Whether you are a first-generation college student or someone whose parents weren’t really involved in your academics, you need to have a game plan for college. Here’s some advice I eventually took myself after years of stumbling over my own feet.
1. Find a Mentor
No matter what advice you find online, no one can provide more relevant advice like a mentor at your school. Especially advice from another college student like an upperclassmen at your school. However, mentors can range from class tutor, to an upperclassmen in the same major, college advisors, or even your hall’s Resident Assistant.
Why? Because they’ve been through the same first-year struggles you are going through. In the case of your advisor or Resident Assistant, they have been trained to direct you to resources that can help.
Can’t figure out which are the best “I-basically-get-paid-to-study” jobs around campus? Ask your mentor! Aren’t sure whether to read the textbook or just focus on homework problems? Ask your mentor! Want to know what are fun and easy GEs to take? Ask your mentor! Your professor decided to not give out a study guide this time for this year’s final? Your mentor, who already took the class last year, probably has a quizlet stashed away!
Having a mentor is extremely valuable and gives mentors an opportunity to protege someone whose shoes they were once in. You can also have more than one mentor! So Do NOT be afraid to ask if someone is willing to mentor you! Chances are they had a mentor or mentors before or just want to share their expertise to help others succeed.
If you need help finding a mentor, check out our KICK ASS article HERE: Finding a Mentor
Above all, mentors get the incredible satisfaction of helping their mentees while polishing their ability to connect and aid others. So do not be afraid to seek one out and ask for help!
2. Ask for Help
When it comes to being a college student, nothing seems more foreign or intimidating than asking for helping.
Personally during high school, growing up with my both parents working late hours. I got used to figuring things out for myself. From learning how to cook to struggling over log equations in pre-cal, I basically forgot how to ask for help.
When I became a college student, it was the exact opposite. Factor in me getting lost in the professor’s chalkboard scribbles, or falling behind trying to teach myself Calculus One in the 10 week quarter system, and it was wraps for me.
When you’re lost, the next important step is ask for help. Ask your neighbor how to do a problem or even go to your professor’s office hours and ask them to explain the concept. Too afraid to go to approach your professor? No worries, we got the perfect game plan in this article to get you over that hesitation: How to Talk to Your Professor
If your school offers free tutoring services, GO TO THEM! Your tuition dollars are paying for these services so might as well get the most out of your money. Worst comes to worst, you hopefully found a mentor who can help explain a topic or offer advice on tackling your classes.
The main takeaway, PEOPLE are WILLING to help you! So go ahead and ASK!
3. Find a Community
There will be times when you want a break from school and socialize with other people. Joining communities or organizations are a great way to make new connections and build lasting relationships. That includes joining multicultural organizations, pledging for a fraternity or sorority, even working at a job at our school’s student resource center or the Recreational Center. These communities can really expand your social landscape and have you feeling welcomed and connected at your school.
Not only do you make friends and make valuable networks, you also obtained pillars of support.
Story time: I once pledge for a professional fraternity my freshman year and even though I didn’t cross-over, I still met a ton of cool people who I still hang out, study, and even travel with. Best of all, when I have trouble in a class or at home, I can rely on them to be supportive. Sometimes life comes at us hard but it’s easier to get back up when you have friends that got your back.
4. Don’t Worry Too Much About Falling Behind
The first few quarters of college can be rough. Maybe you barely pass a class or you have no idea how you pulled a B in that same Calculus One class after failing every midterm and quiz. When these things happen, you need to be able to go to a counselor or advisor and ask them for advise.
Often times classes only get more and more challenging as the concepts build on each other and become increasingly complicated. Class competition also gets harder with the curve becoming less generous leaving you with the most adaptable and prepared students in your class.
The solution would be to work with a counselor who you trust or, if you’re urgently in need of advice, a mentor or upperclassmen who has their own graduation timeline figured out. They can help you access your academic abilities and find a solution to your schedule in way that suits you.
An example would be if you are set to take Organic Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, all with their corresponding lab this Fall. If this schedule is too demanding for you, a counselor can point you to some different options. This can include pushing physics to next year where your schedule is less demanding. Or when you have developed your time management and study skills allowing you to handle a heavier course load.
5. LEARN HOW TO STUDY AND TIME MANAGE LIKE A COLLEGE STUDENT
Studying last minute for a Psych test worth 40% of your grade is a big mistake (no joke, I know, it sucks). Rereading your 6 articles for the Sociology midterm the day of the test is also never a recipe for success.
Now that you’re a college student, you need a solid plan on how to tackle a class and prepare for a test. Developing the ability to differentiate between passive studying and active studying is a must. Although we go in greater detail of some of the best study and time management strategies, I’ll leave a quick example of how I SHOULD have tackled my Psych 1 class below:
Step 1. Find the best professor for the best class experience
Before the class has even started, I’ve already looked up the professor on ratemyprofessor.com or reddit forms, or have talked to other college students who previously taken their class. This is to get the gist of what I need to know in order to do well.
- Key takeaways from those interactions:
- Take notes on the emphasized topics in lecture
- ACTUALLY Read the textbook
- Take notes on the bolded terms in the book
- Key takeaways from those interactions:
Step 2. Set up a study plan ahead of time to avoid last minute cramming
After studying independently, I notice it takes me 1 hour to get through 20 pages of Psych reading/annotating/summarizing. If I have 260 pages to get through and I have 14 days until the midterm. Then that means (260pages/20 pages/1 hour = 13 hours to finish all the required readings.) So if I plan accordingly, I need to read an hour a day, everyday to prepare for the midterm. And even then I’ll still have an extra day to review any difficult topics
- Quick Takeaways
- Planned ahead
- Had enough time to read and take note of Bolded Terms
- Had sufficient time to make flashcards or review terms or concepts I struggled with
- Still had an extra day to review before the midterm
- Note: I didn’t do this so I crammed 250 pages in 4 days. Try reading and learning 64 pages of Pavlov’s dogs and the numerous effects of Cocaine on the brain in a day. Not fun.
- Quick Takeaways
Step 3. Make sure to be rested and have your essentials ready.
It’s best to have your pens, pencils, and scantrons ready the night before. Aldo get plenty of rest for the test. Quality sleep habits help with maintaining your alertness and moving what you learned into long-term memories. This is exactly what you want when you have a big test the following day.
Regardless of what school you go to or what subject you are studying, it’s always best to find your niche. Being a first-generation college student, or even someone new to the college experience, you aren’t going to know everything. You might be plagued with uncertainty that others have the privilege of not worrying about. To become better acquainted with your school, peers, and your academics, here is my invaluable advice.
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