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Part 1 of 3

Now that finals are over, your dorm room has been vacated, and you’re back in your childhood bed at home (or wherever you crash for the summer), it’s time to sleep. Well, that and evaluate your year at college. Here’s why you evaluate now rather than, say, the week before fall semester begins: your memory is fresh from spring semester. In the first of a three part series, I’ll cover social and class schedule and offer areas for improvement.

 Social Schedule

If it was your first year, you may have experienced some things you anticipated hearing about while you were still in high school: new friends, independence, wild parties. And while those may have initially sounded appealing, some negatives probably emerged. That new guy friend seemed a little too eager to hang out with your girlfriend, the socially awkward acquaintance constantly showed up when you needed to study, dad wasn’t available to wake you up like he did when you were in high school, and you cannot actually remember how you ended up in your bed (or another bed) after an off campus party. Social grade: C-

            Areas for improvement

  • Use more selectivity with new friends
  • Give yourself a curfew so you get more than three hours of sleep
  • Stay sober since, well, you are probably under-age

Remember that college isn’t that far removed from high school and, therefore, not that far removed from the high school drama, and I’m not referring to your high school’s theatre production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Though I’ve interacted with emotionally mature freshman and sophomores, there are probably just as many who have not quite grasped the need to evolve into adulthood and all its facets including social expectations.

That person who keeps hanging around when you need to study (or just need to be alone), set some boundaries by explaining what you need and why. Though disappointed, a good friend will understand. Find someone you keep wanting to be with to the detriment of your test study time? Remember that the test or assignment has a due date but your friendship doesn’t. Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you limit your social time then excel on the test. That’s passing the test of independence.

Independence

Most likely, that type of responsibility will help you weekday mornings when your alarm sounds, and instead of subconsciously snoozing the alarm or, worse, turning it off, you’ll actually get up and get to class—on time! And, guess what? You’ll probably see a positive grade change. Once you experience positive results from responsible study time, it will be easier honoring your own night curfew.

Similar to tests having due dates but not friendships, the same goes for social events not having due dates. Sure, you might miss a get-together, but I’m here to testify that get-togethers continue happening your entire life. Of course it’s tempting to party rather than study. But when you don’t get yourself back to your dorm or apartment at a decent time the night before class, you’re making it difficult to succeed at college.

Here’s why: the better rested your body and brain, the better you are prepared intellectually for class. An exhausted brain makes learning more difficult.

One last improvement for your social schedule that you might consider the most fun: parties. I made a sarcastic comment earlier about not knowing how you got home with an implicit connection to alcohol. But let’s be serious. The highest rates of sexual assault are among college age women and those usually involve alcohol. Though all of us need to protect ourselves, women are at a much higher rate for assault. So, here are considerations for promoting a safe evening: have a DB (designated buddy) and limit the alcohol (I would say if you are underage, then don’t drink, but the reality is that many of you choose to experiment before the legal age. I am in no way promoting alcohol consumption if you are underage, but the reality is that many of you will make the decision to do so.)

Have a rotating non-drinking schedule with trusted friends, preferably females if you are female. Similar to adults having designated drivers when alcohol is involved, college students can have designated buddies who refrain from alcohol. And if you are male, stop being part of the problem (hence, stop being criminals). Statistics show most sexual assaults on females are from friends or acquaintances. If she’s been drinking, then she she’s impaired and does not have the mental capacity to consent to sex. In addition to having a DB and limiting the alcohol, it’s not attractive or sexy when you drink so much you cannot even speak or walk.

 Class Schedule

Since dad didn’t make sure you were up like the old high school days, that 8am Comp class with attendance requirements wasn’t such a great idea. Maybe ANY 8am class isn’t a great idea. Consider the later slot time, or at least, not an early class every weekday morning. Did you nod off in the afternoon algebra class? Maybe a class right after lunch is counter productive. If so, take a later afternoon class after a lunch siesta. Did you take on a job mid semester for spending money but the wacky hours kept you from a consistent study time? Or worse, the late night shift caused you to actually sleep through your morning alarm. If the job isn’t a must, maybe hold off until summer. Class schedule grade: B

            Areas for improvement

  • Choose appropriate classes and times beneficial to you
  • Consider alternatives if a job is necessary

I had already graduated a bachelorette degree before I realized my most productive time was morning. It made sense: I was rested and my brain wasn’t polluted from the day’s events. That didn’t mean I only took morning classes. It meant, and still means, that I arrange my day (as much as I can) around what needs intellect and what doesn’t. For example, my optimum creative writing time is morning, so I for sure do not grade then.

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I usually grade afternoons or nights because I’m using the technical part of my brain rather than the creative and that technical brain works much later in the day than the creative brain. How does this apply to you? Pay attention to your mental performance and adjust your schedule accordingly. Do you struggle keeping your eyes open for the early afternoon class? Then leave that time open for a nap or for doing something other than intellectual.

College can be a financial drain in a way that semester employment becomes a temptation. At my school, the local Amazon warehouse starts recruiting Christmas temporary help mid November and a lot of students worked late shifts and begin missing classes and even failing classes because the lure of holiday money is too great. I would suggest that those students would have done much better not working the seasonal job because their GPA’s took a dive. If you have to work, consider an on-campus job. Students rarely work late nights and the colleges usually accommodate student schedules. A college job might not bloat your bank account, but, then, that’s also not the goal while in school. Also, consider a summer job when classes are not a priority. You can work often and if you save your money wisely, you’ll have spending money through the semester.

This week’s column focused on evaluating your college social and class schedules as well as offering areas for improvement. Next week’s column will focus on three more areas for college life evaluation: your major, student opportunities, and diet.

Photo credit: © Galina Barskaya | Dreamstime Stock Photos; mag3737, Flickr

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