Ahhh yes, the month of May – a beautiful time of year. Ohio weather becomes much more stable and consistently warm, NBA playoff basketball is in full effect, and Mother’s Day rolls around, a very special day where we show even more appreciation than usual for all of our wonderful mothers for putting up with our BS for so many years (honestly, we really do love y’all for that. You guys have no idea). However, the month of May is also very special because of one very big reason: college graduations.
A vast majority of colleges hold their spring graduations in the month of May, so this is the time of year where you see plenty of Facebook posts about graduation dates, Senior pictures, and invitations to graduation parties, fully consisting of delicious food to eat and endearing family members that we love (and sometimes love to hate!).
Being a college graduate, you’ve made it. The bag has been secured. The world is your oyster. But we can all admit that we wish we had known a few things before diving headfirst into the collegiate life. So I’m here to impart some knowledge on those who might not have started the college life yet, or for those who have already started/finished, might be able to relate to and pass on to their own children, younger siblings, etc.
Make It Easy on Yourself – Start Off Strong!
Freshman year of college. New beginnings. No parents breathing down your neck. College parties. College women (or ‘guys’ for my female readers). A brand new world with so many things to do, places to explore, and people to meet. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of it all and get distracted from the main reason for why you’re at school in the first place: the “school” part. You might say to yourself: “it’s my freshman year – if I slack off on my classes, I still have three more years to pull myself together and be perfectly fine”. WRONG. There are few things harder in life than trying to raise a bad GPA. You’ll get straight A’s for the next four semesters and still be wondering how the hell you only have a 2.62 GPA; and it’ll all be because of those C’s and D’s you got all the way back in freshman year. It’s rough trying to climb out of a hole that you dug yourself into, instead of just starting off on a good foot. The same advice applies not only to your college career as a whole, but also to individual courses as well. If you start off properly and maintain, you won’t have to be one of those students knocking on the professor’s door asking for last minute extra credit just to pass the class.
Respect Your Elders – Give Up Those Swipes!
As you’re just starting out in college, you are automatically placed at the bottom of the metaphorical totem pole. You’re still wet behind the ears, and the fragrance of Similac can still be smelled in your breath. You haven’t even had to succumb to the overwhelming stress grenade known as “Finals week” yet. Show your respect to those weathered veterans; the ones who have had to endure countless Finals weeks, the ones taking those brutal 3000 and 4000 level courses, the ones who put on those house parties, cookouts, and other events that you love to attend. Being a college student now, 9 times out of 10 you have elected to partake in your school’s dining plan where you have an allocated amount of swipes, blocks, meals, bucks, points, etc. (the name differs depending on said school) that you can spend per week/month/semester. Utilize these precious assets of yours and break bread with your more seasoned peers to honor their experience and to show appreciation for them paving the way for you. One day you yourself will be a seasoned vet as well, and underclassmen will be the ones shelling out their swipes for YOU, so you’ll definitely get yours in due time. But for now, carry on the tradition and support those who came before you.
The “Freshman 15” is Real – Eat Healthy, Be Healthy, Live Healthy!
This one applies more so to the ladies than it does the gentlemen (sorry ladies, it’s not our fault we have a naturally faster metabolism – we still love you though!). Along with that dining plan that I stated above comes abundant amounts of delicious food on campus that’s almost always readily available at any given moment. You will get tired of this campus food by the end of your sophomore year and it will all start to eventually taste bland; however, for now, it’s tasty, convenient both between and after a long day of classes, typically high in calories, and thus the perfect recipe for adding on some extra pounds. Make sure you are aware of what you’re eating; a lot of dining halls may provide calorie information next to choices on menus. Stay cognizant of what your body is taking in. Between classes, friends, studying, extracurricular activities, and trying to find time to sleep, it’s far too easy to grab a quick bite to eat on the way home or to the library and not even realize all that your body’s consuming. Be conscious of your food choices: opt to eat a salad instead of a burger for a meal, or an apple for a snack instead of a bag of chips or fries. Those healthier choices will go a long way over time. Also, make sure you utilize the recreational centers and gyms that your school has to offer. Try working out at least 2-3 times out of the week by running on the treadmill or elliptical, and doing sit-ups and planks, just to name a few. You can even incorporate more exercise in your daily life by opting to walk to class instead of taking the campus bus. There are simple ways to make sure you stay fit, but at the end of the day your diet will almost always take precedence over your exercise in regards to weight maintenance, so please keep that in mind.
This College Sh*t Scressful – Make Time for Yourself!
College will be some of the best four years of your life, no doubt about it. However, like I mentioned before, you’ll find yourself quickly overwhelmed by the onslaught of class, studying, making time for friends, partying, extracurricular activities, and lack of sleep. For many students, it’s easy to take on more than they can actually handle. The levels of stress that college induces will sometimes have you on the brink of tears and make you consider just giving up on everything, dropping out, and becoming a stripper. Don’t become a stripper. In your undeniably busy schedule, make sure you have adequate time to yourself. Try not to overload yourself – if you feel like you have one too many classes, don’t be afraid to drop one. If you feel like you’re in too many student orgs, gracefully bow out of one of them, or at least reduce the frequency at which you attend. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, because nothing makes a person more irritable when they had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning studying or typing up a 10-page paper just to sleep for three hours and wake back up to get ready for their 8 am (another quick tip: avoid 8 am classes at all costs, if you can help it!). Make sure you’re also getting emotional support, whether it be through friends or family. There will be times where you may be ready to break down, so have someone there that’s ready to let you vent your frustrations and also provide you sound advice. These next few years will be fun, but they’ll also be treacherous, so make sure you have balance between work and life as much as possible.
Make Friends – Get Involved!
The friendships you make in college will truly last a lifetime. The insane amount of antics and shenanigans you all will take part in over these years will be remembered and looked back on for many years to come. However, before you can get out there and make said friends with which you may have fond memories with later on down the road, you must first put yourself in a prime position to encounter these people that’s where being involved on campus comes in. By electing to be a part of a student organization, you will surround yourself with peers that you will see on a frequent basis and build connections with. This is especially important if you are a person of color who attends a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) and feel that you are alone and there’s no one around that you believe you can truly connect with and relate to. By joining Black/Latin/etc. orgs, these groups can fill such a void, and have you forming a slew of new circles and an outright sense of belonging. Don’t make the mistake of being the student that goes to class, studies, sleeps, repeats, and then complains about not having any friends. More often than not, no one’s going to hold your hand and make friends for you – you have to go out and make the effort of building those connections yourself!
To wrap things up…
I hope I hit upon some of the key aspects about how to not only survive, but to enjoy the college life, and make it to graduation day with a smile on your face and memories to look back on. For those who have already graduated (or close to it), if I happened to forget something that you felt was important, please don’t hesitant to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear any and all thoughts.
And to all my new college grads (especially my fellow Buckeyes!), congratulations and welcome to the club!
Chris Ray (‘Bris Lattimore’)