College Tips and Tricks From My Freshman Year

August 10, 2018

“College Tips and Tricks From My Freshman Year” is done in collaboration with Cengage Unlimited. All text and opinions are my own.

Throughout high school, I was always told that high school was just preparing me for college. Academically, yes, it was. When it comes to how to actually take college on, high school to college is like the minor leagues to the major leagues, the dress rehearsal to opening night, or the first draft to the final submission. Bottom line, when I first got to college, I was overwhelmed with how different school was. I was so used to having a set curriculum, study guides, assigned homework, and guidance, that when it came to open-ended discussions and out of class learning, I had no idea what I was doing.

 

In my freshman year of college, I learned more than I ever have about how to study smarter, not harder. I’ve compiled my favorite tips and tricks for you, and unlike the cute Pinterest DIY you’ll repin and never look at again, these are hacks you can start using before the first day even starts.

 

Make Your Space Your Own

Dorm rooms are cold and stoic and in general I’m just not about it. For the first few weeks of school, my dorm room walls were bare, with the exception of three photos. Even my roommate mentioned that my walls were bare and boring. I finally got around to printing some photos, and getting decorations up on the wall a few weeks later. At the end of the day, regardless of how focused you are, being somewhere that just doesn’t feel like home is going to make you more uncomfortable and on edge when it comes to crucial tests and productivity.

 

Pro tip: Many drugstores have photo kiosks where you can connect to your phone and print photos from your camera roll within seconds. It’s usually relatively inexpensive and an easy way to add a little personality to your space!

 

Take Care of Your Physical Health

Living in New York, my walk to school is typically 15-20 minutes. I’m always paranoid of carrying a backpack because it’s too easy for someone to come up behind me and unzip it, so you’ll always catch me carrying a tote bag instead. News flash: Carrying heavy textbooks on one shoulder of your body is not good, mes amis. I have a history of back issues, and hauling way too much stuff around definitely was not helping. Trust me, if I could have had someone consolidate my textbooks and put them in one spot online, I would. Luckily for both your shoulders and mine, this year, you can. With Cengage Unlimited, you can access their library of textbooks — entirely online. 20+ pounds of textbooks suddenly fits in my 4.5 pound laptop, and that’s what I call the freshman -15.

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Don’t Slip Into Summer Mode

My college classes were on the most irregular schedule ever freshman year. 9 am to 12:10 pm on Monday, 7 pm to 9:40 pm on Thursday, you get the idea. Having to wake up early and be in class for only three hours one day then sitting through a six hour class the next threw me off instantly. Of course when one morning I had to be up by 7 am, I wanted to sleep in until 12 pm the next, but I quickly learned that was just about the worst idea I’ve had. I’d wake up late and drowsy, not want to get any work done, and have my first meal of the day at 4 pm. Then I’d start my work late, finish late, and get minimal sleep for the next day. This whole cycle made me less and less productive and more and more sleepy during the day. I struck a balance. On days when class started later, I’d set my alarm for 9 or 9:30 am so I didn’t have to wake up super early, but early enough to make breakfast and get things done. Putting myself back on a normal schedule let me get more work done and go to sleep at an hour earlier than 4 am, a win-win situation all around.

 

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Bring Your Chargers Everywhere

The worst place to have your phone die is when your one hour library study session turns into five and you’re suddenly walking home at 1 am instead of 7 pm. College is unpredictable, and you never know who might be texting, when you’ll get a heads up on the next pop quiz, or when you’ll decide that a day-long cram session is in order instead of just a few hours in class. Concerned about cords getting tangled in your bag? Take the ends or your charger, fold it in half twice, then tie it in a single knot. Easy to untie and tangle-free!

 

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Spend Less on Textbooks

Let me clarify: by spending less on textbooks, I don’t mean to stop buying the textbooks you need. College is about studying smarter, not harder, but it’s also about spending smarter, not more. A college student spends up to $200 per textbook, in a survey done by the College Board. 65% of respondents said that the price of textbooks deferred them from purchasing them. First semester of my freshman year, just one of my textbooks came to $125 + tax {my least favorite part of shopping}. Cengage Unlimited  not only allows you to access their library of eBooks, but their 22,000 item digital library also includes access to digital learning platforms, and study tools. The course materials include over 70 different areas of study. This access comes at $119.99 a semester, making it the more affordable option to traditional print textbooks. If you prefer print, you can rent one of theirs for a low rental fee + shipping if you use a digital learning platform. When your subscription ends, you get to keep up to six eBooks in your digital locker for a year with anytime access.

 

Keep a Calendar

On your phone, on your desk, in the form of an agenda, really whatever works for you! I was a mess trying to remember deadlines and schedules until I started writing things down. What I found worked best for me was having one physical agenda for school, one physical agenda for my blog schedule, and using my phone calendar to combine everything: school, work, blog, travel, appointments, you get the idea.

 

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Know Your Rhythm

Above all, I think the biggest mistake I made freshman year was listening to how other people thought I should study. I think it’s important to always be listening to new ways to study, but if it doesn’t feel natural, don’t do it. A professor of mine swore up and down that Cornell notes were the solution to every studying problem, but for me, they felt just unnatural and forced. I’d rather separate my notes into multiple headings, sub-headings, bullets, etc. more like an outline. Freshman year I tried arranging things on note cards. They haven’t worked for me since I first tried them in first grade, so it’s no surprise that I was struggling when I was made to try them again. I’ve had the adults in my life tell me “college is where you find yourself” so many times that at this point it’s become a cliché. Turns out it’s true, I just didn’t think finding myself would include standing up for how I study.

 

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My new goal for the next school year? Less time spent trying trying to juggle school work, schedules, and school supplies, and more time spent getting things done.

 

 

xx,

E

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