It's finally the beginning of the best four years of your life! The first week or so has probably been a whirlwind of excitement, anxiety, and surprises, but hopefully it hasn't been too overwhelming. Sure orientation week was fun, and you've been enjoying meeting new people and finally being on your own, but we all understand that college might be a little scary too. This may be your first time leaving home, exposed to new choices and challenges you never were before.
The first important thing to realize is that high school success (or lack of it) doesn't necessarily apply to college. Maybe in high school you were class president or in the honors society or the valedictorian. Maybe you didn't work to your potential and did the bare minimum but still made it this far. Honestly, it doesn't really matter too much what you did in high school or what kind of student you were. College is a brand new start! You can set new goals and have the chance to become whichever type of student, friend, group member, or mentor that you wish to be.
You're probably already thinking how am I going to succeed in my classes but still keep my social life strong? After all, we do go to Hopkins and our schedules will be rigorous. Don't fret! I promise a perfect balance is possible through good time management.
The most important thing to ask yourself is what are your goals? It can be really easy in college to lose sight of them and knowing these goals in advance will help you deal with obstacles along the way. Two important things to watch out for: too much socializing and skipping class. Obviously many of us want to be able to go to parties and hang out with our friends but you need to prioritize. School first and parties after. Try not to skip class as much as possible, it really will lead you to fall behind. Who wants to study for a test never having seen any of the information before? Now that would be even more overwhelming and stressful than the studying itself.
In order to have a good balance between your social and academic life, I have thought of a few things that help me. First of all, you need energy!! Energy comes from making sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise. Now you're thinking wow you want me to find time to exercise too? You really don't need to be going to the gym for hours to keep your energy levels up. Even a minimal effort is fine, we just don't want to spend the entire day in a chair. Next, take advantage of a planner. The ical planner on the mac computer saves my life. It helps you look at all your commitments at once so you can better organize and prioritize.
Another key word: multitasking. You know those awkward half hours between two classes that you use to surf on Facebook, well instead, open a book and do some reading or get a few problems on your assignment out of the way. Or maybe you're in a class where the lecture isn't really captivating your attention, are you sitting there spacing out or doing work for another class? Of course, you should be focusing on the class you're in but lets be serious, sometimes its just happening. Basically we want to make the most of such non-productive times. Finally, avoid procrastination and cramming as much as possible. This will just lead to more stress and poorer performance. There is a reason why professors give you weeks to study for an exam, because you need it. So use that time, split up the readings and spread out the work. After all, would you rather study half an hour each day until the exam or the entire weekend before, losing sleep and missing out on all those parties? Keep a balance.
My last comment, you can do it! You are the one who got this far. You got the good grades in high school, the high SAT score, and acceptance into a prestigious university. You can make it through this freshman year and the next three years after. Take advantage of the new classes and professors but don't let academics and time management take over your life. Just be smart about it. You can have fun while learning and meeting your goals. Only through this realization will you truly make the most out of your college experience.
This post was written by a member of PEEPs (JHU's peer health educators).