As we welcome a new semester, I thought it would be beneficial to do a new college series that’s focused more on general student life.
If you haven’t seen my ArtU series, where I tackled my experience attending art school, check them out. Although it was aimed at students attending art school, there are a couple of tips in there that can help anyone out.
To reiterate my educational background –
In 2015, I graduated with a degree in Business from the Northern Marianas College (NMC), a small community college back in my home island of Saipan. After about a year, I attended an art school in San Francisco, obtaining a degree in Web Design & New Media. I averaged mostly A’s and B’s throughout my entire educational history.
For this series, I’m going to focus on advice and tips that I glossed over (or missed entirely), as well as hone in on missed details, from my ArtU series. I will also do my best to not repeat information unless I find it necessary to do so.
With that being said, I’m starting off the series with a compilation of random tips and guides for new and ongoing students that I learned and found helpful throughout my college days. Please note that all of the tips I provide are based on my own, as well as my friends, personal experiences as design students. This series is intended to help guide students of all ages and from any major to go through their Uni days as easily and effectively as possible.
Things I Learned Throughout My College Years
If you’re unsure about what major you want to take, that’s okay.
Liberal Art classes are there to help guide you in the direction that is secretly calling your attention. Pay attention to the classes that you feel genuinely excited to go to and talk with your advisor about similar classes and a possible major that relates to that class.
Unless you’re genuinely unable to do so, do your best to attend classes.
Missing one class session in college is practically missing an entire week’s worth of lessons. Plus, there could be vital information mentioned during that session that would be beneficial in future projects, assignments, or tests/quizzes.
Get to know your professors.
I used to be afraid to do this, especially back at NMC, but at AAU, I found many of my professors to be chill and funny outside of serious lectures. A couple of them have not only been my professors in school, but they’re my mentors in life and I greatly appreciate all the help they’ve given me.
Ask for contact information from at least two people in a class.
In case you do miss class, you are able to contact them and ask them about what happened during that session, and possibly obtain any assignments or classwork. In order to help me remember the new contacts, I saved their names as “NAME [SCHOOL ABBREVIATION-CLASS NAME/NUMBER].” Same case for when you’re living with a roommate(s). It’s best to have their contact information in case you forget your own home/dorm key. I’d save their name as “NAME [ROOMMATE].”
Go over your notes again after class.
Rewrite them if needed. Or, if you’ve audio-recorded the session (after receiving permission from your instructor), write them down. You’ll retain the information better.
Always ask your professor the question(s) brewing in your mind about the project/ assignments/ tests.
Chances are someone else in the class has the same question(s).
ALWAYS back up your files.
This has bitten me more times than I could count. Google Drive is a great start to backing up your files. All you need is a Gmail account and you automatically get free 15GB storage. I was able to store three years’ worth of student work from NMC with this storage amount and had a bit more to spare. I upgraded to 100GB ($1.99/mo) after my second year in AAU because the files were much bigger. Other than Google Drive, I also back up my files on an external hard drive. I feel so much safer backing up my work both online and offline in case something happens to one or the other, and it’s something I highly recommend doing.
Use virus protection, firewalls, and ad blocks on your laptop to protect it from malicious viruses.
If there are websites you’d like to support with ads, you can change up the settings in your ad blocker to allow ads from those specific websites to show.
Register for next semester’s classes as soon as it’s available to do so.
You’ll have a wider range of class sections and times to choose from. Plus, depending on your school, you’ll have the opportunity to switch classes without penalty, at least until the first week of the upcoming semester.
Balance out your class schedule every semester.
Unless you’re running low on required classes, avoid cramming yourself with all major classes in one semester. Reserve one Liberal Arts class in there which will be your less heavy class.
To save money on textbooks, you can rent or buy used ones.
The chances of using that book after the semester are very low, and you’re able to save space in your room by returning or reselling your textbooks.
Only take the number of classes that you can handle
Even if you want to complete your program early. Your degree will still be there waiting for you, but your body won’t if you wear it out too much.
Regularly check your student email, or primary contact email you have listed in the school’s system.
Important information from your school, program, or class is almost always sent there first. There were times when students would show up to class, not knowing that it was canceled because they didn’t check their email before heading to class.
Check out your school’s available resources.
Use the ones you need to your advantage.
Get a bank account with a bank in your area and save your refunds there, along with the additional income you may make along the way.
This can be counted as your “savings” or “emergency” money, different from the amount your parents send you, and will help you manage your finances better.
If you’re washing newly bought colored clothes, it is best to separate them to avoid the possibility of staining your other clothes, at least for the first wash.
Otherwise, feel free to put all your clothes in one washer if they all fit.
Be at your washer and dryer at least a minute before the end to take them out as soon as they do.
Whether you do your laundry in a school-facilitated area or at a laundromat, doing this demonstrates consideration and responsibility on your part.
Live in the campus dorms, at least during your first year.
And especially if you’re moving in from out of state. Doing this allows you to focus more on being familiar with your school, college social life, and the city you’re living in.
Set and/or inform important ground rules and information sometime during the first week of moving in with roommates.
Things to consider are bringing friends over, music (or any form of sounds that may disrupt study or sleep time), scents (food, air freshener, etc.) – as some people may be sensitive to certain ones, major purchases that may affect anyone else in the dorm/home, and assigning cleaning duties for the shared/general areas of the dorm/home.
Converse with your roommate(s) about issues involving them that bother you.
It is best to resolve them as peacefully, respectfully, and maturely as possible. If the conversations do not end well or the issue recurs, talk to your resident assistant.
Be careful with flammable items.
Scented candles may give the room an alluring smell, but just one forgetfulness can cause major damage to not only yourself but to other students and nearby buildings.
A friend of mine lived in an apartment building a couple of blocks away from mine, and one day, I heard some firetrucks blaring their sirens out my window. I didn’t think any of it at first until I saw her post on social media about it, and I was able to see the result of the fire a few days later. It turned out that the people living in a room there forgot to blow out one of their tiny candles on the table and it caused this fire that took up a floor above and below it. The good news is that there were no casualties, and the damage didn’t go deeper into the building.
Consider your semester workload when deciding to earn extra income while studying.
The classes obviously get tougher as you progress through your major. Prioritize your daily tasks and thoroughly think about a job position that you’re genuinely interested in.
Place your phone/alarm clock someplace you’d have to get up from the bed and walk to turn it off.
If you need to get up early in the morning.
Place a bottle of water within your reach and drink that first thing after waking up.
Other than hydrating, I personally find that doing this helps me gain energy to start off my day.
Try to use your weekends to get out and explore your campus and the city you’re in.
Our minds, bodies, and souls need some inspiration and adventure every now and then.
Yearly planners are a-freaking-mazing.
They include monthly and weekly calendar spaces for events, tasks, and notes, as well as other interesting features that vary by brand. Yes, digital note-taking and calendars are gaining popularity, but I personally find that writing things helps me remember them more, and I love being able to add my personal designs and colors to my planners. Makes them more personal and enjoyable to look at.
Write a letter to yourself during your first week of school.
Write down your current thoughts, feelings, and everything you hope to accomplish during your time there. Fold it up, and sign the front as “TO BE OPENED ON: [DATE OF GRADUATION].” Or really any date after you’ve graduated. Keep it somewhere safe and where you’ll be looking from time to time. Read it once it’s time. I did this my first semester, and I had it set to be read 10 years from the day I wrote it.
Create or update your offline and online resume.
LinkedIn is the place to build your online resume. It connects you to people in your field or with similar interests as you, as well as colleagues, classmates, and friends. If you’re unsure of how or what to include in your resume, ask for help from your school advisor or someone who’s knowledgeable about them.
Get some work for each class done each day.
Procrastination is a student’s biggest weakness. But what’s helped me during my last two years is disciplining myself to do portions of my assignments each day, so that the day before their deadline, all I have to do is finalize, review, and get a good night’s sleep.
Take advantage of your student status.
Being a student brings one of its greatest perks: student discounts. Depending on your school, you may also be receiving things for free, such as bus shuttles operating to and from the dorms and school buildings.
Sign up for your school's and city's safety alert system.
The system is receiving automated text messages from your school and/or city when unsafe or warning measures need to be informed to the student body or public (e.g. schools will be closed, student misconduct, roadblocks along the highways, etc.). Most schools would typically have the number to text and be part of their safety system displayed around campus, school website, or an employee could provide it. For the city’s safety alert system, the simplest way is to search online for the number. The systems allow students to be alert and cautious about any activity that could lead to disruption of their safety.
Join a club or team from your school.
This is something I wish I had done while I was still there. Doing extra-curricular activities helps expand your social skills, knowledge, and experiences, which makes for fresh resume content.
Always place your bag and other belongings in front of you for safety and security.
When you’re in a crowded event, gathering, or public transportation.
Leave peer pressure in high school.
You’re an adult with a mind that can differentiate right from wrong.
Change your study environment every now and then.
Go to a café, your school library, or even the city library to study. You may be more motivated to get your study and other assignments done when you’re surrounded by a new and different energy.
Coffee and all-nighters can be reduced, or completely avoided...
through time management, healthy eating, and a good night’s rest (and possibly a 30-minute nap) every day.
Your body needs care as well.
Your mind gets busy studying and working on assignments. There are hundreds of at-home workouts online. There are also yoga apps available if the intense workout isn’t your thing (me). If possible, take a walk around your neighborhood or visit a park for at least 30 minutes every day. If you’re just watching something in bed, lean your legs and feet against the wall.
Bath slippers are highly advisable...
To avoid slippery accidents in the bathroom.
Too much partying or too much studying isn’t great for your health...
and your grades.
Have hand sanitizer with you at all times.
Or a travel-sized bottle of isopropyl alcohol. And always wash your hands.
College is one of the most fulfilling experiences anyone can go through.
Not everyone loves it and not everyone will do it, and that’s completely fine. But to those who chose and chooses to do this path, I hope you get the best out of your college journey. Remind yourself of your goals and ambitions, and that there will be hurdles along the way, but you’ll get through them. Before you know it, you’ll have gained all of the additional knowledge, wisdom, experiences, and diploma in your life.