10 Things I’ve Learned in College, But Not in the Classroom

1. Use the health center.
If you’re lucky enough to go to a school with a student health center, especially if your health center fees are already covered by whatever you pay to the school each semester, you should go there when you feel sick! I spent my first two years of college avoiding the student health center, mostly out of laziness, but a little bit out of discomfort with the idea of a new and unfamiliar doctor. Bad move. I could have and should have been taking advantage that resource. They don’t mess around with sickness at campus health centers. (I do acknowledge, however, that the over-prescribing of medicines to students by campus health centers is a problem. Obviously you should be responsible and handle your sickness appropriately.)

2. Go to the fitness center.
I got really into my school’s on-campus fitness center right away. I was determined not to gain the “freshman fifteen (or twenty or fifty or anything)”, so I explored the facility right away. I tried out lots of different fitness classes and discovered my love of spin classes and, when I’m feeling brave, step aerobics. It was great for me! With a nice fitness center at my fingertips, I was more motivated. And with access to fitness classes that were way cheaper than they would be at a real-world gym, I was able to try new things and get out of my comfort zone.

3. Learn the bus system, but walk when you can.
My school has a nice bus system. There are three different routes around campus, plus a few shuttles to reach the edges and hot spots off campus (like the grocery store, not the club). It’s efficient, reliable, and convenient, but not really my style. I’m a walker and I really do think that I benefit from the time I spend walking to classes. I like to take that time to zone out, to calm down, or to give myself that kickass pep talk I need every Monday morning or on the way to an exam. I get to see a lot of campus on my walks too, since I get to go where the buses don’t. So I think everyone should walk if they can! Plus, a little physical fitness is never a bad thing. That said, it is important to know the bus routes if your school has them. Walking through the rain in a suit and high heels with a poster for a class presentation on the other side of campus is not ideal and could totally be avoided with a little bus knowledge.

4. Take different routes to and from classes.
While you’re walking around campus instead of taking the bus, I recommend taking different routes! Like I said, I like to walk because I get to see what’s happening. But I also enjoy walking because my school’s campus can be quite attractive when the weather behaves and I’m in a good mood. Taking new routes to and from classes can be a nice way to help you remember to appreciate your surroundings.

5. Don’t go for a run during class change times.
This might just be a me-problem. It’s very possible that people only forget how to pay attention to their surroundings and be courteous when I’m around. If that’s the case, you can forget this tip. But I’m more inclined to believe that this is an everyone-problem. Sometimes people are just not paying attention at all and there is no better example of this than class change times. You’d think that people would move a little faster as they escape the classroom, but you’d be wrong. People like to stroll. And they like to walk in an impenetrable line across the entire sidewalk with their friends. So do yourself a favor and don’t leave for a run when people are getting out of class. It will ruin your mojo.

6. Nerd parties are sometimes the best parties.
I don’t have extensive party experience, but I like to think I’ve had a taste of most party types. Themes! Fraternities! House! Potluck! Games! I’ve been to a few. But there really is nothing like a nerd party with card games, video games, or fancy drinks (instead of cheap beer) because people want to make up something fantastic. Go to the least popular party of the night once in a while.

7. Eat breakfast.
Everyone knows they should be doing this, but I didn’t for a long time. Don’t be dumb. Eat something before your day really gets started.

8. Don’t pull all-nighters if you don’t need to do so.
I totally understand that sometimes things pile up. Sometimes tests are going to surprise you and projects are going to require way more effort than you’d planned. Sometimes an all-nighter is the only option. But the thing is, all-nighters are bad! They throw off your internal clock and it will take you days to get back on track. Avoid staying up all night, or even super-late, when you don’t need to do so. Your body functions best when it is allowed to run on a bit of a schedule; going to sleep and waking up at around the same times each day will help you sleep better, which will make everything else better!

9. Keep an updated monthly calendar.
I know plenty of people who don’t keep an updated monthly calendar. I don’t know how they keep everything straight, but somehow they usually do. If you’re one of those people, then ignore me and know that I’m impressed. But I find that most people agree that, even if they don’t need to have important dates written down in order to remember them, it helps to not have to carry a jumbled list of dates around in your head. I like to fill out each month’s calendar at the beginning of that month (not earlier). It helps me to see upcoming due dates, exam dates, appointments, etc. so I know ahead of time which weeks are going to be less pleasant than others. When I know what’s coming, I can better plan my attack. (I like the good, old hang-on-your-wall calendar approach. If you’re more of a digital calendar person, that works too!)

10. Make daily to-do lists.
In addition to being a firm believer in monthly calendars, I strongly support daily to-do lists. I put everything on my to-do list from classes and meetings to mundane house chores and homework. The more I’ve crossed off my list the more motivated I feel to keep moving forward, so it works best for me to include even the tiny things I get done each day. Having a to-do list keeps me on track and keeps my most important tasks from accidentally slipping my mind. (Once again, I like handwritten to-do lists. If that’s not your thing, do it your way!)

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