Freshman year of college, especially if you go away to school, is all about growing up, discovering responsibility, and learning to live on your own…or at least its supposed to be. In reality, its a time when you realize you can do whatever you want, and these freedoms can be serious pitfalls to your education, as well as your mental and physical well being.
Eating whatever you want
Behind every stereotype, there’s usually a grain of truth, and that can certainly been said for the “freshman 15″, the mythical weight that college freshman gain when they start living on a steady diet of dorm food and beer. This is not the case for everyone (some schools have awesome, healthy alternatives, and some people just have better self control than others), but for many college students, the freshman 15 is even becoming the freshman 50. Forming unhealthy habits in your college years can mean unhealthy habits in your adults life, and what seems like only 15 pounds now can creep up to 20 or more. In addition, you can face health problems such as cavities, depressed immune system and many others.
So what can you do to avoid gaining those pounds? Be mindful of what you’re eating. This doesn’t mean you have to follow a strict diet, or give up those late night chicken nuggets that you’ve grown to love, or stop eating ice cream for breakfast. But you should make an effort to have a somewhat balanced diet. Make an effort to include something green at every meal, and work on only eating when you’re hungry (and not when that third slice of pizza looks really good).
Staying out as late as you want
Going from living at home to living in a dorm is a huge change. You don’t have the support network of your family, you don’t have the familiar faces of your high school friends, and at my school there were no curfews. No one cared when you came home, or whether you came home at all. I spent a lot of late nights exploring campus, or hanging out with friends at house parties or just in their rooms. There were definitely essays that were written in a hungover haze, and midterms that I neglected in favor of a few more hours with friends Luckily, I was only taking 13 units my first quarter. If I hadn’t, I know my school work would have suffered.
Doing well doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice fun for good grades, but you do have to find a balance. Prioritize the things in your life, and realistically look at the time you can spend on all of them. In your freshman year, its probably a good idea to take an easier work load so you have time to have fun.
Going to class whenever you feel like
One of the great things about going to college is that you are in control of your education. If you don’t do well sitting in a lecture listening to someone talk at you for an hour and a half, you can choose to skip lecture. If you find reading your textbooks tedious, no one is going to force you to do so. In fact, if you want to, you can sleep all day, and party all night.
The important thing to remember is that you (or your parents, or grandparents, or whatever) are paying to go to school. Skipping classes so you can sleep in, or because you don’t feel like going means that you’re missing out on the education you’re paying for. That can I have dire consequences for your career at your school. One of my best friends my freshman year failed out of school because he stopped going to classes. His chances of getting back into this school decrease with each quarter he waits to transfer. It sucks, and it could have been avoided so easily if he’d gone to class. So be smart: if a class isn’t working for you, figure out what will. Go to your discussion sections, find a tutor, read the book, but don’t give up on a class.
Doing the work– if you want to
One of the greatest things I discovered about college was busy work disappeared. For math classes, you may be assigned practice problems that are never collected. Writing classes may suggest you write rough drafts that are never handed in. For many of my classes, my grade rests on two essays and a final. This means that you will have to have an incredible amount of self control and self discipline to make sure that those papers (or midterms, or whatever) are the best work that you can do. There won’t be a teacher making sure that you study, or that you turn in your work on time. Its really all up to you. Its a huge change from high school, and some people do not weather this change very well.
Once again, it falls to you to manage time effectively, and determine which courses and assignments you need to do. If you are struggling in a class, it may be time to look at the assignments that aren’t required, and start doing some work on your own.
Basically, this article boils down this: college is when you take charge of your education, and your life. There won’t be anyone hover over you, making sure you do what you’re supposed to. And as Spiderman’s wise Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Make sure you exercise your new freedoms with responsibility, and don’t lose sight of your long term goals.