100 Ways to Survive the School Year

On Friends

College friends could be your friends for life.

Here’s the top ten on college friends:

  1. Be more outgoing than usual. That first day, that first week, and that first month of late August and September are crucial series of time to be outgoing, especially if it’s out of your comfort zone. It’s the time to try to make friends. Every freshman gets to college and starts scrambling for a friend group- but don’t limit yourself once you feel comfortable. Keep making friends, make wise friends, and invest in the ones that positively invest in you.
  2. Be genuinely interested. Let your newfound friends know that you’re listening and that you care with your words, time, and especially body language. It’s easiest to get to know people when you’re not multi-tasking with the infinite distractions found in the online universe.
  3. Set boundaries. Whether with roommates, with your roommates friends, or with significant others, boundaries that are clear and established are so important to discuss at the beginning of the year. If something bothers you (eg when dudes pee on the toilet seat) you need to say so. Don’t keep it in (I’ve found out the hard way) because mulling over it will only hurt you.
  4. Friends change, it’s hard, but it’s okay. It’s honestly so bittersweet when you start to realize that you don’t have much in common anymore with the best friend you’ve had for life, but that’s okay. Sometimes people drift apart because of differing interests, personalities, and maturation. Let it happen- it’s always okay to try to continue a friendship, but it’s also okay to let one fade.
  5. Know the difference between superficial and quality friendships. In college, there are people that only want to be friends with everyone at a surface level without going far beyond the yeah-we-take-shots-together phase. These types of people want to say they have friends and value the quantity over quality of people they call friends. They’ll make you feel amazing and bubbly in a group of people, but are most likely flakey and hard to count on. It’s okay to have superficial friends, I’m definitely not saying to avoid them. But I am saying, try to make sure that all of your friends aren’t superficial friends. Having people in your life that you’ve invested in and that reciprocate this effort are the friends that you’ll stay long-term friends with, they’re your family away from your family, and they’re the quality people that shape you through these very transformative years.
  6. Stick to your morals. If you go into college carrying a more strict moral code by society’s standards, I just want you to know that people won’t reject you for what you will or won’t do. Let me clarify really quick: quality people and quality friends will not reject you for what you act on. Speaking from experience, I knew far before college that I never wanted to drink or experiment with non-alcoholic drugs. And for the longest time, I would dance around the fact that I just don’t want to drink or smoke when people would ask why not. I thought that to be accepted, I needed to give an acceptable reason for my avoidance. But the reason to me is that I don’t want to drink, I really like being sober. It sounds boring, but it’s true and it’s what I stand by. No one that I value has ever rejected me for this. In fact, people admire someone who does what they believe in.
  7. Put your phone away. When spending time with friends, I really try to put my phone away and leave it away. It makes your time so much more personal and special when you purposely focus on friendships and conversations. Sometimes it’s really hard to do, especially when everyone else seems to be on their phones. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and it makes people feel less important than life on social media when used without moderation.
  8. Social media: show who you are. I’ve seen people fake who they are when online, and it must be so tiring to have to keep up appearances. The social media world may not make you go viral for being yourself on the internet, but it sure will feel better to showcase the truth behind you rather than trying to put on the face of someone you’re not. It’s okay to have a cluttered aesthetic or pictures of your cat, as long as it’s you and you love it.
  9. Be approachable. In college, it’s so easy to put headphones in and zone out the world around you while zooming to your next class and surfing the Instagram Explore page. But, just once I highly encourage you to leave that phone in your backpack and take the time to smile and wave at people (in a casual, friendly way) when transitioning places whether in halls or in the street. It’s really amazing how many friendships can be started with just a smile.
  10. Keep your mind open. Remember that college is a time where students are testing out identities and ideology, trying to establish who they are on what foundation. This takes much effort and experimentation in addition to vulnerability. Knowing this, it’s so important to be accepting and open to new ideas, attitudes, and people. Being open-minded literally opens the door to new friendships with people that you may have completely underestimated beforehand.

And here are 10 more simple thoughts to mull over:

  1. Be the friend that you’ve always wanted to have.
  2. True friends don’t ask you to choose sides.
  3. You can love a person without loving their lifestyle, choices, or mistakes.
  4. Purposely have friends in different friend groups.
  5. Friendships take time, effort, and continuity.
  6. Friendship is emotionally tolling, but reaps its benefits.
  7. If you’re an introvert like me, try a little harder to expand outside of your personal bubble every once in a while.
  8. Smile as you walk, smile at people, smile when you talk.
  9. Be friends with your roommates.
  10. Prioritize friends that lift your morale rather than soiling your day.

On Time Management

This may be the most important lesson learned in college whether learned the easy way or the hard.

  1. Plan a weekly schedule and do your best to stick to it. This includes time directed towards school, eating, exercising, sleeping, chilling, and whatever else you do. But, structure your time and…
  2. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. You will kick yourself later for ignoring this one. Establish your priorities and act accordingly- this is so insanely important. Writing a list and sticking it to a mirror, keeping it on your phone, or making it your go-to mantra are all effective ways to remember those priorities. This is coming from a person prone to procrastination disasters, you will never regret pure prioritization.
  3. Invest in a bullet journal. Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThese come pretty cheap and pretty delightful online with ease. I found a beautiful one on Amazon for only $6.29 and it shipped with prime. Bullet journals are incredible for staying organized and inspired to make lists, agendas, and plans. They’re great for journaling, sketching, or even plain keeping notes nicely so you want to go back and read them again instead of try to forget about them. And the best part is that many of them are conducive to left-handed souls like my own that are so completely done with fighting notebook spirals and spines.
  4. Pinpoint your weakness and seriously contemplate even bringing it to college. Is it Netflix binging? Will that new season of whichever show you love keep you from doing your homework? I strongly suggest seriously considering whether or not you even want to risk it. Managing school is imperative for your future career; Netflix can wait.
  5. Visualize your whole semester at a glance. This means, take an afternoon to enter all of the major projects, papers, and exams from the syllabus week into your planner. Take time to soak in the overlaps, locate the busy weeks, and conceptualize a study schedule. This considerably prevents “surprises” later that could turn an okay week into hell week. I’m serious. Do it.

On Your Mind

Have a plan for investing in your mental health beyond just saying your fine or venting to your friends.

  1. Try different ways to practice reflection. It’s actually beneficial to your sleep to reflect on the events of the day and how you feel before going to bed. Whether this be through a bullet journal or even artistic song, however you do you matters- as long as you do it. Self-reflection correlates to self-improvement. Those that grow the most often reflect the most, and make the changes that they see. It might be silly or girly, but it’s a career move that could be life-changing. It’s something that will help you in every area of your life.
  2. Find your safe place. Find your place where you can be alone, where you can cry, whine, and pout to yourself. Find the place that you can count on to go to when you do need a good personal cry. Locate it so that when you need it, you have a plan.
  3. Exercise daily. When we exercise, our minds stay sharp and our productivity skyrockets. Even better, exercising makes it easier to fall asleep at night so that your brain has time to repair itself for the next day of business. This positively effects memory, mood, and so much more. It overflows into decision making, self-concept, and information processing speed- exercise isn’t just for your muscles, it’s for a healthy mind.
  4. Locate your support system. Who is your go-to when life goes the wrong way? Is this person supportive, accepting, and does this person genuinely care for you? Will this person tell it to you straight? Will they make time for you when they’re busy, but it’s serious? That said, it’s so important to figure out who this person/these people are. Whether it’s an advisor, counselor, therapist, parent, or friend, make sure that they’re there because life will go wrong and when it does, you’ll need to process it.
  5. Know your mental weaknesses. Know what gets you, know what hurts you, and think about what hurts you. Think about some of the most hurtful times of your life and think about what you could do better. When you catch yourself going down a familiar road, catch yourself this time. Be aware and be proactive.
  6. Try new things. Try new activities, food, places, and routines. Try using the school pool that no one but the collegiate teams use that is free for you to take advantage of. Try wearing something that makes you feel risky but fabulous. Try reaching out to that person you think is A1. Just try! Be open to not always getting the reactions you want, but in doing so be open to all the new tastes and knowledge and experience you’ll acquire.
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. One of the most destructive patterns of thought is comparing yourself to the perfect individuals online or in the community. This only brings about negativity- as irrational as it is to compare all of the flaws that you know about yourself with just the image others try to present. Don’t fall into this pattern- it’s so, so, so not what I wish for anyone.
  8. Find a mentor. Find someone that you admire, that have morals that are the same or a level higher than yours, and find someone that you aspire to be just like. Generally, this means someone older and more experienced that will take you as you are and try to give you advice to get farther in life. Choose wisely, but choose. If I could go back again and again, I’d find a mentor every time.
  9. It’s okay to say that you don’t know. When you admit that you don’t know, you give yourself space to grow and learn.
  10. Sleep. Get that 8-10 hours of sleep. It’s a priority, and there’s no room for arguing. Your mind’s ability is so completely dependent on how much you give it time to rest and recover. It’s imperative to your life longevity and daily functioning too.

On Your Body

Sadly, the physical body is likely the most neglected during college years.

  1. Remember that what you put in is what you get out. Making poor food choices is so common in college because unhealthy food is often the most cost efficient. However, what you eat contains the molecules that build and repair your body. If you decide to give your body garbage, you’ll feel like garbage too.
  2. Intentionally learn about food, fitness, and how to have fun with both. Exercise isn’t supposed to be a chore, and neither is sustainable, healthy eating. Food is exciting, and staying active is as well. There are so many resources that will help you when you run into walls! Blogs, the school dietician, books, and academic databases are great places to learn about beneficial nutrients and how they work hand-in-hand with fitness to keep you healthy and strong.
  3. The secret to being attractive is changing what’s inside, not covering up. It may not seem like it in the short term, but it’s the long term investment that counts. When you break out, don’t stop at the zit stick. Instead, think about stressors, hormones, when your hands touch your face, and any other factors that might contribute to break outs or unattractive bulges. Think about how you’re thinking about them too- because often times, we forget to be realistic first.
  4. You will gain weight. As an aging person, you will gain weight and that’s that. Your body changes, metabolism slows, but lifestyle doesn’t have to be the leading factor in weight gain. Your everyday choices are for your own gain, or loss.
  5. Take those vitamins. Multivitamins are full of nutrients that keep your cells working optimally, especially in areas that lack in our diets. Keeping up with the vitamins might just fill the holes that may be unavoidable in college life- they might keep you running strong in the middle of viral flu season, and help you recover so much faster than if you hadn’t been taking them at all.

    do it. 
    Legion Triumph Multivitamins are meant to give fill the gaps in the nutrition that your body yearns for. The natural, scientifically backed, and 5-star rated ingredients are well worth the price you pay when you account for the immunity, mood, and health boost that it legitimately gives you (find it on Amazon.com!).

  6. Prioritize sleep, again. I said it before, I have to say it again: sleep is essential, that’s not even an opinion. Whether or not you got to see your show, make sure you get in bed for at least eight hours of sleep without a doubt. Don’t skimp. Please. I know it’s cool to pull an all nighter, but really it’s not- you just short change yourself.
  7. Love yourself. I know it sounds corny, but everyone everywhere has something about themselves that they find distasteful. For me, it’s the fact that my arms are insanely skinny and long and that my shoulders are super wide for my frame. But, there’s a point where you have to accept that you can’t do anything to change those things, but you can change your mind about those things. Loving yourself helps you love life. Loving yourself helps you love others from the deepest part of your heart because you already know how to love.
  8. Find joy in physical activity. Try new things! Try new exercises, but aim for the recommended 30-60 minutes of moderate to rigorous physical activity per day. Remember that your body changes a little bit over time, but you’re the ultimate determination of whether you improve or decline.
  9. Everything in moderation. Diets stress restriction, but if there’s anything I’ve learned at college, it’s that restriction leads to binging. And binging in a bad way- all out craziness. So, let yourself indulge in a little snack of your favorite food here and there, try to find new favorites with a healthy twist, but don’t totally cut anything out of your diet. For some, yes it does work. For most, we quit after a week.
  10. Drink that water. Water, as every fitness guru in the history of the blogosphere would say, is essential to your being. It’s what you’re made of and to sustain yourself, you must hydrate everyday, all of the time, probably more than you do. Water is so important to every tiny bit of who you are.

On Dating

They say that college is the place where you meet the love of your life, right?

Whether or not you’ve read What I wish I knew about college boys before freshman year, you know that there are so many unknowns about dating before you get to college. You know that you really don’t know- it might be exhilarating, dreadful, or even nonchalant- but there are most definitely situations to be aware of.

Things to Remember:

  1. Your worth. Don’t sell yourself short because you think the person you’ve found is the ‘one’. If this person doesn’t respect you, try with you, or even takes advantage of you, you need to leave even if it hurts.
  2. Yourself. Through the excitement of dating and falling in love, so many girls forget the friends, passions, and hobbies they had pre-relationship and acquire all of the ones their significant other does. Don’t forget the ones you love, too. Don’t forget who you are.
  3. Everyone has their own past. And, every person’s past affects their present self in individual ways. Try to understand your person’s past and it might give insight into your person now.
  4. People aren’t transparent. No matter how much you think you know a person, you don’t know all of them. Ask questions when you have questions and use your intuition: gut-feelings aren’t always lies.
  5. You’re both growing. When you find someone, know that both of you are figuring out who you are and where you’re going. It’s impossible to be perfect, but it’s also necessary to see qualities that you find desirable (eg motivation).

Some Small Sentences for Huge Topics:

  1. Casual sex is common, but you don’t have to participate if you do not want to.
  2. Your first one won’t always be the right one.
  3. Be absolutely sure about your decisions before going along for the ride- especially sex.
  4. Know what’s on the table in terms of risks and consequences.
  5. Set realistic expectations and (gently) make them known.
  6. Don’t settle for someone out of fear of being alone.
  7. Be confident and excited to work on yourself every day, regardless of your relationship status.
  8. Rushing things only causes problems and missed time.
  9. Remember to listen to yourself and your significant other. Like, really listen.
  10. Be honest.

On Your Wallet

They say that college students are broke; they are pretty accurate.

  1. You will save so much money if you avoid caffeinated drinks for as long as possible.  If you think about it, people who indulge in a morning specialty coffee or energy drink (let alone multiple ones) are literally paying for it from their very limited income. To top it off, caffeine is extremely addicting and terribly difficult to quit, especially when quitting isn’t even attractive. So to save that $3-8 every day, it’s best to stay away because that little bit of money accumulates so much faster than you’d think.
  2. Cook your meals instead of eating out.
  3. Consult Dave Ramsey.
  4. Put yourself on a budget. This requires a chunk of time to sit down and truly analyze your expenses and spending habits that make up your fiscal health. Then, estimate partitions of money to set aside for different areas of money management so that you maintain your goals and you don’t have to add financial stress onto the towering piles of – well – other stress.
  5. Keep track of your spending. Whether or not you follow a budgeting plan, take time to record your cashflow either in a spreadsheet or by hand. When you do, truly be honest with yourself about what you spend money on and whether or not it’s necessary at a time where money may be (nonexistent) pretty tight.

And here’s a cute little short list:

  1. Buy and sell lightly used, brand name clothes from apps like Poshmark to make a little and save a lot.
  2. Frequent thrift shops and consignment stores for DIY inspiration, clothes, shoes, accessories, furnishings, decor, etc.
  3. Take advantage of work study- they literally pay you to do simple tasks and homework during down time.
  4. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions (or think twice before purchasing them)
  5. Take advantage of free samples (I’m talking GNC & your grocery deli to name a few)
  6. Never cry and buy
  7. Refuse to use vending machines
  8. Make a day out of garage sale surfing during the summertime for great finds
  9. Use the wisdom of your mentor to your advantage
  10. Use short- and long-term goals to keep yourself accountable
  11. Be flexible with yourself, but disciplined
  12. Think about large purchases for at least 3 days before deciding to buy
  13. When you’re out shopping and you have something in your hand that you didn’t absolutely love when you picked it up, leave it there.
  14. Use the Craigslist “free” listings page to scout out some pretty epic stuff
  15. Rent your books whenever possible

On Your Future

Where you invest your time pays off later, if done well. So, here are ideas that could spur your professional development that you can start immediately:

  1. Create a LinkedIn and start networking with family acquaintances, classmates, peers, and faculty.
  2. Clean up your social media presence- it is possible to be professional and personal at the same time. If it’s a struggle, this could be interpreted as double checking privacy settings.
  3. Develop your work ethic.
  4. Practice your people skills, time management, and conflict resolution.
  5. Use group projects as social learning activities in addition to the assignment itself.
  6. Take advantage of free resume/cover letter writing seminars and career center resources.
  7. Ask advisors, mentors, internship scouts, etc. about what they find most attractive about a person when they are filling professional roles.
  8. Take advantage of free mock interviews (and anything else that’s free).
  9. Actually attend networking events to both practice and observe alumni, classmates, and professionals to help develop your own style.
  10. Seek out research, an internship, or shadowing someone in the career path you find desirable.
  11. Find peace in the fact that most everyone is unsure about majors, career choices, and life itself at some point or another during their college career.
  12. Never burn bridges- the people around you may seem carefree now, but they might be part of a committee you’re on in 20 years.
  13. Take your learning seriously. Even though college is a place where students discover their voices and identities, it’s also a place where your main priority is to learn.
  14. Show up on-time to class. There’s nothing worse that realizing at the end of the semester that had you have come on time, you might have been rewarded with a glowing recommendation letter from you professor.
  15. You won’t be fully prepared for what ever you face after college. That’s okay, but no matter how educated you might be, there will always be huge pieces that simply can’t be taught.
  16. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about time, commitment, and effort. It’s about learning, not memorizing.
  17. Your grades matter, but how you learn (and retain information) matters most.
  18. Just like you shouldn’t settle with a partner for fear of loneliness, don’t settle for a career just because you are qualified. You can branch out, reach out, and dream.
  19. It’s okay to not know.(and finally number 100)
  20. Stay present.

    Stay in the moment: think about the past and how you can change yourself now to better your future and think about your future goals, hopes, and desires. But don’t get lost in the past or the future, use them to be the best you can be now.

As you can obviously tell, this list is definitely only a fraction of the things you might want to know before your freshman year. As a soon-to-be senior, this is a list that I wish someone would have handed me when I needed it the summer before freshman year.

Whether or not it helps you, I hope that it reminds you that your unique self is going to do great in college and that you can learn from everything for the rest of your life.


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