As the academic year comes to a close, I’d like to thank Leon for inviting me to contribute to lifehack.org. For this post, I asked my daughter Rachel, who’s finishing her first year of college, what advice she might offer to lifehack.org’s student-readers. Here are Rachel Leddy’s tips for success in college:
1. Build a social network. Living away from home in a dormitory with 1000 other people your age is a little unnatural after about 18 years of family living and close friends. It’s important to make sense of the mass of people by finding those you can relate to and trust. If your roommate is a no-go on the friendship front, seek out activities in your dorm or your campus. Look for religious organizations or activities like intramural sports or debate teams. Find support from your resident advisors, teaching assistants, or other mentors. College friends do not have to replace the connections you have at home; they do, however, make your home away from home more comfortable.
2. Get good with names. Meeting people can be overwhelming, so make yourself special by being the one who knows everyone they meet. People love to be known and recognized, so find a trick to help you keep people straight. When you meet someone new, repeat his or her name aloud once or twice and then put your trick into action. Identify something deeper than clothing choice with the person, such as a story they tell you, the place you where you met (i.e. on a bus to the quad or a specific basketball court), or someone they strongly remind you of. If you forget a name the next time you meet, be honest and ask. Tell the acquaintance that you remember the time or place but you can’t remember the name. People want to be remembered; don’t worry about offending someone by asking them to help you remember them the next time.
3. Feel out your campus. Get to know your new home by finding a place for everything. Find a specific place to study (like a residence hall library, a specific table at a library, or a coffee shop you like). Find a space outside to play Frisbee, lie out in the sun, or read. Make these places your own and you’ll be more comfortable in your new home. Of course, it’s important to be flexible with your space. Be aware that your space is shared, not owned, and be prepared to find a new place if needed.
4. Create rituals. This is perhaps the easiest and most important thing to do at the start of the year. Establish familiarity through daily, weekly, and monthly rituals. Rituals can be as simple as taking notes with a favorite pen in journalism or always stopping for a drink at the same soda machine before chemistry. They can be more formal, such as going out to dinner once a week with your roommate or significant other. By setting rhythms in your new space, your days and weeks will be more natural and flow more easily. Flexibility also pertains here, so be prepared to change or reschedule your ritual based on availability and conflicts.
5. Remember what you’re at school to do. You’re at school to learn. The school is there to provide you with a great education, so do your part and go to class. Stay healthy. Take plenty of vitamin C. While it’s tempting to stay up all hours with friends, get enough rest to keep your immune system up and your mind alert. College is a great (and expensive) opportunity. Don’t waste it.
Rachel Leddy, a linguistics major, is finishing her first year of college. Her dad Michael Leddy teaches college English and blogs at Orange Crate Art.