Advice is often given and rarely taken. This is something I’ve come to realize throughout my years as a college student. There are droves of commentaries as to how you should do things as a freshman, from how you should schedule your classes to how you should arrange your very own lifestyle to achieve that coveted 4.0 GPA and become the best of the best.
The ambition – and sometimes lack of – becomes painfully real once you start your first semester and feel the pressure of your courses. You begin to seek out the best and quickest method to succeed and quite often you will stumble your way through your classes with the mindset that there is a “one size fits all” method.
As a freshman, I decided to take every one of my classes as seriously as I could, playing a mental game of win or lose. There being nothing in between an A and an F in my mind. I also took up a research position in the Psychology department while overloading on credits to make sure I was ahead of everyone as a Pre-Med student.
Surprisingly, I did not fall face flat, but it was extremely difficult for me to find a moment to breathe the entire semester and I was absolutely homesick by finals week. I was ready to call it quits because of the sheer stress I felt but decided to take a much lighter course load for the spring.
On the other side of the spectrum I had friends, whom I took a summer EOP program with, who decided to take the lightest possible credit load and took only the mandatory classes. They believed that doing the easiest classes first would be the best course of action.
The results were varied to say the least. One friend did well in all of the easier classes and had more time for the mandatory classes, but they treated the mandatory classes too lightly and did not do as well as they expected. Another friend began to lose all their motivation for their entire course load when they directed their focus too much on parties and hanging out with friends. It backfired on them when finals week hit.
We all had different methods of approaching the daunting task of success; some of us took the warnings of keeping on task in different ways, whether it was too seriously or not seriously enough.
By second semester, I began to notice the toll of having a high GPA as a Pre-Med student had on my friends and me. This is when we began to reach out to upperclassmen for advice on how we could do better, and we were inundated with it. We had advice that ranged from the normal “study groups, ask the professor questions” to “study every day and every weekend, study the entire week’s worth all over, minimize any distractions, don’t go to parties, etc.” and our responses were different towards the advice given.
One friend chose to ignore it and continue their own method although they were aware that they needed to step up their study habits. Another friend and I sifted through the kinds of advice and tried to choose what worked for us personally. At the end of the day, every person is different in how they prepare for their classes and exams.
Personally, I like to and would advise freshmen to find a small group of people who have the same goal in mind. Learn to study on your own while being able to come together after and collectively fill in the missing parts for one another for your classes. Lastly, never being afraid to ask TAs or fellow students for help.
Most importantly, find a balance of easy and hard classes that you have a genuine interest in and maintain your mental health to keep that motivation going.
There have been many times where I’ve seen very smart and talented friends of mine crash because they were completely burnt out or lost their motivation because they didn’t take a step back to see the whole picture. Sometimes you need a fresh point of view to help realize where you are in life. We’re all a little different and have to figure out how we work as students in order to do our very best.