As I'm finishing this week, I'm going into some retrospect as to how I got where I am today, and the first thing I think back to is the beginning of my college experience.
This is where it all began, 6 years ago, almost to the day. Same university, I even remember the first classes I took. At the time I was working at a fast food chain- for the sake of said chain, let's call it FFC (fast food chain). I'm laughing at that. Those who know me probably are too. I had just received my drivers' license less than a month before I started commuting there every day, and, the joy of everyone who wears orthodontia, I had just gotten my braces removed.
It seems like so long ago, but relatively, it wasn't. So much has changed since then.
It was my first year of college. I was in the honors college, after graduating second in my class and having an above average SAT score, and I had a stable, but not all that great, full-time job at FFC. I started out with honors Calculus, honors Biology (which I later dropped, after the realization that I was not at all a science person), a freshman honors class, and some other class I really don't remember.
I was a busy person, and I didn't know what kind of sucker-punch I was in for. After 2 semesters, I was kicked out of the honors college, and I lost my scholarship after 3. High school doesn't prepare you for college. Nothing prepares you for college except starting college.
The classes are different. The professors are nothing like your teachers. The expectations are different. You have more freedom. You're not required to attend class, but it's recommended, and it definitely helps. You get a lot more out of the experience if you participate. You can go to class in your pajamas. You can eat and drink in class, and bring your laptop for notes (usually).
I, of course, was still in high school mode. I went to every class, even my 8am honors Calculus class through rush hour traffic in Ft. Worth. I worked my FFC job at night. Often I spent most of my evening at work, working until 11 or midnight, so that I could go home and do homework, and wake up again as early as 4-5am.
What I Learnt:
1) The routine got old. I learnt along the way that you actually don't have to sign up for 8am classes- they actually offer classes all day. It's better to choose classes that are more suitable for your sleeping and waking schedule, otherwise, you'll be less motivated to attend, which leads me to...
2) Motivation is key. If you're not motivated in the class, it will be a brutal semester, and you will have to force yourself to do the work. If you love the class, it will be much easier to complete the work you have to do because you'll actually like what you're doing. That doesn't mean you can skip the class, which leads me to...
3) Don't skip class. Really. The professors sometimes say that they don't give a flying flip whether you attend class, but really, your grade is at stake. If you really think you can skip all the classes and pass, you should have CLEP'd out of the class anyway, instead of paying to take it. Attending class is really important, and often you miss more material if you don't go. It helps to make the material sink in more easily. Some professors even consider upping marginal grades for good attendance. Remember that the next time you reach for that snooze button.
4) Parking will be bad, no matter what school you go to. Get used to it. Parking lots will be full, they will create increasing faculty lots. Think of it as exercise. Some people have problems with the "Freshman 15"....maybe this will help combat that. Plus, it'll give you some time to think, and learn how to navigate campus and dodge traffic. Always a plus....
5) Take good notes. It's a good way to get people who want to study with you. Don't be the one looking for people with good notes, because the ones with good notes will probably want to avoid you. So...errr...maybe you should take good notes secretly or something. Don't be a magnet. Don't do all the work on group projects.
6) Remember some of the stuff you're learning. It's actually kind of useful. I've found myself reciting facts I learnt in some other class and I'm like "woah, I actually did learn something useful in there!" There is something to take from almost every class. You may not think so, but there is a reason for every class.
7) Depending on your major, learn APA or MLA formatting really quickly. I have, on my jump drive, a document that is already APA formatted (running head, margins, page numbers, title page, and whatnot) so that I can just input the information I need. This has been extremely helpful, so that I don't have to go through and try to remember how I edit the individual running heads on each page. Since I'm doing social work, most of my documents will be APA. Usually, you know by the end of your 1st year of classes which format most of your papers will be in. If you can't figure it out, the library almost always has someone who can help you, and most college campuses even have a writing center that can help you out with this. Use your resources. They're there for a reason!! (also, learn the difference between their, they're, and there, as well as your and you're...these are very common mistakes).
8) When you must do group projects, which you will at one point or another, make sure to get names and phone numbers of each group member, and archive any contact with them, for your purposes. This way, if they don't communicate, you have record of it. If they communicate poorly, or tell you they don't "want" to do something, you have record of it. This can be helpful when going through the process, and make sure you keep in touch with the professor if you have any problems.
9) You absolutely must have a jump drive, and this thing will be your savior. I even have a follower, who will go unnamed, who can attest to this. She had a computer crash while printing out a paper, and was able to take the jump drive to another computer and print it out. It saves your files, and it is helpful during presentations, rather than pulling up your email account in front of the class to open a presentation. It also holds lots of information, and it's easy to carry. It plugs into a USB port, and is compatible with the majority of computers (but make sure they don't require encryption as major corporations do, otherwise it will mess up your drive). They don't usually cost much, often less than $10, and they last forever. Get one.
These are just some of the things I wish I had known my freshman year of college. I stumbled my way through college, not having many people to turn to for advice in my family, and not having any friends that had been through the process. Eventually, I got through it, and learnt how things work, and now I'm close to graduation, so close that I can feel it breathing down my neck. I have a lot of apprehension about it, and it's been quite a journey. There's so much more I could write about it, but for now, I'll just "save it for later".