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A recent graduate’s guide to a successful start in college

As I sat at my work desk during the first day of college classes, my satisfaction of being done with school quickly turned into envy of my friends returning to campus.

I missed the buzz of everyone being back from summer break, the new faces in class and the start of fall sports.

So I thought I would give some advice to incoming freshman based on my college experience. It will not be all-inclusive, but it will be a good guide to getting off on the right foot.

Every college career has three main components – academics, extracurricular activities and a social life. You can choose to be very successful at two of these or mediocre at all three. Here are some ways to balance these aspects of college life.

Do: Go to class. The easiest way to fail is to not show up. It sounds simple, but one of the most failed classes at Iowa State University is Library 160 — the main requirement is to show up.

At smaller colleges, teachers will get used to seeing your face and will be more willing to help during office hours if the course is challenging. At larger schools, if you are in class and you are awake, odds are you are going to learn something, even if it is by accident.

Don’t: Stay locked in your dorm room. Studying is important, but so are life experiences. Get out and support your sports teams or find a social club like debate or a campus newspaper. It is much easier to build friendships that last a lifetime when you get involved.

Do: Make a schedule, even if it is just a mental checklist. The biggest lesson learned in college is time management (second is which fast food restaurants are open during late-night study sessions). Set some time aside for homework and for fun. This will help battle any procrastination habits.

Don’t: Stay up all night studying for a test. Sleep is one of the most important components to learning because it is when the brain is able to store long-term memories. Start reviewing for a test a few days in advance and get a good night of sleep beforehand. Also, do not take pills to help you focus or stay awake to study. If ADHD is a serious problem for you, take the time to schedule a doctor’s visit and get a prescription. Athletes can fail an NCAA drug test because of Adderall without a prescription.

Do: Budget your money. Some of the best advice I ever got was to live the first two months of the semester like you don’t have any money, that way when the end of the semester rolls around, you hopefully have some left. I was always thankful my roommate spent his refund on a big screen TV for our dorm, but it was rough telling him goodbye when he flunked out and had no money in March.

There are many other ways to have a fun and successful college experience. Who you were before doesn’t matter and who you become after is totally up to you.

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