It’s still absolutely crazy to me that I’m about to finish my second year of university. When did I get old? When did I grow up? I thought I was still twelve. However, in these years of growing up, I have become quite the expert at this whole university thing. No, I kid, I kid. I still have absolutely no idea what is going on. But, here’s some good news for all you freshmen. The second year is by far better than the first. When I was in my first year, I made countless mistakes, I was stressed all the time, my grades weren’t great and I just didn’t feel satisfied with my university experience. But, I am extremely pleased to say that that has all changed for the most part. So, because I’m the nice and helpful person I am, I thought I would share some of the biggest things I have learned throughout my second year in university and what has helped me survive this year. So listen up kids.
- Breaks between classes: When making your class schedule, take into account how long your breaks are. First year, I had 4.5 hours of class straight with no breaks. On paper, that doesn’t seem so bad. But trust me, it’s torture. You need to eat. You need to socialize. School can’t just be straight learning. You’ll burnout. But also, try to limit your breaks. You don’t need breaks between every class, or else your 3 hours of class will suddenly turn into a 6 hour day. Just be smart about it and place breaks when you think you’ll need to eat.
- 8am classes: Remember those days in high school when we had to go to school at 8am and everything was fine? Yeah, university isn’t like that. Don’t make your classes start at 8am everyday. That is just pure torture. Sure, you’ll get your classes finished early in the day, but chances are, you’ll probably fall asleep in all of them. When I had 8am classes, I was rarely emotionally or physically present. Plus, I’m the type of student to stay up late finishing papers and homework, so getting my full 8 hours of sleep and then trying to wake up at 6am was impossible.
- Taking notes: First year, I took notes exclusively on paper. The result was having countless notebooks filled with notes, a sore hand, and missed thoughts because I couldn’t write as fast as the prof lectured. Second year, that all changed with the discovery of the coolest app ever, Notability. I’m sure most of you are aware of the existence of this app, but for you newbies, it’s basically a note-taking app that allows you to type notes or upload powerpoints where you can annotate directly on them by either typing or drawing. And the best part? The app records the lectures for you. So, when you’re listening back to what the prof was saying, you can see exactly what you were writing at that time. It’s the biggest lifesaver ever. One time I fell asleep during a lecture, but I didn’t miss out on anything because Notability recorded everything for me so I could just listen back to it another time.
- Take advantages of resources: You know all those extra fees you pay along with your tuition? Turns out they actually benefit you. I started going to the gym this semester which is all free. For all of you who actually know me and know just how un-athletic I am, you have probably fainted at the mention that I, Taylor, have set foot in a gym. But, I actually really like the gym! It’s such a good stress reliever, especially after countless hours of studying. It’s a good break. So go workout! At my school, you can even have two free sessions with a personal trainer so be sure to check out if your school offers something similar to that! There are also some really great fitness classes on campus as well. I went to one called ‘Beach Body’ (don’t laugh) and it was so great! It got me excited and energized about working out.
- Record all due dates and test dates: Buy yourself an agenda (I recommend the Kate Spade one) or for those of you who are more technologically advanced, you can use your phone. Then, as soon as you get your syllabus in the first week of school, write down every single due date and test date. I don’t care how small or insignificant an assignment seems, write down each and every due date. You have no idea how much this helped me. I was able to see exactly what weeks were going to be busier than others and how I should manage my time throughout the whole semester. With this, I was able to stay on track and not get swamped with problems when I would suddenly realize that I had two tests on one day or two papers due in the same week. I was also able to find weeks when my homework and test load was way lighter and I could plan to get all caught up.
- Keep up with readings: Everybody always says this, I alone have said this countless time on my blog. But it’s so true. I think one of the dumbest things a student can do is forget about the readings all semester and then try to read the whole text book the night before the final. It’s impossible, it won’t happen. Plus textbooks are so boring, reading more than a chapter at a time is not recommended. Plus, if you actually read a chapter before the lecture, the lecture will make a lot more sense and you won’t feel like things are moving so fast.
- Don’t worry about not having classes with friends: Sure, classes with friends are nice. There are some benefits. You have someone to sit with, class is more entertaining, and you have someone to ask for notes if you miss a class. But there are also multiple benefits to being in a class without friends. You can pay attention so much better and it also forces you to meet new people. I’m not the best spokesperson for that however. I am quite the shy person around strangers. But, there was the cutest guy in my Econ class that I was THINKING about talking to, so does that count?
For those of you in your first year of university right now and feeling incredibly lost, don’t fret. I was not the biggest fan of my first year. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go back to school. My GPA wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I felt stressed all the time. I didn’t feel like I was living the university life. But it gets better. University just takes some time to adjust to. It is so different from high school and you can’t make the transition thinking it’s going to be the same. You have to enter University with an open mind. You can’t stick with a plan and goals that you made before you were even in University. You have to learn what you like and what you don’t like. Don’t worry if you change your mind about what classes to take or even what program to be in. University is the time to experiment, so relax, take a chill pill (not literally, I do not condone Adderall) and see where life takes you.
For more school help, check out my University Advice post and my What I Wish I Told My Freshman Self post. For those still in high school, take a look at my High School edition post and my Differences between High School and University. For even more advice, you can wander over to my Study Tips post.