Understandably, going to college was an extreme lifestyle change coming in after high-school. The first year was my hardest, and I felt homesick. I wanted to transfer out of The University of Texas at Austin because everything seemed so hard. I didn’t know how to balance my life at college. Everyone seemed like they had their life together.
I came into my undergrad as a Bio-Chemistry major. Like many Asian immigrants, my parents had pushed the idea onto me that I should be a doctor. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t excelling. Shortly after, I finished my first semester at college with a 2.1 GPA.
You could say I was in a schlump.
Fast forward to now,
Having mastered the art of balancing life, I genuinely believe that these skills are transferable to life post-grad. These tips may help someone who may be going through something similar.
1 | Learn how to study by yourself.
The thing that drastically changed how I studied. I used to love going to the library — a popular place for students to congregate and intermingle on campus. It’s disguised as a place to study.
If you’re able to find friends who truly keep to themselves and don’t get distracted, that’s great! But the truth is, it’s easy to get side tracked and want to take breaks or goof around.
Group members from classes are also great study resources because the common goal is to do well in class together. There’s less of a temptation to want to talk about what happened over the weekend for two hours.
2 | Really practice how to time manage well.
This is difficult because it needs to be practiced daily. I recommend getting a planner that works for you. Personally, I enjoy these huge planners from Target. They’re relatively cheap for a college student and is big enough for me to jot down my schedule!
I start off my days by planning what I’ll do hour by hour. Something I really recommend is giving yourself a designated break time. Set a specific time (let’s say: 11AM-12PM, or 1:30-2:
I try to do all of my work in the day time, or as early as I can. I personally enjoy having my evenings off so that I can cook, socialize with my friends, go to organizational meetings and not worry about having to do homework, go to work, or run errands.
This allows me to really be able to get in as many hours of sleep as I possibly can. I’m secretly a princess and love my beauty sleep!
Also, I try to do homework in between my classes during the breaks. I want to maximize the time I have during the day time.
I realize that all majors have different work loads. I’ve been a STEM major too. As a Comm major, I had to regularly read 50+ pages per course per day and use other skills that also required a lot of time!
3 | Study a little bit every day, and start early for big exams.
Something that I had to come to terms with is to stop procrastinating. I used to cram studying for an exam the night before and study eight
Set aside time in your schedule daily to divide your work or what you need to study. For example, there’s a book assignment that is 150 pages long that needs to be completed in a week. I’d rather read ~21 pages per day for seven days rather than read 150 pages the night before.
There have been studies to show that when you study a little bit every day, you actually retain more information. A plus is sleeping at a decent hour and not get stressed!
4 | Utilize resources on campus, and go to office hours.
I use to get anxious about asking for help. Looking back, it’s probably something I could have done more. Professors and TAs are there to help you.
It’s also a quicker way to figure out what you really need to learn than by yourself. In my experience, it helps reinforce that you’re learning. If you’re too scared to meet face-to-face, shoot them an e-mail!
Some professors can bump up your grade if they’ve seen an effort on your end. They’re more likely to do so if they have a face to a name. I don’t believe grades should be dependent on hard work, but sometimes effort can make a difference between
5 | Go to class.
This seems like a no brainer, but it’s tempting to skip class — especially if you have the mindset that “you don’t learn anything in class even if you go.”
Going to class is another way to reinforce your studying, a way to see possible test questions be solved in person, and another opportunity to learn something that may not be in your readings.
Additionally, I view skipping class as a way of losing money. You are paying a pretty penny for class, and you wouldn’t want to retake it. That takes time, effort, and more money. So why not go?
It’s hard the first year to get adjusted to studying smarter, not harder. You are not alone. These were small but significant changes I had to make to achieve the academic goals I set for myself. By doing so, I was able to better balance my social life, my organizations on campus and my grades at college!