I’m a sophomore in college, but I’m still struggling to get myself together school and personal lifewise. People assume that after your freshman year, college becomes second nature. But it doesn’t. Because life is random. You might think you have everything figured out, then you end up with the hardest teacher on earth. You might believe you should join an organization but then you become so caught up with them that school becomes a sideline thing. Here’s a few things I wish someone had told me before I got to college:

1. Don’t be surprised.

I know due dates for assignments can sneak up on you, but they don’t have to. In the first days of classes, your professors will give you a syllabi with a calendar of every assignment, exam, essay, due dates, you name it. And as tempting as it is to grab take those papers and let them fall to the bottom of your backpack, here’s a tip: don’t. Gather all your syllabi in a binder or folder and write down important due dates and exam dates. Hang them up somewhere visible, for future reference. This way you’ll never walk into a class surprised to know you have an exam to take.

2. Sit in the front.

I know, it’s scary, it’s uncomfortable, maybe your professor is a very loud man and you don’t want to be that close to him. But trust me– you’ll be better of in the long run. Students who sit in the front automatically impress professors, it shows them you’re not afraid of them and makes you look eager to learn. Plus you get to see all the notes easily and hear clearer so you get a better understanding of the information.

3. Review/Rewrite your notes after class.

The best time to study is right after class when you’ve just received the information. Reviewing your notes by reading them aloud or just taking a scan over them after class helps with memory but my favorite method is to rewrite my notes so that they’re easier to study later. I have two notebooks: one in class and one after class. In class notes are often sloppy and quickly written because you’re trying to keep up with the professor. Rewriting them will not only make them more legible but it gives you a chance to recall what you learned, embedding it into your memory better.

4. Keep track of your absences.

No, attendance is not optional– I know, I was surprised too. Familiarize yourself with the absence policy of your university. For example, at my college you can miss no more than 9 days out of the semester or else you will be dropped from the class you missed. Also, in the syllabus for your courses there are attendance policies where your professor will explain exactly how they track absences or if they do. Often professors will doc from your grade due to absences. Always keep aware of the absences you receive.

5. Write everything down.

You’re probably going to tell yourself that you’ll remember that assignment is due at 12AM Monday morning and then end up scrambling to get things done at 11:45. I know. I’ve done it. But try this: skip that step. Write it down in a planner or on a todo list, make it visible and get it done early. Minimize your stress as best as possible.

6. Don’t force yourself to study.

Yes, study, obviously. But if you’ve been working for hours with no breaks in between or cooped up in your room for days without seeing the sun or your friends: that’s not okay. You deserve to take a breather. Studying is important but so is your mental health. Don’t burn yourself out pulling all-nighters or force yourself to do work. Stressing yourself out is going to do nothing but hurt you in the end. Breathe. Take care of yourself.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

It’s really difficult to admit that you’re struggling in a class but you have to take a deep breath and open your mouth. Go to your professors office hours– or send them an email if you’re not into face to face confrontation. Talk to them. Talk to their TA. Let them see that you’re really trying. Go see a tutor. Make the library your second home if you have to! Don’t sit around and allow yourself to fail. I have and repeating a class and having to spend money on courses you’ve already taken is not fun in anyway.

8. Go to sleep.

Don’t pay attention to what your friends are doing late at night cus they’ve got a later class than you in the morning. You know your schedule, you know your body, go to sleep. You’re not missing out on anything, you’re allowing yourself to be energized the next morning to be able to learn and pay attention and actually stay awake in class the next day.

9. Nourish yourself and your brain.

Always stay hydrated, and bring snack to class (that is if your professor allows you to eat in the room.) Food gives you energy and will help you focus on class. Also, if you’re snacking on something you won’t fall asleep in class!
10. Don’t get side tracked.

Joining an organization is fun and can motivate you to do better in school, but don’t fill your plate so much that you end up trying to juggle your school work and your team/organization. Having a significant other is nice but if you are constantly blowing off your school work to be with them, that’s unhealthy. You’re at school for an education not to find love or hang out with your friends. It happens and those things are wonderful but school should come first. You’re investing in your future.

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