So it seems August is upon us, which can mean only one thing for us college going folk; time to get ready for the new semester. It’s been a while since the last time I prepared to move in to a new dorm and figure out a new routine, so I’m going to lay out all the things a student should think about in order to optimize their life at college.
I’m (sadly) required to live in a dorm for my first two years at Ohio State, which means that not only do I have to pay ridiculous prices for food and lodging, but I have to brave the cesspool of chaos that is move in day. Or do I?
Tip 1: Try everything and anything to move in early.
Moving in early, while it may cost a bit more (usually somewhere between $20 and $40 a night depending on the college), can be infinitely less stressful and time consuming than waiting for the normal move in day. You are able to get to campus without too much traffic, people will usually still be there to help you get your stuff up to your dorm, and if you’re lucky, your other roommates won’t have moved in yet, so you have a little more freedom in setting up the room how you want it. Plus, you have that much more time to re-acclimate yourself to college life, go look at where your classes will be, and begin to establish your new routine before the stresses of classes and other people bog you down.
Now that you’ve scheduled your early move in, what should you bring with you? You (or your mom) has probably already made up a list of things that you “need” in your dorm; bed sheets, extra bed sheets, three chargers, an iron and ironing board, a fireproof safe, clothes that could last an Eskimo for a year, and a pantry’s worth of food that you can’t live without.
Tip 2: Really think about what you are going to NEED in your dorm, and then cut out the three least important things.
Now that I’m preparing for my sophomore year, I have a little experience to look back on in terms of what I actually used in my dorm. More importantly, I know exactly what I didn’t use. This includes things like that ironing board, the second set of bed sheets (don’t worry, I washed the other set frequently), my winter coat (wait to bring it until Thanksgiving), and the copious amounts of “filler” things that people think they need to live like coasters, extra cups and silverware, and extra notebooks/folders/paper clips that are nice to have, but end up getting buried under the things you actually use.
This year, I am going to make a list of only the things I need, and then re-examine those things and take off the three least important things on that list, too. I’ll bring only enough clothes for two weeks, and make a habit of washing everything on the same day every other week. I’ll also wash my bed sheets at that time, and just put them back on once their clean. No need for extras. The same goes for coffee mugs, silverware, and plates or bowls. I’ll just bring one of everything and actually wash it all whenever I use it. Seems like common sense, but when you have a pyramid of mugs just waiting to be used, why bother washing the one from the morning before? I’ll also be trying by hardest this year to keep all of my school notes and documents in Evernote and Dropbox, so that I can eliminate as much clutter from my work space as possible (and have the added benefit of being able to access all of my work from anywhere). This will eliminate the need for most notebooks, all folders, and pretty much any piece of paper that I can take a picture of and scan into Evernote. I will bring one or two notebooks to keep around for those times when I need to draw a diagram or do math, but I’ll make sure to scan it into Evernote and throw the paper away at the next chance I get.
Ok, so now that I’ve got you thinking of all of the ways you can cut down on waste and have extra space in your dorm room, let’s think about how to optimize your time outside of that dorm room, where all the magic happens.
Tip 3: Build relationships with classmates, professors, and even the workers around campus.
Looking back on my freshman year at Ohio State, I feel like I could have done a better job in getting to know those around me. While I made a good group of friends in my dorm and on the water polo team, I didn’t try to expand outside of those “environmental” friends and try to forge relationships with people who could help me out down the road. Namely, my professors. While most of my classes freshman year were Gen Eds that I believed didn’t pertain much to my major (finance), I could have benefited from going to their office hours within the first week of class, introducing myself, and going to them with questions or talking with them about common interests we might have. Because I didn’t do this, I probably missed out on a couple of great relationships that could have resulted in an opportunity like an internship or letter of recommendation down the road. That’s why this year, I’m determined to meet with all of my professors within one week of classes starting, to come to them whenever I could benefit from better understanding of the topics discussed in class, and to have some correspondence with them about things outside of class (such as emailing them an article that I’ve read and think might interest them). This will undoubtedly lead to a few relationships that might help me find opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise find.
I am also going to strive to build relationships with the classmates that I find interesting or motivating, in one way or another. Especially now that I am taking more classes in the business school, I will certainly benefit from getting to know the other motivated kids in the class. Since I know that there are probably opportunities and resources in my huge university that I am not taking advantage of, if I get to know other people like me, they may introduce me to some groups or events that I could benefit from as well. (And hopefully, I can do the same for them.)
As for the workers around campus, it is always uplifting and helpful to get on the good side of the people who you will inevitably see around campus all of the time. Whether it is your Residence Hall Director, the front desk workers in your dorm, or the person who makes your omelettes in the dining hall, being nice to them and taking an interest in their lives can sow a seed that you will reap the benefits from later. If you need a favor or want something to get done without too much hassle, knowing these workers well can be a great thing throughout the year.
If you find a classmate that you think you could build a solid relationship with in the future, take the first step. Ask them if they want to exchange numbers and emails so that you can collaborate on school work, ask them if they want to hang out or grab some food, or ask them if they want to lift with you (because if you’re living life with guts, you’ll be doing plenty of it).
Tip 4: Build a routine that works best for you, and stick to it. You will feel infinitely better about yourself.
During the fall semester freshman year, I was playing water polo, and we had practice from 8:15-9:45 four nights a week, with tournaments most weekends. This meant that I had to have a good routine so that I could still lift, go to my classes, get my homework done, sleep, eat, and practice without any problems. I woke up early so I could lift in the mornings and feel rested and recovered enough to perform well at practice that night. Having this routine felt great, and my grades and athletic performance were very good because of it. But, in the spring semester, I had a lighter class load, and I wasn’t playing as much water polo. So, my routine became very lax, and I began to feel more run down and lazy because I had large chunks of time not dedicated to one specific thing. Consequently, my grades and lifting suffered. My advice is to spend some time up front crafting a routine (especially a morning routine) that dedicates time to the things that are important to you, and stick to it. Even if you don’t have an “obligation” during a certain time, blocking off a free hour and dedicating it to something fun like “go for a walk”, “read”, or “meditate” helps immensely in optimizing your time and feeling like you are accomplishing something. This also allows for you to make progress on non-obligatory things like side projects, learning a skill, or organizing a part of your life.
Something you can do to begin making your routine right now is to go into a planner or online task manager (I use todoist) and enter all of the things you want to get done in your mornings. Make everything a habit. Make a task for waking up, making your bed, brushing your teeth, making a cup of coffee, meditating, reading, whatever you want to get done in that beautiful pocket of productivity every morning (We’ll have more soon on why we wake up at least 2 hours before any obligations each morning). Make it a daily task, and associate a specific time with it. Then, as you go through your routine this semester, check each task off as you do them (eventually they will be habits and this won’t be necessary). Boom! You’re living life with guts. You can also be deliberate about what you do with your time after classes (such as having specific times and places for doing homework every day), and you can schedule a “cut off” time to relax and enjoy yourself in whatever way you see fit each night. Pretty nice, huh?
So there you have it, four tips on how to optimize your time and live life with guts this semester. I’ll be following this advice myself, and adding to it as I go, since I’m sure there’s a plethora of other things I’ll learn along the way.