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10 Ways Students Can Survive College

10 Ways Students Can Survive College

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.

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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

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