It's that time of year: Autumnal winds beckon students back into the classroom, and eager professors await teaching the ethics of posthumous contemporary literary theory of the mass-market agenda of corporate bylaws. College is an interesting time and place. One of the best quotes summing up college I ever heard came from the Whit Stillman film Damsels in Distress wherein a character states, “There's enough material here for a lifetime of social work.”
But we're not here to wrangle up stereotypes we already know exist, and the purpose of college is to find your place within the grander scheme of things: Are you a worker or a thinker? Are you a learner or a scammer? Are you a joiner or a loner? Whatever the case may be, many think the process of finding yourself gets sussed out in high school, you know. … when you're still “coming into your own.” The reality is that most college students still haven't quite figured it out yet. … and maybe they never will. Cue the Psycho music. Here are a few tips to help you along your merry matriculating way:
1) Take advantage of opportunities. College is a hotbed of possibility; from getting a job in the libraries to working at your college radio station, there are so many ways to find your niche and express yourself outside the confines of the classroom. And it's a great way to gain actual work experience for your entrance into the job market; employers will look at your résumé and see that you've actually worked in the field rather than merely learning about working in the field. … in theory. Finding an internship is easy because most businesses are interested in accessing free or low-cost labor. Just don't let them take advantage of your green sensibility.
2) Don't let studying wear you down. It's easy for people to get crazy-stressed and overwhelmed come finals time, but it's not an excuse to indulge in unhealthy alternatives—I'm lookin' at you, Adderall. So here are a few study tips: Drink lots of water because staying hydrated is important even when you're hunched over your textbooks. Eat good, healthy snacks—we're not talking Zebra Cakes—that will both give you energy and keep you awake. And if you need to take a break, go for it. Staring at a book for six hours straight may make you want to die, so beat the depression by going for a walk. Get out of the study zone for a spell. When you come back, your mind will be ready to digest information, and you'll retain more of it. And naps: Naps are essential when pulling all-nighters. Just don't forget to set an alarm because a nap can rapidly turn into, “My test was an hour ago!”
3) Make friends with your professors. Seriously. This surpasses the high school nonsense of being a “teacher's pet.” Making friends with your professor can often be the deciding factor in whether you pass or fail a class. And it's really simple. Start by simply going up to your prof on the first day and introducing yourself. This may sound overly simplistic, but in a classroom of 50 people with students shuffling out as soon as the prof says “dismissed,” you'll immediately stand out. Meet with your professor a handful of times to check on your progress. When it comes down to the wire and you're asking for extensions, rewrite opportunities and whatnot, they'll be more willing to help. How does that old AA mantra go? It works … if you work it.
4) Be smart about buying books. Most people can attest to going to local bookstores in search of the 8th edition of a random text for $300 and then finding out the store doesn't stock it. Or maybe they do have it, but you don't want to spend that much. In that case Chegg.com is a life-saver. On Chegg, you can rent a book you need for a semester for a fraction of the price and simply send it back when the class is over. They even send you a shipping label, so it's free to mail your books back. As I always say: If it's free, it's me.
Nerdy folks will intone, “But I'm already supposed to be reading it. I can't wait 4 to 14 business days for it to get here.” If that's your situation, remember that your university bookstore probably has a 30-day period to return books for a full refund. Buy the book and keep up with your reading while you wait for your orders to arrive. Once your books show up, return those gently used copies to the bookstore and get your money back. There are lots of truly challenging aspects to attaining higher education, but this, well, it's as easy as pie.
Have a great semester, y'all.