8 Ways To Have A Better College Experience
Going to college is a rite of passage for many of us. It gives us a chance to learn more about the world around us. We get to meet all kinds of new people as well.
But simply “going to college” doesn’t mean you’ll get the most out of the experience that you can. It isn’t a passive exercise. Instead, if you want to maximize what you learn both inside and outside of the classroom, you need to be proactive.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to get the most out of college. Some are as simple as getting involved in campus activities. Others, like staying on top of your academics, require more time and effort.
However, if you truly want college to be a positive and memorable experience, give some (or all!) of the following tips a try.
Some of your most meaningful friendships and relationships might begin in college.
From the moment you arrive on campus, you should start socializing and meeting new people. Attend organized events for incoming students so you get to know other people. Take an interest in learning more about your roommate, if you have one. Visit with other students that live in your dorm or apartment building as well.
Oftentimes, there are campus-organized events for students that live on campus. These events are meant to get you out of your dorm room and engaged with other students. It might be a movie night or a BBQ. It could also be a costume party or a dance. Campus life coordinators have all sorts of fun events that you can use to be more social.
You can meet new people in your classes and clubs, too. Though you shouldn’t spend class time talking to your new friends, you can still form connections with your classmates. That, in turn, could lead to developing friendships outside of class. And, if you have a job, another pool of potential new friends lies in your co-workers.
It can be tough to go to college and be away from your friends and family for the first time. That’s why it’s so critical that you put forth an effort to be social. The more you put yourself out there, the more new friends you will make. And that will give you more opportunities for forming life-long friendships that make the college experience so much more worth it.
Get Involved in Student Organizations
Getting involved in student organizations doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to run for Student Senate (although, that’s definitely an option). But getting involved in on-campus organizations is an ideal way to make new friends and improve your college experience.
Colleges large and small have tons of clubs, intramural sports, dances, and student organizations that you can join.
For example, you might join a religious group on campus or become a member of a special interest club, like photography. Your school might have club teams for sports like soccer or frisbee. There are any number of campus clubs for specific interests as well, like foreign languages, art, or history. You might find clubs for community service, journalism, or science too.
Aside from the social benefits of joining a student organization, there are other benefits to be had.
For example, you can learn new skills and expand your knowledge of a topic. You can gain leadership skills and soft skills like learning how to work with a diverse group of people. If you join a sports club, you’ll get the added benefit of exercise, which can help you manage the stressors of your academic studies.
Speaking of your studies, activities with student organizations offer a nice break from your academic work. You can’t study all day, every day, so getting out of your dorm and getting actively involved in campus life will go a long way in helping you strike a nice balance between academics and recreation. Grades are important, but so too is taking care of yourself and recognizing when you need to unplug and have some fun!
Utilize Available Resources
You should not be shy about using the resources provided to you by your college. Resources like these might include professor office hours or tutoring to better understand a confusing subject. It might also include library materials, the campus medical clinic, and mental health services as well.
Resources to help students get jobs after graduation are also worth using. Career services usually include resume writing services, mock interviews, and career counseling services.
The key here is to simply ask for help when you need it. Though there is something to be said for figuring things out on your own, sometimes a little guidance can go a long way.
So, if you find yourself struggling with school, work, relationships, or life in general, seek out assistance as appropriate. There is no sense in muddling your way through when you could take advantage of resources that are in place to help you through the very difficulties that you’re having!
Save Your Course Materials
While you don’t need to save every single note you ever take in college, it is certainly wise to keep ahold of some of them.
Specifically, the notes you take in your major-related courses can prove to be highly valuable study aids as you take more and more advanced classes. Likewise, textbooks are good resources that you might consider hanging onto for future reference. Keep class handouts and other study aids, too.
Though it might not seem like it at the time, things like the notes you took in general psychology your freshman year could help you as you study more specific topics, like educational psychology or abnormal psychology later on.
Think about it – general, introductory courses hit on many important topics. This means that your studies in an introductory course will be fairly basic and broad-based. But a couple of years later when you’re struggling to remember Freud’s psychosexual stages of development, those notes you took on that very subject your freshman year could be just what you need to jog your memory. So save those notes! They give you a ready-made collection of materials that will help you save time studying.
Go Above and Beyond
You should avoid doing only what is required of you to graduate and nothing more.
Studying abroad, for example, is not always required in a curriculum but is an amazing learning and personal growth experience all the same. Similarly, internships are not always required but they offer substantial benefits for students who participate in them.
For example, an internship provides you with invaluable work experience that can be used to market yourself to employers. In some cases, you may find jobs at the companies at which you intern, while in other situations you will depart with invaluable references.
The whole point of going to college is to build your resume for employment after you graduate. Whether you study abroad or do an internship, these experiences will help you fill out your resume and make it more impressive to potential employers.
Another way of going above and beyond is to take part in volunteerism and community service activities. Giving back to the community is a great way to feel more connected to the city beyond the boundaries of campus.
Besides, volunteering is a great way to improve the lives of others while experiencing the benefits of knowing that you’re making life better for other people. Many employers look for volunteering experience when screening applicants, so it’s a good way to further your future career as well.
Develop Good Study Habits
College courses require a lot of studying. Since you’ll likely take 4-5 courses at a time, that’s a big part of your daily life that you’ll need to spend working on assignments and studying for exams.
By developing good study habits, you’ll be able to make the most of your time studying. Not only will you find that studying might take less time, but you’ll likely also find that you retain more information, too.
Good study habits begin with being consistent about studying. Your schedule might be different from one day to the next, but having a time each day when you sit down to study will help you get into the routine.
If at all possible, try to avoid studying late at night. When you’re tired and drained from a long day, it will be harder for you to concentrate. You also won’t remember nearly as much of what you study!
Another way to improve your study habits is to have a quiet, comfortable place to study. For some, this might mean going to the library. For others, it might mean sitting on your bed in your dorm room with your laptop on your lap. The ergonomic difficulties of the latter aside, you need to study in an environment that works well for you. Try a few different arrangements to see what works best.
Do yourself a favor and put your phone on silent while you study. The constant interruptions of texts and social media alerts will make it hard for you to concentrate. Besides, when you check your phone for one thing, like to see who texted you, it’s often the case that you end up checking five other things! A ten-second glance at your texts can quickly turn into 20 minutes of lost time.
As you study, remember to take plenty of breaks. Your body and mind need to recharge, so study for about 45 minutes, then take a 10-15 minute break. Get up, stretch, get a snack or a drink, chat with your roommate, or whatever you need to do to relax for a few minutes. Then come back to your studies with renewed energy.
It can be hard to force yourself to take frequent breaks – there is often a feeling of urgency to get your studies done that makes you want to forge ahead. But you will be much better off if you give yourself some rest along the way!
When you register for classes, do so with the understanding that there are other courses you have to take in order to graduate. Some of these courses might only be offered in certain semesters. Others might have prerequisites that you have to complete before you take the class. This being the case, you need to plan ahead so you’re sure you don’t end up in your senior year with multiple courses left to take, none of which fit in your schedule.
Your advisor is a great resource you should use throughout your time in college. They will help you plan out your academic calendar, that way you fulfill all the requirements of your degree program in a timely fashion.
What’s more, your advisor can determine if credits you’ve taken at other schools can be applied to fulfill your degree requirements. This is an important step if you’ve changed schools. Transferring credits can help you stay on track to graduate while potentially saving you money as well.
Part of your planning should also include talking to professors in your area of study. For example, if you want to be a psychologist, ask your professors what they recommend in terms of particular courses, internships, or other academic experiences you should undertake. Often, your professors can use their own experiences to give you additional insights and suggestions about how to prepare yourself for your future career.
Don’t Neglect Academics
You’re primarily in college to study your academic subject of choice and earn a degree that will start you on your professional career path. It is important that you not neglect your academics.
You’ll need to put a considerable amount of effort into your studies while in college. This is especially relevant in light of the high costs of a modern college education. You will pay a significant sum of money for this education and that should not be wasted.
Things like skipping class, missing deadlines, and not studying for tests will only set you back. And once you get into those kinds of habits, it can be really difficult to break out of them. What starts as wanting to sleep in one morning and missing one class can quickly turn into flunking a class and negatively impacting your GPA.
While it’s important to have a well-rounded college experience, ultimately, it is the academic side of college that is paramount. If you want to get the most out of your college experience, use these tips and the resources available to you at your school to keep yourself on the straight and narrow.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts