Staying ACTIVE!

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by Lulu

I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard about gaining the “Freshman 15”, so what can you do to prevent that from happening?

Well it’s definitely a lot easier said than done. As someone who participated in sports throughout high school, it was easy to stay active because practices were mandatory exercise in my schedule. If not for the obligatory conditioning and training, I’d consider myself quite unmotivated to get ready and go to the gym.

Like many college students, continuing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle in college is a priority for me. Because college is such a crazy, busy time for balancing numerous aspects of your life, that is just another reason to stay active: to relieve stress. Balancing a social life and academic course load can be really challenging, so you may ask yourself ‘how can I find time to stay active during college?’

There are several ways to integrate exercise into other parts of your life to make new friends and have fun while being healthy! Depending on the college you attend, the options may vary due to the resources and facilities available at your school, but a workout option for anyone is to go running or biking on a trail around campus.

I personally love going on a run on the East River Parkway down by the Mississippi River or by the Stone Arch Bridge. On warmer days, I like to bike to the Walker Art Center for a longer workout. Sometimes running alone can be dreadful, so to make working out a social activity and something to look forward to, I figured out weekly running sessions with friends .

For those students whose college is located in an area that is affected by the arctic tundra of winter, like the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, running year-round may not be an option. But chances are the college has invested in an indoor recreational facility or gym for student-use!

The words “I’m going to the gym” may prompt a negative connotation in your mind, but working out is a must to stay active and has many benefits. There are stationary machines like cycling or elliptical machines that hold books, so it’s possible to combine studying and working out to make it a win-win situation. By carving out time to workout in my weekly schedule, it becomes easier to be motivated to go to the gym and makes me less stressed about other time commitments. Another positive aspect of making exercise routine, is that it relieves stress and may become an outlet or distraction from other stressors.

Another great option for those interested in a competitive workout atmosphere is intramural or club sports. At the U, there are the official Division I sports teams with the highest level of competition, club sports for competitive athletes still interested in a structured schedule with serious coaching, and then there are intramurals which are similar to competing in sports at the Park & Rec level.

I’m a part of the University Running Club and we have weekly practice with coaches and compete against other Division II and III schools in the National Intramural Running Club Association on the weekends. On the other hand, intramurals are extremely fun and there are varying levels of competitiveness as well. I’m on the coed flag football team and we have very minimal time commitments throughout the week. We have tons of fun but still enjoy the thrill of winning on game days!

There are numerous ways to be as competitive or active as you wish in college. For individuals who really enjoyed being part of a team in high school or even for those with minimal experience, I encourage you to take a chance and try out for a club or intramural team sport. It may be frightening and scary at first, but others have gone through the process before and it is definitely worth it. Your future teammates and friends will love you as an additional benefit.

I can guarantee you won’t regret it!

 

Major Blues

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“Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life” – Buddha

by Natalie

When I started college a year and half ago here at Concordia, I was dead set on being a Music Major.  I wanted to study music and theatre and be become a talented musical theatre star because of it.

Then I started taking Music Theory. And I hated it.

After clawing my way through the first semester, dragging myself to that class every Monday and Wednesday at 8 am, and coercing my classmates to help me with the homework, I decided that I was no longer interested in studying music.

I called my dad, crying, the night before I was supposed to register for spring semester and he granted me wisdom I have since shared with many of my friends and classmates:  your major doesn’t matter.  What you do with your life is not predestined by what it says on your Bachelor’s degree.  So take a few classes in fields that have nothing to do with your major and see if you love something more than you love what you’re already doing.

So I signed up for a political science class, changed my major, and started making plans to go to law school and run for office.

I chose Political Science (“Poli-Sci”) because I knew I could make a living as a lawyer or politician. I knew politics were something I was passionate about (if you’re interested in reading some of my thoughts on politics, feel free to hit up my personal blog).

I figured it was a path that made sense for me.  I loved to read.  I loved to argue.  I was passionate about social and legal change and I was intent on making that change happen.  I decided that I would go forward and become a lawyer for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and go on to run for office someday.

I would marry my significant other, a man who wants to go into theatre, and provide for my future family.

I convinced myself to go all in.  I spent afternoons looking up law schools I would want to go to and could get in to.  I got ahead of myself by about twenty years and, by doing so, I freaked myself out about being a Poli-Sci major.

I went to International Politics a total of 8 times that semester; I spent the other class periods in my bed, panicking about how hard that path was.  I didn’t love it.  I was scared of it. Terrified that I wouldn’t be successful at this and that my future would crumble because of it, I let it consume my life for three months.  My fear of potential failure and a lack of confidence in my abilities pushed me into a downwards spiral that took months to remedy.

I am here today to tell you, dear readers, that you should never let it get that bad.

Remember what I didn’t in my time of major turmoil and future planning: it matters less than you think.  Take the classes that you love.  Take the classes that seem fascinating and worthwhile – not just the ones you think are “necessary.”  Don’t be afraid to drop a class or ask for help; your academic advisor is there just for that.  Don’t be afraid of changing your major; you can change it as many or as few times as you like – you’ll still be successful if you’re willing to work hard.

Every school is different in how they handle the semantics and logistics of changing majors.  But every school will help you do it.  Some schools might be less helpful than others, but your education is yours and yours alone.  If you decide to change your direction, don’t let academic advisors or administrators tell you that you can’t.

It is your money and your time that you are investing in this education and you get to decide what you want to do with it.

This year, I am an English Writing and Theatre Arts double major and I love it.  I’m taking classes that I’m passionate about and not worrying about how much money I’m going to make or whether or not my grades are good enough for me to go to Stanford.

I am focusing on being happy and healthy and being successful here and now.

February Q: What is your favorite food to eat/snack on when you are stressed out?

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This year we’ve launched a monthly question feature, where our bloggers respond to questions from current high school students. Our February question is: What is your favorite food to eat/snack on when you are stressed out?

Dralandra (Augsburg): My favorite food is pasta – shrimp alfredo, but when I am stressed, I love to eat cheetos or doughnuts!

Lulu (U of MN – TC): I absolutely love to snack! I’d have to go with either dill pickles or ice cream.

Ariana (U of MN – Duluth): Sour patch kids and pringles.

Natalie (Concordia): When I’m stressed out about my personal life and health, I eat entire boxes of Cascadian Farm Oats and Honey granola. When I’m stressed out about school, I tend to eat a lot of cheese based snacks: Cheeze-Its, Goldfish crackers, cheddar popcorn, etc.

Lucillia (St. Thomas): When I’m stressed out, I love a good Smucker’s pre-made PB&J sandwich!

Maddi (Cal-Berkeley): If I’m feeling healthy, carrots and apples with peanut butter. If I’m feeling normal, a grilled mac and cheese sandwich, or tacos.

Alia (MCTC): I don’t eat when I’m stressed, otherwise, I eat chicken of all kinds.

Ellie (McGill): When I am stressed out I make tea and dunk WAY too many tea cookies in it!

 

January Q: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about college for high school students?

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This year we’ve launched a monthly question feature, where our bloggers respond to questions from current high school students. Our January question is: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about college for high school students?

Maddi (Cal-Berkeley): The biggest misconception is that everyone drinks or parties and that a social stigma exists surrounding those who don’t go crazy; the party scene can be a lot more controlled and is definitely a choice.

Julie (U of MN – TC):  College will be easy. (It isn’t impossble! But it’s also hard work!)

Ariana (UMN Duluth):  That everyone likes to party and you have to drink otherwise it’s not a fun time. But now I think it’s the kind of people who you spend your time with… Get to know people that can have a good time all the time, without drinking.

Ellie (McGill):   That making friends will be difficult like it might have been in high school. Being in college gives so many opportunities to meet people, your friends will find you. Trust me.

4-year Universities vs. Community Colleges

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By Alia

Let’s start by playing a little true or false.

1. Universities are big while community colleges are puny.

Answer: FALSE; there is such a thing as a small university and community colleges are plenty big.

2. You get a better education going to 4-year universities versus community colleges.

Answer: FALSE; you get equal education in my opinion (but some universities are picky and might not take credits from elsewhere).

3. Community colleges are for people who weren’t successful the first time around or are behind and need to play catch up.

Answer: FALSE; plenty of people go to community colleges – it’s easier on the wallet, not because they lack the ability to go somewhere else.

4. You need to be super rich or take out a student loan to afford college.

Answer: FALSE; you can get scholarships and grants (free money) to go to college and there are even programs like Power of You (POY) that pay for everything.

5. The system is corrupt and if I’m not the right color I won’t make it.

Answer: FALSE; anyone can make it and you’d be surprised how many people want to see you succeed.

Conclusion – Much of what you hear relating to who goes to community colleges and who goes to 4-year universities is false.

So what’s true?

The difference between going to a community college or university is where you plan to go and how you plan to get there.

Universities are great for their high reputations, they offer more classes, they offer high degrees.

Community colleges are for everyone, they are cheaper than universities, they can be the start or finish.

My advice to you, someone who is in high school right now, is go to a community college and then university if you so desire. Starting out at a big university could be everything you dreamed of, but more than likely you will have more debt. You might end up changing your major and realize you wasted not only your time, but a lot of someone else’s money.

If you want a path where you pay less and get more, I say take my advice. I say go somewhere where people come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and ages with all different backgrounds. I say go somewhere where you can get the same education for less hassle and less out of your pocket. I say go somewhere where you can stumble and get back up with little to no repercussions.

Take it or leave it, but that’s my advice.

When I was deciding where I wanted to go to college, my first choice was the U of M: Twin Cities Campus. I used to work there in the multicultural center in Appleby Hall. I got to learn the layout of the campus by giving tours to children in grades K-8.

I loved it there. I loved the art, I loved the science, I loved the tree full of shoes.

That long bridge was the coolest canvas every club had claim to. I felt alive every day I went to work there and sometimes it was a painful reminder being alive. I didn’t even want to look at other schools, that’s where I wanted to go, but the college and career center at my high school wouldn’t let me pick just one place. They said I needed to apply to at least three schools and I was so bummed, I didn’t care about anyplace else.

I finally gave in and “looked” at some other places. I didn’t want to leave the city, so that narrowed my search fast. I found the Arts Institute and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) both were in the right place and offered majors I liked. Then I compared costs and saw something surprising – the tuition at MCTC was nowhere near the tuition for the other two options.

I thought, “well they must be so cheap for a reason,” and decided to check out what exactly they were lacking. I took a visit to the school and it didn’t take long before I heard about the Power Of You program. It also didn’t take long before I realized there was nothing missing. There were so many paths for me to take at MCTC for a fraction of the cost, excuse me, for no cost.

I was baffled.

I didn’t know you could go to college for free. The Power Of You program at MCTC took me in and I was surrounded by a group of hard working staff ready to pay for my tuition. All they asked was that I say “hello” every so often, go full-time, have a decent GPA, give back to the community and graduate from a Minneapolis high school.

My parents were sold, and even though I loved the U of M to death, I was too. I did my big exams in high school, sent out my applications, etc. Both the U of M and MCTC accepted me, but at the end of the day, I chose to go to MCTC after doing all my research on the two choices.

MCTC is everything I wanted in a college, even more so than the U of M was. I go to MCTC now as a full time student and I work for the school as a tutor helping other students. I have never been more at home on a campus, they have everything I want/need.

Best of all, I can still continue on to finish a 4-year degree at the U of M, if that’s what I decide to do, and I will have spent a lot less on earning credits my initial years out of high school!

It’s not really a secret, but I never liked school. I did well, but middle school and high school were not only zoos, they were claustrophobic to me. After seeing students trying to jump out of windows on the 3rd floor and dancing on tables and bullying left and right, I was so sick.

In middle school my bullying experiences weren’t from other students, they were from the dean. So you can see, I thought school was a joke. A very messed up joke. I wasn’t even proud of myself when I graduated. I thought college would be as lame if not MORE lame, but college has been awesome. It sometimes doesn’t even feel like school to me, I have too much fun.

Maybe you like school already, that’s cool. I just know too many of us go through it unhappy. I even mentioned before, I have depression. Why am I being so personal? Because I want you to hear my story and maybe it will help you.

My real point is don’t give up. Don’t give up even if things look bad and you feel gross. Don’t give up even if it seems you have no place to go, you always do. Like I’ve said, college isn’t for everyone, but what’s important is that anyone can go to college.

Whether you pick a community college or university, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re a step closer to your dreams and you aren’t being worn down. Make the healthy choice, make the smart choice.

I know you can succeed.

November Q: What do you miss most about being a High School student?

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This year we’ve launched a monthly question feature, where our bloggers respond to questions from current high school students. Our November question is: What do you miss most about being a High School student?

Julie (U of MN – TC): Being surrounded by a close group of friends.

Lydia (MCAD): The ability to miss a class if you are ill and being able to make it up the next day. There is a zero absence policy at MCAD.

Ariana (UMN Duluth): I miss not having to do so much work. And being debt free!

Alia (MCTC): What I miss most from high school is having a school locker. There are lockers at my college, but not everyone gets one and they are super small. I miss having a locker to put my stuff in.

Maddi (Cal-Berkeley): The free time to do leisure activities; painting, working out, reading for pleasure etc.

Lucillia (St. Thomas): The thing I miss most about being a high school student is the amount of responsibility. Now that I am in college as an adult, I have many more responsibilities and sometimes it is too much.

Sleep Challenge!

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by Lucillia 

People are not lying when they talk about a lack of sleep in college.

Pulling all-nighters to study, 8 am classes and chatting with your roommate until 2am are all contributing factors. Getting a good night’s rest can be really challenging.

For me, I have always put sleep first because I have found that I am never productive when I am tired. But there is a difference between getting sleep and getting quality sleep. The latter is not something that I have been so good at prioritizing.

When I saw that the Wellness Center at my school was hosting a sleep challenge, I thought it would be a good thing to try. For this 21-day challenge, we were told to download a sleeping app that tracks the quality of your sleep. Basically, you keep your phone next to you all night and it measures your movement while you sleep.

Besides this, we were also given a calendar with different tips to help us sleep better. For the first week, our goal was to develop a routine before we go to bed. For this, they recommended doing things like brushing your teeth, putting away your phone 20 minutes before you fall asleep, getting your backpack ready for the next day and doing a light exercise before turning the lights out!

The goal for the second week was to try and wake up at the same time every morning. No matter if you have to be to work by 7 am or don’t have class until 1 pm – the consistency adds value. I have heard that this will eventually train your body to wake up at that time, even without an alarm.

Can you imagine?!

Finally, the goal for the third week was to try and get a sufficient amount of quality sleep each night.

Anyways, six days into the sleep challenge and my sleep app had calculated that my sleep quality was only 60%. I didn’t even know it was that bad. All of my graphs throughout the night told me that I was waking up about every hour, even without knowing it.

I usually go to bed at a decent time every night, so my goals going forward are to put my phone away 20 minutes before I lay down and to see what I can do to stay in a deeper sleep throughout the night.

Any other ideas for a good night’s sleep? Feel free to comment and let me know!

Also, the app is called Sleep Cycle (for iPhone), for anyone interested in tracking how well they sleep and joining the challenge!

How to Win Over Freshmen and Influence People

Being a role model when you’re really not sure what you’re doing in your own life.

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by Natalie

Not to toot my own horn, but I am killing it in sophomore year.

In the past two months and seven days, I have started taking classes that I really, truly enjoy.  I have met some wonderful people.  I have written a handful of opinion columns that I’m very proud of (you can find the latest post here).  I started a club.  I finished a play and submitted it to a theatre competition.

But, most importantly, I have learned something new about myself: I’m pretty darn good at giving advice and being a support system.

At the beginning of this year, I began collecting freshman.  Not on purpose.  I didn’t go around with a butterfly net chasing the kids who still wore their high school state speech sweatshirts or letterman’s jackets.  I just, slowly but surely, became very close with a large network of first year students.  And, as I gained this new circle of friends, I gained a reputation for having the answers.  Which, if you’ve read any of my blogs from my freshman year, you’d know I don’t necessarily have.

Last year, I was an absolute disaster.

I spent my days panicking and not attending my classes.  This year, I have taken up the new habit of writing down exactly when I’m going to fulfill my responsibilities.  I’ve also taken to writing out To-Do lists.  Long story short, I’ve got my “poop in a group” this year.

As the year has progressed, I have become well-versed in taking people down, if you will. College is when a lot of people start to have mental health issues.  It’s stressful and challenging and there is a demand for a constant, shiny, happy attitude on college campuses.

It can become overwhelming.

Anxiety and depression are things I developed and learned to deal with last year.  My roommates have also struggled with mental health in their time in college.  So, because we have life experiences with not knowing how to deal, room 716 has become a popular hangout for first years who need help.

It’s fulfilling work, being a role model.  It brings me a lot of pride, knowing that I can help people because I’ve been in their shoes.  I have comforted these lost first years through times of self-doubt and it has strengthened my own ability to cope with overwhelming circumstances.  I have counseled a few of them through existential crises and “what if I hate my major” meltdowns and it has made clear to me that the struggles I faced last year were not unique.

Last year, when I began struggling with my schoolwork and mental health, my dad gave me an analogy that I have used on quite a few panicky freshmen this year:

When you forge friendships, you sign a contract for a shared emotional bank account.  We all have to withdraw sometimes when times get hard and the rent to live in our own heads goes up.  We all deposit into this account when we win the lottery and everything goes right.  Sometimes, you have to withdraw more than you deposit for a while.  But that’s fine because, eventually, you’ll be in a better place with a heavier emotional paycheck and you’ll be able to deposit back into the account when your friends need to withdraw.

There is a lot to be said for making it on your own, but there is more to be said for being able to ask for help.

When you arrive at college, a good thing to do is to seek out supportive friends.  It’s hard to see that at first glance but you’ll quickly learn who of your network of acquaintances is there for you.  Find and befriend your neighborhood know-it-all.  She/he knows where the counseling center is and how to study and how to lighten your load.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

There is no shame in being in over your head.  There is no shame in struggling with your mental health or your classwork.  There is no shame in crying in front of your friends.

There is only shame in being too proud to admit to yourself that you can’t do it alone.

College is hard and sometimes, you just need to withdraw from your shared emotional bank account.

Sophomore Year Update: The Good and the Bad

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by Ariana

It’s my third semester of college and let me tell you: It does not always get easier.

Unfortunately this reality has been tough to face. The initial weeks of school were pretty calm, but after those manageable weeks I began to get bombarded with papers, group projects, exams. School started to feel like a never-ending uphill battle.

Although this fall has been tough, I keep myself motivated by telling myself that I am almost half way to graduation. I have been setting weekly goals and writing positive notes on my board – and this is something I would highly recommend. I wake up extremely early and seeing those positive words and weekly goals helps me start the day, which now starts at 5:30 a.m. five days a week!

My roommate and I go to the gym every day at 6 a.m., which is the best time for me to go because of my schedule and because starting my day with my workout means more energy for the rest of my day.

But though school has definitely been more work this semester, it has also gotten better in other ways.

I am now living in an apartment instead of the dorms, which also was a bit of a transition, but now I have a kitchen, and with a kitchen comes learning how to cook, which has been more fun than I ever thought it would be. Plus no more gross dining hall food, and no more repeat of the freshman 15! My roommates and I also have a nice big living room, which is a great place to study and invite some of our friends over to as well.

Coming back to school I have also felt a stronger sense of comfort while walking in the halls. I not only know where I am going in life, but also where my next class is. I also feel more confident in my ability to handle change within my different classes and in talking to my professors and asking questions in lecture halls.

So maybe this is something that comes with time, or maybe I am behind in feeling this way?

Either way, I know this feeling is a good one. One thing that I do know is that sophomore year has been a whirlwind. My advice to you is to be ready and stay positive!

Until next time!

-Ariana

Down to the Minute

A Beginner’s Guide to Time Management

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by Natalie

College, not unlike all other stages of life, requires amazing skills of patience, scheduling, finagling, and, most importantly, time management.  In my first semester at Concordia I was taking 18 academic credits and working 5 hours a week for a small stipend as an intern in the theatre department, as well as balancing a full-fledged romantic relationship and a role in the musical, Les Miserables.

This semester, however, is a little different.  First, I stopped working in the theatre department because it didn’t pay enough and it wasn’t a good fit for me as far as scheduling hours went.  Second, I’m only taking 15 credits this semester, as I started taking an elective class about lighting design that proved to be too much to chew.  Third, I picked up a job working at Target.  I work 10-20 hours a week, folding clothes and working the cash registers.  And, on top of all of that, this semester, a friend of mine was hospitalized and I spent a good chunk of time being there for her.

I like to think of everything in my life as a class with a credit number.

  • My boyfriend, Nick, is a 4-credit course.
  • My role in Les Mis was two 4-credit courses; it took up about as much time as 2 full academic classes and I put in extra work on show weekends.
  • My job in the theatre department was a 1-credit course.
  • My job at Target is a 4-credit course.
  • My friend in the hospital was a 2-credit course.
  • My Netflix habit is definitely a 2-credit course at least.
  • My social life at large is probably about a 2-credit course as well (if we don’t include Nick and my friend in the hospital).

Assuming I did my math correctly (which is not a safe assumption), I came out with 35 credits last semester and 29 this semester.  So why did last semester seem so much easier than this semester has been so far?

Well folks, it comes down to how well I’ve been managing my time.  Last semester, I kept myself to a strict schedule that documented what I had planned 24/7.  I would wake up, go to breakfast, go to class, do chores, go to my next 2 classes, do homework, go to choir, get dinner, watch an episode of whatever series I was working on in Netflix, go to rehearsal, do homework, hang out with Nick, go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

This semester I haven’t handled my time in the conservative fashion I did last semester.  I have been waking up, going to class, getting lunch with friends, dilly dallying all the way to my next two classes, going to choir, getting dinner, going to work, coming home and going to bed.  On the days that I don’t have classes (Tuesday and Thursday this semester), instead of getting up and taking care of business, I sleep in really late, waste a whole bunch of time on Buzzfeed, eventually do some homework, eat dinner, go to work, hang out with Nick, hang out with other friends, stay up really late doing the homework I’ve been putting off, and then, finally, getting to bed.

The moral of this story, dear readers, is to take care of your time in college.  Ration it, split it up, portion it, and schedule it.  Make it work for you, not against you.  Working out a routine might seem mundane and boring but it is so beneficial when you set aside an hour and a half here, 45 minutes there to get your homework done.

College isn’t just going to class, and working a job so you can pay your tuition.  College isn’t just parties and friends and good times.  College is hard.  It’s hard work, it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time.  Time management is the best way to handle the barrage of knowledge and experience you’ll get hit with in college.

You might seem a little crazy at first when you have your day planned down to the minute but you’ll feel less stressed, more motivated, and you’ll learn how to be accountable to yourself and to others.  Time is money and we’ll all need to pay off our student loans someday.

College vs. High School Schedules

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by Guanani

Ah, sweet freedom!

The amount of unstructured time you get in college is by far the biggest adjustment from high school. Instead of having six or seven back-to-back classes with sports or other activities after school, college is a big mishmash of vastly different time slots, four-hour labs, student group meetings, and awkward breaks between classes.

In some ways, this is liberating. No one expects you home by a certain hour, and some days you might only have a class or two. However, it’s much harder to discipline yourself and know where and when to do things.

Here’s where the dreaded Time Management comes in. There are more strategies for how to plan your time than will ever fit in a blog post, but the most important strategy of all is to have some kind of strategy. Here are some of mine:

  1. Whenever possible, try to schedule classes back to back (with enough time to walk between them) in order to maximize long stretches of time instead of chopping up your day.
  2. If you do have some time between classes, use it to get homework out of the way. Always carry something you can work on in short periods, like readings or worksheets.
  3. My RA, Brandon, gave me this advice: Treat schoolwork like a 9-5 job. During the day, work on homework and academics until 5 in the evening. Then do fun things to wind down, instead of waiting until late at night to start working.
  4. Set aside specific times for different things, for example: chemistry problems from 4:00 to 5:30, then start working on the next sociology paper from 5:45-7:00.
  5. Create your own study groups. It’s always helpful to talk through material with others, and chances are you’ll remember things better if you’ve explained and repeated them to each other.
  6. Work on things that are important before things that aren’t urgent.
  7. Review as much as you can, even daily. College classes move quickly!

Of course, college isn’t just schoolwork.

There are loads of fun things to do, including opportunities to hear guest speakers, going to parties, spending time with friends, and exploring. I have a personal goal of getting off campus once a day, even if it’s just for a short run. This helps me remember that the world does not revolve around Reed, and that there’s much more out there than the next biology test and cafeteria food. Include fun things in your schedule: plan events for yourself or with friends, look up cool things to do or see in your college town, or volunteer in something you find rewarding.

In college, you are free to do whatever, whenever, which makes the biggest challenge figuring out what to do when. If you find yourself overwhelmed and confused, bogged down by piles of work at one in the morning, you’re not alone. Once you do get a handle on how to best do your work, remember that the appeal of spending any extra free time scrolling through blogs or just hanging around wears off quickly. Do a couple things you could never do back in high school. Go exploring. Join teams and groups to find new friends. The only way to get time is to make it.

Your time is yours; make what you spend it on something worth telling people about.

College Work Load: Surviving the Pile

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by Guanani

I tried to brace myself, but it didn’t do much good.

At first college seemed almost like an intensive summer camp. Within a week, however, the focus shifted from get-to-know-you activities and scavenger hunts to problem sets that took hours and 50 page readings. More than the amount of work, what really took getting used to was figuring out where and when to do the work, for how long, and how much depth and understanding was really necessary.

Unlike high school, college professors don’t necessarily remind you about upcoming assignments. There are fewer things to turn in, and in some classes you have no idea how you’re doing until you get your midterm exam back. With no set schedule for each school day and less transportation, you have much more freedom in terms of deciding when to do your work. This makes procrastination easier than ever, and due dates have a way of sneaking up from two weeks in the future to tomorrow.

Sometimes the sheer amount of work is overwhelming. The week feels like a whirlwind, and I’ve felt like I don’t have the time to ever process and really understand what I’m learning. It’s easy to get confused, get behind, and feel like you’re just barely treading water in one or more of your classes. This is where I will repeat a piece of clichéd but important advice: ask for help before you need it. It will be easier to learn from your mistakes if you ask about something confusing as soon as you realize you don’t understand it.

After going to Reed’s academic support center about three days a week, getting tutoring, and studying ten days in advance, I still failed my first test. I realized that taking detailed notes and doing all the assignments wasn’t enough. The depth of knowledge and speed of recall I needed for tests would require a lot more preparation than I first expected.

Disappointed and hungry for advice on how to do better next time, I visited my professor during her office hours and asked for some tips and extra resources. I had never imagined I would do such a thing, but my new strategy involves creating extra homework for myself: extra practice problems, extra review, extra notes. Hopefully the next test will go more smoothly.

Besides office hours, something I’ve come to realize is that colleges really go out of their way to set up support systems and student resources. Find a tutor, create a study group with your classmates, sign up for any workshops or talks and get involved with your learning outside of class. Take advantage of all the resources available to you, and if you can’t find one related to what you’re struggling with, ask professors or older students for guidance. Sometimes resources and help aren’t obvious or easy to find, especially in the labyrinthine tangles that are large public university websites.

At Reed, there are students you hardly ever see. They are the people whose academic work is the top priority, and the problem is that at this school, you could spend every waking hour doing homework and still always have plenty more to do. There is a point where you have to decide how much is enough for you, and stop.

One of the first critiques I heard an older student make of Reed was about “stress culture,” where people brag about how much work they have, how little sleep they get, and compare stress levels with their peers constantly. I recognized this phenomenon from high school, but being on campus alongside students who are all extremely smart, able to understand equations at a glance or write brilliant essays without doing the reading, it was hard not to feel inadequate or just plain dumb in comparison.

At Reed, academics are sometimes terrifyingly hard. I feel under-prepared and incompetent a lot of the time. Somehow, though, I’ve found I really like it. Taking the time to get engaged and talking about the material helps a lot, even in classes that aren’t my cup of tea. They say you’ll get whatever you put into an experience out of it. I came here for a challenge, and boy did I get what I asked for.