How To Be Successful at a Large University

Success: “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose” (Merriam-Webster).  Success is what every person should strive to reach every day.  It is the backbone and motivator for all of our wants and needs.  Achieving success in college requires hard work and a little bit of knowledge about how to beat the system.  The university system differs from high school in a plethora of ways.  You don’t have the same classes every day, there are up to 500 students in your classes, there is no mandatory attendance, and your grade can be based on your performance on one or two tests.  If you just graduated from high school and are about to begin college, or are already in college and have a newfound resolve for success, read on to discover how to be successful at a large university.

columbia

1. Define your success.  What are you looking to get out of college?  Is this just the next step in your educational journey?  Do you plan on using it as a stepping stone to a particular job or graduate program?  Do you just want to have fun?  Knowing what you want to get out of college before you begin is important.  Perhaps you want to make a difference on campus and run for a position on student government.  If you want a strong sense of fulfillment, giving back to the community and volunteering can get you there.  I was recruited at UCLA to play baseball, so my goal was to be as successful as I could in the classroom and on the field.

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How to Make the Most of your Study Abroad Experience

Part 2 of  “Another Kind of Green”: 15 helpful tips from our editorial intern on how to prepare for and make the most of your time studying abroad.

“Once in a while when it’s good, it’ll feel like it should.”  In John Mayer’s Song “Stop this Train”, Mayer compares life to a train that’s moving too fast, wanting it to stop.  He acknowledges that every now and again there comes a time when everything’s grooving.  If you tuned into my previous post, part 1 of “Another Kind of Green”, then you already know that while studying abroad everything “feels like it should.”  The experience is extremely amazing and provides great value to college students.  It is the most rewarding, gratifying, adventurous, and beneficial “educational” step I’ve ever taken in my life.  Studying abroad requires careful planning before and during the trip.  Taking the right steps to prepare for studying abroad will ease your transition  and reduce the culture shock of integrating into a new environment and culture.  It can also ensure a good fit between yourself and the educational institution, and even more importantly the country.  By keeping in mind the following tips for the before and during parts of your journey, you will be able to maximize your experience and keep on riding that train.

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Another Kind of Green: How Studying Abroad Can Improve Your College Experience

To study abroad or not to study abroad? It’s a question that confronts college students on a frequent basis, introducing an inevitable flurry of related questions that plague us: when should I go? Where should I go? WHY should I go??

Well, in an attempt to help you tackle those questions for yourself, our editorial intern shares his experiences of studying abroad in Rome and lists the 5 things you will reap by the bucketload should you decide to take the leap (and take it from us, you definitely should!):

“You don’t need to lose it to know that you had it good.” John Mayer puts it perfectly in his song “Another Kind of Green,” playing off the metaphor “the grass is always greener on the other side.” How many times in your life has it taken losing something to make you realize how good you had it? Although the song was referring specifically to relationships, this is true of so many other situations: a tough job, a class that’s giving you a hard time, an initially socially awkward moment, drudging through practice for a sport…

I’ve had this happen to me many times in life. Partly because I’m a fickle person by nature and always second guess my decisions.  A girl I swore I wanted nothing to do with seemed like the greatest thing in the world the second I broke up with her. The one time this hasn’t been the case is when I studied abroad. This was the one time in my life that I knew I was having the time of my life while it was happening. That’s a really cool feeling to have. I remember FaceTime’ing my mom while walking through the cobblestone streets of Trastevere (my neighborhood) with a huge smile on my face explaining my new life on the other side of the world (between her sobs and complaints that she missed me).

Piazza Navona, Rome

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Hey, Seniors! Words of Wisdom Before You Graduate

As you might’ve heard, our editorial intern Yael graduated last week! Now that the penny has dropped, we asked her to share some advice with soon to be graduating seniors. At the risk of inducing a minor panic attack, we asked her, “what would you have done differently?” This is what she came up with.

Alright…I messed up.

In my time as an adult (3 days) I’ve acquired a lot of wisdom.

As you may know, I just graduated. And with graduating comes lots of “looking back.” Let me tell ya, there are a lot of things I should have done differently in college.

Here are just a couple. Maybe you can use them. We both know, though, that chances are you’ll ignore them like I did, and be thinking the same thing whenever you finish. But I’m trying to help you, here. So, FOCUS.

For me, the main problem was planning. I’m not really one for planning, or for looking ahead. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m here to tell you that a little bit of planning is probably important in college. I speak from personal (painful) experience. So, here’s what can happen if you’re stubborn, like I was, and refuse to think things through:

  1. You may get dropped from your major.

Okay, so I didn’t read the fine print (who reads the fine print?) and missed a key line that said, “all prerequisites must be completed by the fall quarter of your third year.” Ha ha…what? I got an email that said I couldn’t be a psychology major anymore, at which point I cried, and sat (for a very long time) in a pool of self pity and loathing. It all worked out in the end because I am just that persuasive and luck was on my side. But please don’t do this. Unnecessary stress, unnecessary comfort food gorging. Read your major requirements. All of them. Even the ones in really tiny print.

  1. You may not be friends with a single one of your professors :(

I may have slept through most all of my lectures, but I just don’t get why my professors don’t know or like me…

I was not exactly the best student. I tried, I really did. Even sat up front in class. But something about being inside a lecture hall made me fall asleep, almost every time. This means that now I most likely won’t be able to find any professors who know me well enough or who think me charming enough to write me a letter of recommendation. If you plan on going to graduate school, make friends with your professors. Make them your buddies, and then ask them to write you the BEST letter of recommendation that they’ve ever written. That’s what you should do. Don’t fall asleep or yawn in class or ditch class altogether. Then you’d be me, which means you’d be ridiculous. Get it together!

  1. You may leave all your most annoying and difficult classes for your last quarter/semester.

You will probably not do so well in these classes. If you can, you should probably just avoid this painful situation altogether. You will have no motivation during your last term. Studying will not be easy. You will develop anger for anything remotely academic. I suggest leaving all your most mind-numbingly easy classes for this term, if you can. Plan out your course-load as best as you can so that you can ensure smooth sailing through your last term.

  1. You may graduate with a degree in unemployment.

Apparently my university has this wonderful thing called a career center. I’d heard about it but never really explored. There are magic fairies there that help you learn how to give professional interviews, write professional resumes, and get professional jobs. Man, oh man. Guess what? I didn’t go there, until the week before I graduated, at which point they told me “once you graduate you are no longer eligible for our services”. Fairies, why? Take advantage of these services when you can, or you will likely end up like me: unemployed and confused.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this is just a shortened list. A taste, if you will, of my poor planning skills and their consequences. I’m sure you get the picture though.

If you need more tips on things to savor in college, feel free to check out this here post.

Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck. You will probably (definitely) need it.

Have any thoughts on what you would have done differently if you could go back and do college again? We’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment!


How College Is Like That Juicy Hamburger You Just Don’t Want to End

Just come with us on this one…

eNotes’ intern offers more advice on how to savor college and prep for the real world, which in foodie-terms can only be likened to that salad bar at the Souplantation–a bottomless pit of just “meh.” So, now that we’ve livened your spirits…

Picture this. You’re at a restaurant, and it’s around 3 or 4 o’clock. You woke up late and didn’t have time to grab any breakfast, and you had class for a couple straight hours without a break. Essentially, you’ve gone all day without a single bite of food, and MAN you’re hungry. So hungry, in fact, that the moment the waiter brings you whatever it is you’ve ordered (probably something with french fries), you praise him for his good deed, nearly yank it from his hands, and devour the entire meal before you even realize it’s happening. The next time you look at your plate, you realize it’s just you and a couple crumbs left. You aren’t even sure what you just ate.

Now, I didn’t just use this example because this is my life on a near regular basis… I used it because it’s really applicable! Watch me go, I promise, this is totally going to resonate.

That hamburger and french fries you just savagely took down in 2 minutes flat—that’s college (Oh my GOODNESS, what is that you say?). Chances are, you (you near graduate, you) feel like college “whoosh”ed past you in 2 minutes flat, or something close to that. You’re looking back at all those fragments of memories and experiences, and probably freaking out a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot-a-bit. I know I’ve spent the past couple nights rehearsing lines like these: “where’d all the time go?” and “I can’t believe it” and maybe some “…” (that’s just some silent wall-staring).

Fret no more, fellow sorry souls. We’re all in this together. We’re going to make it through. We’re going to savor all the best things about college while we still can. For those of you who aren’t as close to the end of the plank as us, pay heed to this list of top 10 things that are awesome about college (and maybe try to chew a little slower).

  1. When someone asks you what you’re doing with your life, you are allowed to answer “I’m a student,” and just like that, the “I now have to tell a stranger I have no idea what I’m doing with my life and I’m unemployed” conversational crisis is averted. Seriously, just like that. Enjoy this. Even if you have to awkwardly linger around people until they ask you that question, just do it.
  2. You essentially live in a weird village full of likeminded, crazy 18-22 year olds, and you’re friends with a ton of them- this is something that could only be crafted by a spirit above. Seriously…you live surrounded by your friends. Surrounded. This will likely never happen again in your life. Ever. Go hang out with your neighbors (and by neighbors I mean those that live: next door, across the street, down the street, and anywhere from 1-10 blocks away from you).
  3. This weird village you live in has its own set of moral codes and ethics. Close to 50% of the things you do in the little microcosm of a world that is your college town will never be accepted outside of that bubble. Revel in it.
  4. On the same vein, once you graduate, you will no longer be able to recount events of the past night or week and shrug it off with a smirk and the words, “college, man.” Self explanatory.
  5. The opportunities your university provides for you are endless. Clubs, events, speakers, concerts, special lectures, counselors, employment- the list goes on and on. You should participate as much as you can and take advantage of it all. Don’t be lazy, you’ll miss out on a lot of experiences you won’t be able to get anywhere else.
  6. You can cook like you’re a survivor on the series Lost, and no one will judge you. Pre-packaged foods, a microwave…who needs a stove or forks or knives? I mean, even if you wanted to have a dinner party, Trader Joes has some frozen meals that serve at least four people. You’re all set! Once you leave college, people actually may start expecting you to use fresh ingredients and things like spices (not the kind that comes inside your top ramen package—mmm, MSG). Eat as many microwavable chicken nuggets and taquitos as you can, while you still can.
  7. You get to learn the things you want to learn about. I know everyone complains about school because of all the work and studying and blah, blah, blah. But we all know, deep down, we like it at least a little bit. The fact that we get to fill our brains with new information on a daily basis, and that that information may lead us in one direction or other, building our interests and leading us to new ones…that’s just awesome. You know it, I know it. We just don’t like to really admit it all the time. College students are stubborn.
  8. You can wear sweatpants whenever you want because your day job isn’t really a job at all. Your job is to sit in a lecture and try to stay awake while learning things. Nowhere in that description are the words “business casual.” Pajamas are only pajamas if you’re in bed and sleeping- otherwise, they’re just clothes. Think about that.
  9. You’re allowed to dabble in things without being talked about as if you’re a lost soul searching for your way. Hey, it’s college. You’re encouraged to try new things, regardless of what they are. Literally, you can do anything and people (essentially by law) have to just nod and say, “that’s what college is for,” and they’re right. So explore, a lot, and do the weirdest things you can possibly think of because you never know what’ll stick. Soon it’ll be too late and your dreams of being a figure skater will be looked at a little more critically (Not that that should hinder you. You should always chase your dreams, even if people laugh at you, or think you’re nuts. I’m just saying, take advantage of the head start college is intended to give you).
  10. You are told, around three times a year, that you must stop doing schoolwork and instead, “relax.” Winter break, spring break, and summer vacation are some of the best inventions that have ever been created in the history of the world. Fire, the wheel—they pale in comparison. It’s mandated, enforced relaxation. This will most likely never be permitted at any other time in your life.

Phew.

Good luck.

If all else fails, listen to some ‘90s music. Or to Hall and Oates (specifically, “You Make My Dreams”). You will feel like a kid at Disneyland who’s eating a churro (and we all know that’s the best feeling in the world).


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