It feels safe to say that college has been one of the strangest times of my life, ever. There’s a ton of change at all times, and you’re always thinking ahead, while still trying to soak in the present. Trying to get all your work done, make a couple friends and sleep can be hard enough, not even counting extracurriculars, work, taking care of yourself and planning your future. Classes are long, and weeks drag on, but if you blink you might find yourself at the end of a semester. Sometimes I just want to be left alone, and sometimes I wish I had more people to hang out with, and sometimes I’m so bored I could melt, and sometimes I have so much homework I can hardly have a coherent thought. College is strange.
One of the strangest things about it is the constant pull between wanting to graduate and wanting to stay. It’s a weird flux between the two, seemingly competing feelings. It can be hard to enjoy the ride while looking forward to what’s next, so here’s my advice for making the most of your college years.
Learn how to prioritize. There are always a million different things competing for your attention, both as a college student and in every other area of life. If you cannot discern between what matters to you and what can fall to the wayside, it can be overwhelming to make any kind of choice at all. For me, I prioritize things with two questions: 1) will I regret choosing one option over the other? And 2) Will future me be proud of this decision?
If I know that skipping a party to focus on my homework is better for myself in the future, and that I will regret not doing my work when I should have, my answer is clear. In that situation, I need to prioritize my homework. However, if I know this event could lead to some amazing memories and set up great relationships for future me, I would likely choose to put my work on the backburner and go. These questions are not infallible – sometimes I don’t know the answer to either and I have to do some further soul-searching but deciding what’s important to you and what the long-term effects of your decisions are can make quick choices easier to make.
Today vs Tomorrow problems. It’s time to put those procrastination skills to use! Well, not quite, but sort of! It can be easy to get so fixed on what is going to happen in the next week, month or semester, we can lose sight of what is happening right in front of us. This is why I have two categories of problems – the ones that I need to solve today, and ones that should probably wait for later on. It does not help me to worry about what I’m going to do with my life after college while I’m studying for a midterm, so I put that in my “tomorrow problems” box. When the time comes, those questions will move from the “tomorrow” category and into the “today” one, but for now, it’s no use worrying about what I can’t do anything about. I would rather focus on the tasks at hand then spend all of my energy fretting over what I have no control over.
Keep your perspective. In the throes of classes and homework and roommate drama and all of the complicated, and un-fun things that demand your attention, it can be easy to wish you were “anywhere but here.” Sometimes I catch myself wishing college would just hurry up and end, so that I could get on with my adult life. But, I have my whole life to do those things. Try to realize how little time we have here, and recognize the inherent value that those years hold. Whether college is the best years of your life or the worst, we will all leave having learned something about ourselves. This short period of time will never come again – not like this, not with this version of us, so try to remember to savor it all. It’ll be over faster than we know.