Getting ready for fall 2006

School starts soon, and that means college kids will be heading back to their dorms and apartments in the near future to prepare for the fall semester. While for many this involves a week of beer and parties with borderline pornographic content, there are some students who actually prepare for classes during this time. For those brave few, the following tips may be of some help. Take them as one college student confiding some of his experience, however limited it may be, to another who will soon walk down the same twisting paths of life. Set realistic goals. No one can take 21 hours of classes, hold down two jobs, and exercise every day at the gym. Starting with unrealistic goals only makes failure more likely and more painful. Taking one class too few puts a student one class behind schedule, but taking one class too many can cost a student an entire semester when he or she eventually crashes and burns. Don’t plan to drop a class later in the semester, either. There are steep penalties for withdrawing from too many classes over one’s college career. Plan to have a good time. College without fun isn’t college, and it isn’t healthy. Between classes, life-lessons, new friends, being away from home for the first time, and trying to form a new identity, college is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Don’t ignore the stress; deal with it. Join a club, a fraternity, or a church. Have a beer or a glass of wine after class. Play a video game all night and don’t apologize for it to anyone the next morning. Manage stress by whatever means necessary, but just be sure to manage it. Have a life outside of school. Too many students center their new lives around college the way they centered their old lives around high school. Then, when they leave college to find a job and start a career, they have to re-center their lives all over again. College is about finding out what kind of person one is, not about finding out what kind of college student he or she is. Take up hobbies, volunteer with local organizations, and take classes that have nothing to do with one’s major. Electives exist for a reason. They help people find out what really matters to them so they don’t waste their lives and ultimately feel cheated at the end. Do it today. If it can be done right now, put down this paper and go do it. Procrastination is the ultimate killer. Now, no one actually lives by this rule, but it’s a good ideal to strive toward as much as one is able. Don’t put off something without a good reason, and the reason needs to be really, really good. If a bill is due, go ahead and pay it. If a paper has to be turned in any time this week, it should already be started, if not finished. Understand though, one shouldn’t do things too much ahead of time, or they may get done wrong. Just try to get them done well in advance. Sooner is always better than later. Make a budget and stick to it. For most people, this is beyond them for the majority of their lives. A budget should not be a meaningless piece of paper to show Mom and Dad. Chances are, they have a meaningless piece of paper themselves and adhere to it no better than anyone else. Assume everything will cost a little bit more than expected, and that any income will be a little bit less than expected. Don’t make impulse purchases. There are many reasons that can justify getting off-budget for a month or two, but poor planning and lack of self-control are not among them. Know when to cut losses and when to hang in there. There is no sense in wasting time and money pursuing an unappealing major. There is likewise no sense in changing majors the semester before graduating. Dropping a class one’s failing is understandable, but dropping a class because one might get a ‘B’ just doesn’t make sense. Stop and think a decision through, especially if there is a lot of pressure to hurry up and decide right now. The best decisions are made after carefully considering the options and choosing what one can live with for the rest of his or her life. Use every available resource. The health center is not free, and neither is the gym. The writing center, the library, and pretty much everything else on campus is paid for by student tuition and/or fees. Does it make sense to pay for something and then not use it? Find out what help there is and take advantage of it regularly. Most people don’t know that there is a math tutoring center in Belk. Few know that they can get a free nutrition assessment from the University. If there is any legitimate reason to use a service, use it early and often, and don’t apologize. It’s already been paid for, and one would be remiss not to get his or her money’s worth. Take everything in moderation, even moderation. No matter how much others advise against cutting loose even one weekend, it can be a great experience. It reduces stress, changes things up, and generally makes one’s life better. Don’t always go for middle-of-the-road options, and don’t always go for the same option every time. ‘The usual’ is fine most of the time, but one can easily get in a rut if he or she never breaks loose. Just be sure to abandon moderation in moderation. Once a month is probably as frequently as anyone can justify. So enjoy the mini-vacation, and come back refreshed and ready for life again.