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7 Things They Don’t Tell You About College Life

7 Things They Don’t Tell You About College Life

College is more than studying to get a diploma. Readings, homework, and requirements are only half the battle. There are things that you need to know about college that even college professors won’t teach you. Get a leg up with seven things no one told you about college life. Amidst all the college rankings that you are obliged to check in order to set your priorities or the impending tuition fees that you need to know in order to save money, there are other things you need to know about college, so be prepared.

1. You should be aware that BFFs will not be formed overnight

All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you are eager to make friends. Some people you meet will only be classmates, acquaintances, or report partners. Finding your close-knit group in college takes a bit of trial and error. Join student organizations and interest clubs, attend a few parties, and enjoy the variety of people you’ll meet along the way.

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2. You have to get to know your professors well

Professors can make or break you, so don’t stay in the dark. Check out student forums for professor guidelines and tips. Build a professional relationship with your professors. Showing professors a good work ethic can even land you a job referral in the future.

3. You should be creative, books are expensive

A study reveals that every year, the average American college student spends up to $1,200 on books and supplies alone. Save some money on books. Borrow from the library, visit a second-hand bookstore, ask friends to lend you a copy, ask your professor if he/she has a spare book you can use, rent a digital copy, or shop online for used textbooks.

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4. You have to figure it out, “required” reading can be optional

This is entirely on a case-by-case basis that you need to figure out. Generally, professors will discuss the most important points of the text in class. When you pay attention to lectures and diligently take notes, you can get away with just skimming your readings before exams.

5. You MAY skip some classes – but in moderation

College students skip classes. If you don’t plan to, good on you. But if you do, skip classes wisely. Some professors do not tolerate absences, some professors do not notice. Whether your reasons are scholarly, or otherwise, just make sure you won’t get caught.

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6. Sometimes you need to isolate yourself to get things done

Distractions are everywhere. When you have a paper due in a few hours, isolation is your best bet at finishing on time. If you have references online, download them and turn off your WiFi connection. Stay in a library instead of your dorm, so you’re not tempted to take a nap.

7. You need to get enough sleep, and health is a priority.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, 50% of college students report daytime sleepiness and 70% attain insufficient sleep. Loss of sleep can mean a lower GPA, inability to concentrate, and may even cause mood swings. Drinking coffee or energy drinks to pull that all-nighter only promotes that vicious cycle. If you can’t avoid staying up, consider taking a nap. Daytime naps may offer a potential remedy that may also help academic performance.  When you’re up to your neck in coursework, it’s easy to neglect your own health and well-being. Getting sick means missing your classes, catching up with assignments, and if you missed an exam, rescheduling with your professor. No one will take care of you but yourself. Drink vitamins. Ditch the junk food. Get some exercise. Take time to relax. There will be moments when you feel like giving up. You will question if college was the right decision or if there is a point in crossing the finish line. With college dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg still finding success, leaving without a diploma doesn’t sound bad, right? However, the Pew Research Center’s report on The Rising Cost of Not Going to College, states that “on virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education.” Beyond financial matters, studies also suggest that college graduates live longer and healthier lives, have stable marriages, and produce healthy children. Most graduates say their college education helped them to grow intellectually, mature as a person, and prepared them for a career and adulthood.

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Featured photo credit: Scensiblesbags via scensiblesbags.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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