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10 Ways Students Can Survive College

10 Ways Students Can Survive College
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As a current Troy University graduate student, I can confidently say that my undergrad years were some of the most exciting, but frightening, years of my life. From 2010 until 2014, I was a student at the University of Alabama. During my college journey I have made wonderful lifelong friends, learned so much about who I truly am, and I received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication and Information Sciences at the end of it. Along this wonderful journey, I have made plenty of mistakes and had to learn hard life lessons. I am not going to lie to you all – college can be a bumpy ride (but it doesn’t have to be). Check out these 10 tips on how to make your college experience one of your best life experiences:

1. Successfully take notes for a difficult class

I am sure you all have heard this saying before: in order to pass a class, you must take good notes. When you arrive at your college class, ditch some of your High School note-taking techniques. Write your notes legibility and in ways that YOU can comprehend. Sometimes, writing a simple diagram in your notes can help you study for that mid-term later on. Write down key points and a few details from your professors’ lecture and ALWAYS write down whatever they present on the board. Trust me, it will be on the next test (unless they say otherwise). Do not write down EVERYTHING your professors says. The point to taking good notes it to locate the main point of a lecture and some vital details. Don’t know how to successfully take notes? Go to your nearest writing lab and let them help you. If you are having trouble passing a difficult course, ask you professor for help as soon as you hit a snafu. Also, locate the nearest tutoring lab. Talk with some of your classmates and form a study group.

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2. Treat your roommate with dignity and respect

When you get to college, you will have a roommate. It is not easy to share a room with a stranger! Here is some really solid advice for you guys: do unto others as you will have them do unto you. Remember that golden rule and treat it as a rule of thumb when you go off to college. Treat this new person with respect and dignity. If you can, start a conversation with them and get to know them. After all, you guys will be sharing living space. I remember when this new chick moved into my college suite with me and my other roommates. Once I got to know her, this girl became one of my best roommates and she was a sweet friend. If you get to the point where you CANNOT get along with your roommate; see your Residential Advisor and request to move (if possible).

3. Take the initiative to meet new people

I get it; it is super scary to be thrown into this world of higher academia and be expected to be sociable and get excellent grades. But understand this-no man is an island unto himself. One way to meet people is to get involved in student-led organizations that interests you. Get involved and begin to make meaningful connections. You know that girl that you sit next to in class? Start up a small conversation. You remember that guy that bid you ‘good morning’ that lives right next door to you? Speak to him. It is going to take time but the more you put yourself out there, the more people will gravitate towards you. Start slow and at your own pace. If you make one or two friends during your college experience, you are golden.

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4. Keep in contact with your loved ones

Believe me when I say that is so easy to get caught up in ‘the college life’ that you forget to call your dear old mom and dad. Make time to reach out to your family and friends back home. Give your old man a call out of the blue. Facebook your mom and tell her that you love her. Tell that old friend from High School that you miss them. It is important to remember keep in contact with love ones. It is important to remember where you are from-or-it’s keen to remember where your roots grow… so to speak. Keeping in contact with family and friends gives you an unbelievable boost of confidence and strength to deal with the next go ‘round of ‘the college life’.

5. Save money on books

Books for your college classes will cost you a few locks of your hair and some internal organs. No, I am joking with you all. College is expensive enough without your respective university charging $400 for a book your will only use TWICE in your COM 100 class. Let me give you a few websites that will help ease the pain of buying books: chegg.com, amazon.com, ebay .com, and half.ebay.com. If you can, rent the books you need. Buy used books. Buy your books from other students that no longer need them (look up Facebook groups dedicated to this as well). Go out there and save money.

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6. Seek out job and internship opportunities

You want to know how to score a job and an awesome internship while in college? Ask. Ask your Residential Advisor, ask your professors, ask your classmates, ask you academic advisor, ask the Dean of Students… in fact, ask everyone you come across. Someone is bound to have the answers you seek. In fact, your specific college likely has several websites dedicated to finding employment and internships. You can’t find that awesome internship you wanted? Volunteer. Volunteer in your department of study. Volunteer as your favorite professor’s teaching assistant. It will pay off.

7. Ask important questions

Listen to me and listen to me good–there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Don’t let anyone make you feel terrible for wanting to get an understanding of something. If it is important for you to know, then have the confidence to ask all the questions you need to. My mother taught me that it is better to get an understanding than to speculate. Do you know that scripture “you have not because you ask not?” Let this be your motto for surviving your college years. If you are having a meeting with your professors, academic advisors or interviewer, try writing your questions down before you get there. Get their contact info so you can ask questions later. Your voice and concerns matter, so ask questions and get the answers you need.

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8. Become comfortable with yourself

You are going to notice that you will start to change more and more while at college. Embrace it. Change for the better, but do not lose who you are to fit into specific group. Make good, long-lasting, healthy changes as well. As long as these changes will bring positivity and add to your life (and not subtract from it), it’s all breezy. Get comfortable with who you are because ‘you’ are going to be with ‘you’ for the rest of your days-so you might as well learn to love yourself now.

9. Avoid making bad decisions

Media and society will make you think that booze, drugs and random hook-ups make your college life worth-while. I am here to tell you that society just told you a big, bald-faced lie. I know for a FACT that it is so easy to yield to ANY kind of temptation in college. But it’s earlier to get involved a life style that you can’t handle. Let me tell you a quick story. One year I lived with a bunch of girls who could PARTY. One night their extremely inebriated friend was screaming about how she may have been sexually assaulted AND how her friends found her sitting on an ant hill. That was not a pretty sight to see at 4:30 a.m. This young woman got caught up in something she wasn’t able to handle (I later found out she was OK and healed from her ant bites). But let me give you some friendly advice: if you wake up the ‘beast’ (whatever lifestyle consumes you); you are going to have to feed him(continue to live that lifestyle because you’re hooked). Avoid anything and anyone that threatens to deter your college career. Think about this; if you didn’t do ‘that’ before you got to college, chances are you don’t need to do ‘that’ while you’re in college.

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10. Find an uplifting ministry

I would have been even more lost than I already was if I did not find the right church and college ministry. It took a couple hit-or-misses, but I found the right ones! Just as I had to study in order to succeed in my educational life, I had to do the same for my spiritual life. Whatever college you choose to attend (or currently attending) will have college ministries already in place. Begin to ask around and see which ones you like. You need something to keep you afloat in the vast seas that is higher academia.

Featured photo credit: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga via offcampushousing.utc.edu

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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