be anyone there for a wake up call, to make your dinner, or do your laundry, but that also means there is no one there to tell you when to go to bed and that you shouldn't sleep all day on Saturday. All of your choices may not be brilliant, but they are yours. As long as you are learning from them, that's what college is all about.
4. Take Advantage of School Programs and Resources - You are a part of an institution of learning, so take the time to explore all that it has to offer. If you are learning another language, study abroad in another country. If you are searching for other like-minded, computer programming geeks, seek them out, join a club and prepare to rule the universe. Don't find yourself floundering as the semester goes on because you were too proud to ask for help.
5. Create a Study Space - There is no substitute for feeling comfortable and cozy when you have lots of thinking to do. Feeling confined, stiff, cramped or tense could prevent you from absorbing giant mountains of knowledge. Take the time to organize and personalize your study space. Make sure you have plenty of light, you feel relaxed and you can't hear your roommate snore. You'd be surprised how quickly a dorm room or a studio apartment can be transformed into a cozy nook with a rug and a pouf.
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6. Enhance Your Living Space - Even though those dorm rooms get used year after year, you can work a little magic and make the room feel like home. The more that you can do to add comfort, livability and uniqueness, the easier it will be to to call your dorm "home" (even if it is just temporary). Try very simple tips and tricks for making your room seem bigger:
- Use as much natural lighting and non-fluorescent lighting as possible. The brighter a room, the bigger it seems.
- Use mirrors to help reflect light and open up the space.
- Bring less stuff, to avoid clutter.
- Keep your space organized for a better work environment and to prevent feeling cramped.
- Personalize your space with colors, pictures and personal items that represent the uniqueness of you.
- Incorporate decorating tricks, such as purchasing a rug that will make your space appear larger. By allowing the floor to show on at least two sides, you are creating the illusion of a larger, more open space.
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7. Remember What You Have Learned - Don't forget to remember a thing or two. It may seem that while you are cramming for your Psychology exam that you are using tips and tricks to regurgitate the facts for your exam. You'll be surprised how much you retain and how it stays with you. You are not only learning the subject matter, but a thing or two about yourself. Those lessons are just as important when you set out into the big, bright world.
8. Trust your Gut - When in doubt, go with your gut. Most often, that gut is right on track. There's a reason you may feel unsafe or you may not think that your peers have the best idea for the group project. Speak up and learn to listen to your instincts. They will serve you well for the rest of your life, not just in college.
Have fun. Learn a lot. Just remember (now, we probably sound like your parents here), you never get a college experience twice. Once you are out in the "real world," you will remember this college years fondly.