Being A College Student – Part 1 [Personal]
May 1, 2006 3 Comments
Welcome to part one of a three part series that I’ll be posting over the next week or so. Aspects covered in “Being A College Student” are: personal, academic, and social. These are geared towards incoming college freshman students, but can also be useful to current college students and I imagine anyone else. Think of the article as a collection of tidbits I’ve learned over the past five years, and stuff I wish I would’ve known when I got here.
This portion’s emphasis is personal. In any stage of life, especially college—if you don’t make time for yourself your body will. College students are sick far too often, they gain weight, have appearances that resemble a hobo, and some are even driven to drinking alcohol as an escape. Why? Let’s look at what could be a typical college lifestyle:
- Sleeping for 10 hours total in one school week (~2 hours a night)
The National Institute of Health recommends 8 hours of sleep per night. For most students, this just is not feasible. I still don’t get close to 8 hours of sleep a night. I’m no scholar when it comes to sleep, but what works best for me is about 6-7 hours of sleep a night on weekdays and 9-10 hours of sleep on weekends.
- Subsiding on a diet of cafeteria food/fast food
If you’re going to be arriving at college, you probably dread The Freshman 15—it’s very true. Weight gain happens. It happens through inactivity and overconsumption.
A lot of people don’t realize that the lightning fast metabolism they had in high school can slow down as they get older and stop physically maturing. Other students played sports or were physically active in high school with extracurricular activities, and have ceased to stay ‘on the ball’ with some routine exercise.
Overconsumption was the roughest for me. Acquiring a taste for Amber Bock’s 166 calories per bottle, (ouch, 8% of your recommended daily caloric intake is gone) living off of cafeteria food, and being seduced by organizations that want my time offering free pizza were a big part of the weight I gained in college. The only effective way I’ve found to lose weight and keep it off is to burn more than you consume. It sounds simple – but simple does not mean easy.
Don’t forget about vitamins. A good way to not get sick is to take plenty of Vitamin C. I take 2000 MG daily. I don’t know if this is good or not… but I am hardly ever sick. I’ve also found that having some sort of a multivitamin can supplement nutrients that you don’t get when you’re on the go so much and you don’t have time to set up a food pyramid compliant meal.
- Drinking beverages after one another
“I just made the best daiquiri. You should try it.”
How many people just tried the drink before you did? Aside from the obvious “don’t drink and drive” and “don’t drink stuff that you don’t know what its components are… if you’re even starting to get sick, don’t try and drink it away. It doesn’t work.
- Sharing a dwelling with someone who does all of the above
Roommates are critical to a truly college experience. Roomies help on expenses in off-campus living and are usually requisite for incoming students that don’t commute. They provide friendship and an escape from solitude. They also provide potential sickness—mentally and physically. If they aren’t coughing up a lung, they order an XL meat lover’s pizza after you just ate. Roommates can be a source of a lot of mental duress, too. I know I’ve had my share.
I’ve lived with strangers, the oriental, semi-friends, very close friends, and downright enemies. The single most important investment you can make for college is a good pair of noise canceling headphones. When you need to just get away from your roommate (and possibly your roommate’s company), slap on the headphones and some music to block them out.
Some Don’ts on roommate selection:
- Don’t pick a roommate that you went to high school with. This is kind of difficult to do for incoming freshman… but don’t. See my reasoning for #3 for more on this.
- Don’t pick a roommate that is your best friend. Or something close to your best friend. It won’t last.
- Don’t pick a roommate that you share a major with. One of the advantages of having a roommate is being able to meet new people through your roommate. You give your roommate dating and friend potential just like your roommate gives you the same through people you both don’t yet know.
- Try new things, especially foods
I didn’t eat any Asian food when I got to college. It was through then friend, now roommate, Matt that pushed me to trying new foods. I’ll just go ahead and say it: nobody likes a picky eater. Picky eaters hold the rest of us back from amazing tastes. Now I will try just about anything, especially foreign foods.
Aside from trying new foods, college is the golden opportunity to find out who you really are. Look into other political beliefs, philosophies, religions, social groups, beverages, and music. I can say I like a lot of rap music thanks to college life.
This goes mainly for the male readers—LEARN TO GROOM YOURSELF REGULARLY. Take care of your facial hair. PLEASE. Your best bet is to stay clean shaven and get into a regular shaving routine. Take a shower every day and wash your hair. Use deodorant. If you don’t know how to properly shave, do some googling and you’ll find a few good guides. Brush your teeth. Keep your effing nose hair under control. Use Q-Tips. Get regular haircuts. Without Mom and Dad around to harass you about grooming… it’s very easy to let your appearance go. I cannot get over how many utterly disgusting people there are on campus—and not just because they’re having a bad week. It seems some people go out of their way to be as disgusting as they can. Don’t be one of those people.
- Cleanliness and Organization
As a college student, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of homework in your room. Do yourself a favor and create an environment in your room that enables you to work. This varies from person to person – some people need silence, others need strong doses of Aphex Twin. One aspect of a good working environment that is universally applicable is organization.
Buy a folder for every class. Buy a legal pad for every class. Label them. One of the ways I’ve made my labels is from old blank VHS boxes that have stickers. It is very elementary – keep all of your Class A materials in your Class A folder. Once you get back to your room and you realize you have an assignment due for Class A… you will know where all of your material is and you can focus on actually doing the work instead of finding a worksheet.
People reading this that have visited my room will cry out “Bullshit!”. I guess it’s true? My desks at work and home are cluttered. I like to call it organized chaos. I know where everything is, and that’s all that matters. On a related note… my computing workspaces are borderline immaculate. Optimizing a computing workspace is another post in itself, though.
- Getting Away
You will experience burnout from school, friends, and work. The advice I remember my father offering to me when I left for college was, “Son, your time is valuable. There will be tons of people wanting your time for tons of things—some of them will be worthwhile, but you have to remember your primary purpose here is to get an education and get out.”
Burnout occurs at a pivotal time in your semester that is often termed “Test Season”, which occurs approximately 7-8 weeks into each semester where all of your professors realize they have to assign some type of grade to your for mid terms and issue a test. You have a few choices: be miserable and do nothing, be miserable and drink for a week, completely escape and power through it all. Unless you want to be in college forever, I suggest using the “escape” option.
Find a place that none of your usual friends know about and go there when burnout happens. I’ve found a couple of escapes—one is the office after hours, another is my family’s lake condo, and the library is great when you have a pair of headphones. Even if it’s just for a night, getting away can save your semester from going straight to hell.
That’s it for the Personal portion of “Being A College Student”. Later this week I will add the social and academic portions of the series. A lot of my readers are current/former college students—if I missed any critical points, feel free to add them in comments.