10 tips for college students
After writing the time management article “Do It Now,” which was based on my experience of graduating college in three semesters with two degrees, I received many follow-up questions from students asking for more advice. Here are 10 tips to help you create a productive and memorable college experience… and most of all, to deeply enjoy this time in your life.
1. Answer the question, “Why am I going to college?”
Many college students really don’t have a clear reason for being there other than the fact that they don’t know what else to do yet. They inherit goals from family and peers which aren’t truly their own. That was how I started college. Is this you as well?
As I’ve stated previously on this blog, the three-semester deal wasn’t my first time at college. I had previously gone to college when I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be there. In high school I was a straight-A honors student, President of the math club, and captain of the Academic Decathlon team. That momentum carried me forward, and without really ever deciding if it was what I wanted, I found myself with four more years of school ahead of me. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Consequently, I sabotaged myself in a big way. I blew off my classes and got an education in parties and alcohol. Apparently some administrator was biased against students whose GPA starts with a decimal point, so I was soon expelled.
That experience sent me into a bit of a tailspin. I was in a funk for about six months, mostly just playing video games. Finally in an attempt to re-ground myself, I got a retail sales job and tried to stay under the radar while taking some time to “find myself.” That was the time I began developing an interest in personal development, and boy did it pay off. A year later I was ready to go back to college, and I started over as a freshman. But this time I knew why I was there. I wanted to be a programmer, and I wanted to earn my Computer Science degree (I later added the Math degree). But it was more than that. I knew I was capable of a lot more, and I wanted to push myself. I wanted to create the richest experience I could. For me that meant a really dense schedule.
Your goals for college will likely be different than mine. What are they? Why are you there? If you don’t know — and I mean really know it in your gut — then you have no focal point for your experience. You may as well not even be there. What is it about your experience that resonates as true for you? What are you there to learn? What do you want to experience?
2. Imagine your ideal college experience.
Once you know why you’re going to college, imagine your ideal outcome. Let it flow outward from the reason you’re there. Whether you’ve already started college or not, stop and simply write down some attributes of your ideal experience. Describe it in as much detail as you can.
Before I returned to school, I spent hours visualizing the kind of experience I wanted to have. I saw myself being challenged but managing it easily and without stress. I saw myself making new friends. I saw myself having a really great time. Most of all I imagined a very balanced experience — a blend of academics, activities, socialization, and fun. The keyword I used was “richness.”
This was a really important step. I didn’t understand the mechanism at the time, but I was pre-programming myself to succeed.