It’s officially autumn and you are well into your first semester of the school year. How is college going for you so far? Though there are many positive and exciting things about the transition to college, if you are like most students, you are also experiencing some aspects of it that are stressful and challenging. Are you struggling with the amount and type of work you are getting? Are you having difficulty managing your time and getting to your classes? Are you struggling with the increase in independence and responsibility of being more on your own? Or are you finding that it is tough to balance your academic life with your social one? Whether you are a freshman and new to college life, transferring from another college, or an upperclassman coming back from a long summer off, transitions are tough, particularly this transition from high school to college. Though this is an exciting time, it can be a demanding and overwhelming time as well. Below are a few tips that will hopefully make this transition to college life a little easier!
- Find an organizational system for your classes/workload that works for you. Are you struggling to keep track of assignments? Get acquainted with your syllabuses! For each class go through your syllabus and enter the days/times you have classes and all upcoming assignments, papers, exams, and finals for the semester into a planner or calendar. If you are someone who has difficulty remembering upcoming assignments and exams, set reminder alarms for yourself. To stay organized and easily keep track of materials for each class, get a folder for each class where you can keep each syllabus, assignments, and articles needed.
- Get organized with your time. Are you finding that you are having difficulty structuring your time outside of your classes? As you have probably already discovered, you are physically in classes significantly less compared to high school (approximately 15 hours in college classes versus the 30 you are used to). And, for each hour you are in class, you need to be spending 2-3 hours of studying and/or doing work each week outside of class. This means you have a lot more free time outside of class, and a good portion of that free time needs to be devoted to your studies! With this in mind, schedule in time to study and enter that into your calendar/planner to help you stick with your schedule. Schedule in meal times and nighttime routines, too – don’t forget to eat and sleep!
Want more information on ways to stay organized in college?
- Elizabeth Hamblet is an expert on the transition to college. See her article on planning for the semester.
- Petersons.com, a website on college prep and college resources, has an article on scheduling tips for students.
- For even more tips for staying organized in college, check out this article from BestColleges.com.
Make it Routine!
- Develop a good morning routine. Are you struggling to get up in the morning and/or are you missing classes? Be sure to develop a good morning routine. Set an alarm with plenty of time for you to get ready, eat breakfast, and make your way across campus to your class. If you are still struggling with getting moving in the morning, identify what motivates you. Is it that cup of coffee at the student center or breakfast sandwich in the cafeteria on the way to class? Is it teaming up with a friend to walk together to class to help keep you accountable? Pinpoint that motivation and work that into your morning routine. Also, having a good morning routine is also affected by…..
- A good nighttime routine. Are you finding that your late nights of minimal sleep are impacting your ability to get up in the morning? Get yourself to bed at a reasonable time and even schedule your nighttime routine into your calendar to help you stick to it. Find ways to settle yourself at night, like by taking a warm shower or listening to calm music. To help with your morning routine, add getting your classroom materials/bag ready and picking out your clothes to your nighttime routine to help minimize what you need to do in the morning.
Looking for more advice on developing good routines?
- See this article from the Sleep Foundation on developing a good nighttime routine.
- CollegeInfoGeek.com has good tips on developing a morning ritual.
- BestColleges.com has an article on tips for waking up early.
- Find a good place to study. Are you struggling with getting work done in your room? If you are living on campus, your dorm room comes with a million distractions – a noisy roommate, loud neighbors, and your nice cozy bed calling you to sleep, just to name a few. Given these distractions, your dorm may not be the best place to be productive. If you commute to campus, your bedroom at home is not ideal either. Check out the library and student centers on campus and see what might work for you. Typically, libraries will have different areas of differing levels of quiet with the option to reserve private study rooms.
- Find a good time to study. When are you your most productive self? Are you a morning person who is most productive before classes start? Are you more of a night owl? Or do you have a good chunk of time between classes when you find it easiest to keep the momentum going and study? Identify those times of day that work better for you and incorporate that into your schedule.
Do you want more details on how to study smarter?
- See CollegeInfoGeek.com article on where and how to create a good study space.
- Familiarize yourself with academic resources on campus. Are you struggling with academic content or specific academic skills? You may benefit from the academic assistance offered on most campuses, including tutoring and/or writing centers. See what your school has to offer and pursue these supports. Each professor also has office hours. Find out when the professor for each of your classes holds their office hours and stop by for clarification on content or to discuss any questions you have about topics or assignments.
- Get accommodations. Do you have a documented diagnosis and believe you could benefit from accommodations? Each school has a disability services office that can help you obtain accommodations, which can range from access to notes from a notetaker to extra time on exams and/or taking exams in a separate room with reduced distractions. Sometimes this office can be tricky to find on your school’s site, so search for words like disability, access, and success to track it down. Contact this office for both the application process as well as what you need to do to access your accommodations once you receive them. Once you have accommodations, there will be things that you need to do to activate them (e.g., letting the disability office know in advance of upcoming exams so they can reserve a separate room for test taking), so be sure to familiarize yourself with the process.
- Access therapeutic services on campus. Now that you are on your own, are you finding that you are struggling more to manage your mental health? Is a pre-existing diagnosis becoming tougher to manage, or, for the first time, are you struggling more with your mood and anxiety? Seek out therapeutic support on campus through the counseling center. You can find this information on your school’s website and search words like health and wellness, counseling, and support. Typically, there is short-term individual counseling offered at colleges (and they can refer students to outpatient providers if needed for longer-term therapy), and sometimes there are other supports like group therapy and psychoeducational workshops. More and more colleges are offering resources on how to manage stress, mood and anxiety, and practicing good self-care.
Learn more about accommodations and supports on campus!
- Here is another article by Elizabeth Hamblet on applying for accommodations in college.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a good article on mental health in college.
- Here is another article from Petersons.com on college mental health resources.
And Most Importantly:
- Be kind to yourself! Are you struggling with the transition to college and being hard on yourself for it? Remember, the transition to college is a big one and you have many more things to juggle. It is normal and expected that most students struggle with some aspect of college! Give yourself some time to adjust, make the changes you need to be successful, and find the right support to help you during this transition period. And, be sure to make time for yourself! Do some things of interest to you, like joining a club, exercising, getting out into nature, or socializing. Allow yourself to build room into your schedule for things you enjoy doing and take care of yourself during this important and exciting time in your life! Allowing yourself to engage in self-care and self-kindness will enable you to more effectively tackle the other aspects of college life.
Do you want more ideas on self-kindness and self-compassion?
- See Positive Psychology’s article on how to practice self-compassion and self-kindness.
- Need help coming up with ideas for self-care activities? See this long self-care list.