Cherry Picking: The College Checklist

Sarah Cherry, Staff Writer

The College Checklist: How to get good grades, make and maintain friendships/relationships, and be healthy mentally and physically in college.

Sometime during your first semester of your freshman year, one of your friends stumbled upon this triangle – the idea that in college you can only pick two: get enough sleep, make good grades, or have a social life.  This idea resonated with you.  You looked out on your peer and you saw this theory in action.  You looked at yourself and your life and you saw the theory put to practice.  I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way – and you don’t have to be an overachiever to achieve it.  With a few simple points mixed with some basic rationality, we can avoid settling for just two – we can have it all.

  • When you’re in class, be in class.  Don’t do the homework for your next class that day or text that cute girl/boy you’ve been flirting with for a month now.  Pay attention to your professor.  Even if he or she is mind-numbingly boring.  Bring your book with you and follow along.  Take notes (it will keep your mind focused, you’ll retain more information, and you’ll have something in addition to the PowerPoints your professor posted on Moodle to look back on come time for the exam).
  • This next point is about prioritizing.  This is a theme of being a successful college student, as well as being a successful human being.  I’m not going to tell you outright not to read for class, but if you don’t have to (the professor doesn’t give pop quizzes on reading assignments before discussing them, you can follow along and understand them better when they’re explained in class, the book is summarized thoroughly on Sparknotes, etc.), reading for class is definitely a low priority.
  • Along that vein, prioritize everything.  Figure out what your goals are – if you want to be a doctor when you grow up, your grades in organic chemistry are more important than your grades in that Core/Veritas history class, and way more important than your participation in the student government association.  The trick to this is, the point of college is not just one single thing – it is a combination.  Grades themselves are important, but they aren’t as important as what you learn.  And it’s not just with respect to your future career path (although that should be a focus) but also the things that are a part of the Core/Veritas curriculum, like philosophy and history and politics.  This school’s liberal arts curriculum is hell-bent on making us conscious, questioning, and contributing members of society.  Engage in it.  Don’t brush it off as being stupid or a waste of time – because it’s that sort of thinking that turns your time into a waste.
  • College is also about forming and maintaining relationships.  Call your family, keep them in the know.  Make friends with your hall-mates.  Get to know the people in your classes.  Be cordial with your professors.  You’re building up your social support – gaining friends and mentors alike.  This portends to your college experience, AND your sanity.
  • Amidst all of your other commitments, make time for sleep, mindless freetime, and exercise.  All of these are not wastes of time, rather they make you into a more efficient and stable person.  Without sleep, it will take you at least twice as long to do that paper you stayed up  late to finish… and if you go without it for too long, you’ll die.  Mindless freetime may seem like a waste (and it can be when employed to excess), but if you’ve ever seen The Shining you should know that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  And psychotic.  All work and no play will drive you crazy.  Exercise is probably the easiest to put off as a waste of time – pretty much every excuse in the world has been hurled at it (including “a dog ate my homework” so I have to do it again and that’s why I don’t have time to work out).  Exercise boosts your energy (so “I’m tired” doesn’t work), boosts your endorphins (so “I’m not in the mood” doesn’t work), and it boosts your brain power too (you’ll take on your homework like a champ – like you didn’t need the thirty extra minutes you spent on the treadmill anyway).  It also helps you set a schedule, fights off stress and depression, and improves sleep quality too.  You aren’t wasting time, you’re becoming more efficient.

In the end, all I have to say is don’t settle.  You can have it all.  Don’t get in your own way.


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