Sometimes we convince ourselves that the bad habits aren't that bad and that they make life at school easier or that we don't have any other choice. I'm happy to say that you should not and do not have to believe that, and that college doesn't last the rest of your life, but some of the decisions you make on a daily basis are impacting you more than you may realize! Here is a list of some of the bad habits that my friends and I have noticed and tried to correct, which have made our lives in school so much easier!
1. Not making any time during the week for exercise.
Trust me. I know, I know, you have so much homework and you can’t get onto a regulated schedule yet because you just don’t have the hand of this semester, but if you take a look at your schedule, (go ahead, put it in front of you) by now, you should kind of have an idea of when your breaks are during the day, and where you find yourself stopping for meals or studying during an awkward break between classes. Whether you live in a dorm or you are in your first apartment, you should try and incorporate exercising into your schedule at least once a week, and it doesn’t have to be at the same time all the time. Breaks are important for studying, but we will get back to that, because exercise is proven to release endorphins- a chemical that increases happiness and decreases anxiety. Tackling your stressful assignment after a good run or a game of pickup soccer outside of your dorm will be easier for you after you’ve gotten a good clear mind and are fully able to focus on the task at hand. Even doing some jumping jacks, push-ups or crunches to music in your dorm room will suffice, so long as you’re working off that fearful freshman 15! If you end up tired after your work out, try using this as a way to get a better night’s sleep and workout before the day of your big test- just don’t get too sore!
2. Not taking any breaks during long or stressful assignments.
Instead of trying to force yourself to stay 70 percent attentive for hours at a time, try being 100 percent productive for shorter periods of time, and take planned breaks; this means turn your phone off or put it somewhere away from arms reach and power through a set amount of work, either a few problems or a few pages of material. Then, get up and walk around, if you’re in the library go to the bathroom and get water, check your phone, send a text, and then after your allotted break time, sit down and conquer the next section. This is considered a form of reward-based performance, meaning your mind is aware of your easy goal, and is able to concentrate on the work because you know you will be able to take a break once you accomplish it! (MIT has done some really interesting research on this and they highly recommend studying in this way).
3. Traded spending the time to eat or make a healthy meal for something easy, quick and way more unhealthy or skipping meals altogether (breakfast counts, too).
While you work and study for the next hours, your body needs energy, which it gets from food. The energy your body needs comes from carbs and proteins, even fats, and so many other health-conscious buzzwords, but the facts are the facts; different chemicals react differently within your body, and a balanced meal and healthy nutritious snacks can make all the difference; coffee with caffeine and sometimes added sugar increases your heart rate and adrenaline temporarily but if the energy it takes to make the blood flow and your heart pump is not restored, you can face “crashing” which ultimately counteracts your temporary productivity with drowsiness and sluggishness.
4. Taking the spare time available on the weekends to do nothing rather than study in a more relaxed way than normal, yet more productive than scrolling social media!
You would be surprised (or not) at how long you can search for updates, information, or entertainment on social media, whether you do or do not have anything else to do. If you realize nothing is going on, and you find your self on your classmate’s boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s cousin’s Instagram, take advantage of your curiosity and mental function and go over some of the terms and concepts from the past few weeks; even re-writing notes from class helps to solidify something that you might see on an upcoming assignment.
5. And unfortunately, possibly your first all-nighter of the year.
Not only does your mind not function as well tired, you are less likely to get anything done the next day! You are more emotionally sensitive. Your skin also suffers when you lose sleep, even this one time. Your body under goes processes specifically when you sleep that regenerate cells and repair them, while the stress that happens when you’re awake and rushing to complete assignments actually makes your immune system weaker, making your body more susceptible to breakouts and you more likely to catch the gross colds going around during a season change!
6. Gone to an event that you really didn’t want to go to and it probably went exactly how you knew it would, despite your friends convincing you it would go otherwise.
You might be constantly pressured to participate in things that will give you the “true college experience” but honestly, it doesn’t exist. If you stay focused on the real reason college exists, and the one for which you should be attending, it’s to ultimately prepare you for a real life with a real J-O-B! It only takes one mistake to jeopardize your future and professionalism, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out and have fun, it just means that it’s okay to limit yourself and it’s always okay to say no. If you’d rather stay in and watch Netflix after a long week than go to a party that just doesn’t sound so enticing, then tell them you’ll catch them next time- but if you just need a fun pick-me-up or you want to go meet some new people, by all means, you go social butterfly! Either way, you’re a big kid now and you make your own decisions!
7. You haven’t made a study group -- or been to office hours -- in a class where you are afraid you’re going to struggle.
Please, coming from someone who has accurately predicted my own sorry fate in this situation, and on multiple occasions also, just see if the nerdy kids beside you would want to meet after class or in your spare time! At the very least exchange phone numbers or emails so that when you receive a horrible homework assignment or even a group project, you have a few kids to contact who might be able to offer help! It will really make a difference if you’re struggling with a concept because, chances are, you don’t all think about things the same and you might be able to offer one another insight that you wouldn’t be able to during regular class lectures.
In terms of office hours, just go. Even if you aren’t the only student in the office, even if you are scared or think you will figure it out before the test arrives, just go and be sure to introduce yourself. If you would rather strictly work one-on-one with your professor or your TA , send them an email ahead of time and see what works best for them. If they see you are struggling and you improve on the next assignment or test and they know you took the time and the extra effort to address your issues with them, that may be the difference in your B+ and A-, and at the very least it establishes a connection rather than just being a face in their class.
It is relatively early in the semester, and with plenty of time to correct your study, sleeping, and eating habits, this can be your best semester at college yet – and if it’s your first then you’ll be preparing yourself for a great college career. Good luck!