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Three Tips for Starting A New Life in College

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By Malcolm Rivera for South Kern Sol

I never asked my brother, who attended UC Berkeley, for advice on the transition from high school to college life. I grew up as if I were an only child. But, with one year at UC Davis under my belt, I’ve complied three major points I wish I had asked my brother about before I left home for my undergraduate experience.

These tips worked for me, but only you can determine what your college experience will look like.

Find a social circle

This is extremely important if you want to make a smooth transition into college life. One potential area to find friends is the dorms. The most popular guy on my floor, for example, somehow made friends by farting on people and giving awkward back rubs. [Shiver] I will never forget that horrible day when he tried his “magic” on me.

Another option lies in clubs and organizations. I joined Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed community service fraternity. By pledging, you immediately integrate yourself into a small group of people; a group of people who you’ll bond with through tasks and rituals.

It doesn’t matter which methods you use, what is important is that you realize that building a social circle also means building a support structure. Friends help take the place of family. They help you laugh, give console, and numerous other benefits. And when you’re hours away from family like I am, a solid support structure is paramount to your mental and emotional well-being.

Take advantage of opportunities around you

College is too big for you to go to school, get a degree, and leave. Join clubs, take classes for the fun of it, and volunteer somewhere. The first thoughts I have when I think of UC Davis are not about studying and writing essays, but instead about those spur of the moment decisions I made.

One example comes from a service project I signed up for with Alpha Phi Omega half an hour before it started. I’d just finished a paper, and could see nothing better to do with my time, so I volunteered at the pet shelter. Being attacked by adorable, loving puppies nonstop for five hours sounds like something that’d get old, but it never did. I was graced with playing with the puppies; sort of a showcase. At this point, I couldn’t even tell you what my paper was about, but I can describe (in great detail) the mob of puppies that I spent one afternoon with. Going to college is a once in a lifetime opportunity; don’t waste it sleeping in textbooks.

Manage your time

This is the key to success in the two previously aforementioned tips. Building a social circle is important, but it’s a very, very bad idea to sacrifice academics for socializing. This isn’t high school anymore; the smartest people don’t always get the best grades. Those who manage their time well by avoiding procrastination and maintaining focus when working are the ones who make the Dean’s list. I’ve met some astoundingly brilliant people over the past year, yet because they don’t manage their time wisely, they always repeat to themselves, “C’s get degrees.” This is true, but if you do the bare minimum and learn nothing from your major then you’ll be hard-pressed when it comes to finding a job.

Furthermore, if you’re always stressing out about finishing tomorrow’s assignment then your actual college experience will be dampened by all that worry. I had no idea so many students pull all-nighters to finish assignments in time. I’m not one to judge, but I’ve yet to pull an all-nighter, and I think I’m happier because of that.

Upon reflecting on what I’ve learned so far, I’ve realized just how different my interpretation of college is from my brother’s. I never really heard about his extracurriculars – while extracurriculars are defining for me. This leads me to my last point: just because people experience college different doesn’t mean one is ‘right’. People come in every flavor imaginable, and only you can decide what kind of college experience you want to have.

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