4 answers

How do you survive college?

Updated Jenks, Oklahoma

What are your tips for surviving college? How to manage stress, school work, and a social life? #collegelife #college #personal-development

4 answers

Claire’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

Hi Madeleine! I absolutely agree with Herman's advice. Keeping a schedule and managing your time well is extremely important to success in college. There are times that college can be difficult and stressful, but it happens to everyone. Finding a hobby or a club that helps take your mind off the stress can be helpful too.

Herman’s Answer

Updated California, California
Hi Madeleine, It's good you are thinking about this ahead of time. My best suggestion is to keep a schedule, and keep organized. Try best to stick to your schedule, so you can balance things accordingly. I highly suggest joining some student organizations, so you can meet other students as well and expand your network. I feel like networking, while time consuming, is a great way to de-stress. Also, take advantage of the university gyms to exercise, that may help relieve stress as well. Best of luck! Best, Herman

Lynette’s Answer

Updated Arlington, Virginia

Good question. Heading off to college can be stressful. For many students, it will be the first time they live on their own. So, it is natural to feel nervous. The good news is, you won't be alone. You'll be surrounded by other students, who may be feeling the same way. With a little social support, and a lot of self-discipline, you can survive and thrive in college.

Here are some suggestions that may help you succeed:

1.) Get organized: buy a planner or download a calendar app to keep track of class times, due dates, social events, etc. Block out study time on the calendar, and stick to those commitments.

2.) Pay attention in class: the teacher will cover everything that is important enough to be on the final exam, so show up, listen, and take notes. Writing it down helps commit it memory, and your notes will serve as a “study guide” for exams.

3.) Prioritize & balance your time: before you say “yes” to social events, take a look at your schedule. Do you have a project or paper due? How long will it take to complete the research, writing, editing? Prioritize your time carefully, and learn to say “no”, when you have to. For me, self-discipline was the hardest thing to learn, in college. I made mistakes, procrastinated, and spent a lot of all-nighters rushing through assignments, my first year in college. My grades suffered as a result. It takes maturity, but eventually you learn that that there are always more opportunities for fun, but you only get one chance to pass that final exam!

4.) Start or join a study group: make plans to study with roommates or classmates, once or twice a week. This gives you some social time, while still getting your school work done, and you can motivate each other to stay on task.

5.) Eliminate distractions: during those times when you have to buckle down on your own, go somewhere quiet, where you won’t be distracted. For me, the best place was in between the old library stacks, where phones had to be turned off, people were all reading or studying, instead of chatting, and there were no temptations, like snacks, TV, or social media. If you can’t find a quiet enough place, try wearing noise cancelling head phones.

6.) Check in with your professors: about halfway through the semester, (or sooner if you’re struggling), schedule a one-on-one meeting with each of your professors. Ask how you’re doing so far, get feedback, and find out what you need to do to get or stay on track.

7.) Keep a positive attitude: strive for EXCELLENCE, rather than perfection. Choose to view college as a stepping stone that will get you where you want to be, next. Get outside as much as you can - fresh air and exercise can lift your spirits, after long hours in the classroom or lab. Find people and activities you enjoy, during your free time. Follow your passion, and have fun!

Lynette recommends the following next steps:

  • Check out what some other smart people have to say: https://www.hartford.edu/career_services/files/pdf/25_tips.pdf http://www.gocollege.com/survival/ https://www.collegexpress.com/articles-and-advice/student-life/articles/living-campus/freshman-year-survival-tips/

Bryan’s Answer

Updated Pensacola, Florida

For me, having a list of things that I needed to focus on and putting the items on the list in order helped me reduce stress.  In college, when preparing for an exam, there is always going to be more you can learn.  It will seem like you will never have enough time.  That is OK if you write down the things that you have to do and then order the list based on what is most important.


Step one: get everything you are worried about down on paper.  You probably don't want to have more than 10-20 things on the list because you're probably only going to have time to do the top 3-5, but don't worry about that at first.  This step is just about getting everything you're worried about written down.


Step two: compare the things on your list and decide which is most important.  Think about whether the thing on the list that you're considering will help you get a good grade in a course and whether it is helping you make some kind of progress toward completing your degree requirements.  You should have a list of general, prerequisite courses you need to complete from someone at the school so you have some direction. 


You may need to make adjustments to your degree after the first year or two (I did), so try to take courses in your first two years that you can apply to more than one degree.  That'll save you time and money if you change majors, because you'll be able to re-use those courses in your new major. 


The fun and social part of college won't necessarily take care of itself, and some fields reward highly developed social skills.  Some fields place less emphasis on the social aspects of college life, but everyone needs some time away from studies.  Try to avoid things that'll make it harder for you like recreational drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and overeating.  See if you can develop a habit of regular exercise.  Try not to overdo the pizza buffets.  That will help you clear your mind when coursework is overwhelming, and it can give you a chance to relax and burn off stress.  If you can work walking and biking into your daily routine that's great, but make sure you choose safe routes, and if you are studying late always try to arrange to walk/bike with a friend when it's dark or when you are moving through isolated areas.


Making the list and ordering the items on the list is my main advice here though.  You don't need your phone or the web or special forms or day planners to do this.  Any of those are fine if they work for you, but don't be afraid to write them down on a scrap of paper that you won't lose.  During my last year in college, I had free calendar someone in my family had gotten from a kids breakfast cereal somehow.  I don't really remember where it came from, but the boxes on the calendar were just the right size with plenty of whitespace, and I could see a whole month at a time.  Plus the whole calendar was a little smaller than most wall calendars, so I could put the whole thing in my book bag and refer back to it. 


You can go without sleep for a day or so if you have to study for a bunch of tests that happen all at once (midterms, finals), but in general you'll do better if you can get regular sleep.  That may be hard if you are in a noisy dorm or apartment or even if you have to live at home with other stresses. 


There will be different timelines for some of the things I mentioned here, so try to keep that in mind too.  The degree is one of the longer term things (years), the financial aid will probably be shorter (months or maybe a year at a time), and courses will be shorter than that (weeks to months).  The test schedules will be shorter still (weeks or days), and your class schedule will be obviously shorter.  When you get down to hours that'll probably be about as far down as you can usefully plan your time.  You'll learn how much time you need to read and prepare for a test, and that'll vary based on the content for the class (easy/hard or you like it / don't like it) and then when you have your priorities (remember Step 2 at the top?) you'll be able to decide how much time to spend on each of your top 3 or top 5.  I wasn't able to order things more than top 3, 4 or 5 items because those take so much time that the other things fall off the list. That's OK.  Just don't wait until the last minute.  If you have to drop a course, try to do it sooner rather than later. 


There's a yearly sequence to some of the later courses where your requirements may only be offered in the first half of the year with a follow-on course in the very next term. If you miss taking either of them, you could have to wait for another year before the course comes up again, so pay attention to that too.


Finally, don't give up!  It took me an extra year more than my peers to get my degree (5y) because I changed majors and got out of sync with the schedule of courses offered.  I also had to move back home at one point to save money, so that can be hard.  You can do that if you need to, but if you can find something you're good at and learn to balance your time, you will be fine.  Don't get discouraged if you have to try multiple times to find your groove.  It will work out if you don't stop trying.