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OPINION: 10 things I would tell my freshman self

Students should take social media breaks to help reduce worsening mental health and academic performance. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/UNSPLASH

Freshman year is always the most difficult. Not only do you worry about academics, but there’s the stress of finding where your classes are, who you will be friends with and which dining hall has the least sickening food. 

At first, it was hard to embrace university life. The campus seemed so big, everyone seemed to have their own group of friends. I started to worry whether I’d find my place and my people. I’ve since implemented some habits that have helped me change my mindset and better enjoy my time at USF.

Looking back as a junior, here are some things I wish I could have told myself:

Explore campus 

I love exploring USF as there’s so much greenery and hidden spots to relax that are invisible to the average passer-byer. Everytime I find myself walking on campus I discover a new hangout spot or meet new animal friends. 

My favorite places to see on campus include the Castor duck pond and the Contemporary Art Museum. Both places are a perfect quiet getaway from the bustling life of campus. The art museum changes its exhibits every couple of months, so I always enjoy looking at the new pieces on display.

Do the assigned textbook readings

I used to jump head first into homework assignments without doing any of the textbook readings, and I’d think I did an amazing job only to find out later that I got a despicable grade on the assignment.

If your homework seems too easy, chances are you aren’t understanding the assignment properly because you’re lacking vital information from the textbook.

Dress to impress

When I come to class dressed in sweats, I feel sloppy and like this will hinder my academic performance. Dressing formal, but comfortable, has helped me feel better about how I present myself to people by improving my confidence. When you look good, you feel good.

While opting for PJ’s and sweats is comfortable, dressing nicely will make you stand out to professors who are used to seeing students in casual attire.

Find healthy ways to manage stress

Getting caught up in the stress of college life can damage your everyday lifestyle.

Instead of facing the stress of college head-on, I used to avoid it by neglecting my assignments and assigned readings.

My favorite ways to de-stress include taking a long bike ride, journaling and having a ‘self-care night.’ It’s important to have small routines to help manage stress.

Avoid procrastination

If a professor gives you weeks for a long assignment, it’s for a reason. Tons of time will be spent researching, planning and writing. Utilize all time you are given on an assignment or project. Procrastination will only hurt you in the long run.

For me, it is super helpful to set deadlines to keep myself on track. If a project is given a month for completion, I’ll reason with myself that the project should be half done by the time the month is half over. 

Communicate with your peers in group projects

While collaborative projects can be a hassle, it is important to communicate with your group members . For these projects, there’s no such thing as over communicating, as it will help keep progressing the project forward. 

I personally used to dread group projects, but learning this piece of advice has led to more productive group work, as extra communication contributes to an equally divided project. 

Avoid studying in bed

Avoid studying in bed at any costs. Your mind associates your bed with sleeping, making it difficult to focus.

My personal favorite study spots are empty classrooms and outdoor seating. Studying outdoors is perfect for people watching when you get bored with schoolwork.

My favorite place to avoid studying is under trees on campus. The squirrels on campus are getting brave and fat (they will try to take your sandwich scraps). 

Take hand-written notes

While typing notes in class makes it fast and easy to record information, it is better to handwrite notes. Handwritten notes are proven to help learners recall information.

I copy all my notes by hand if I have a big test upcoming. It helps me remember and process information better. I also enjoy how fast and effective it is to use physical stationary to decorate my notes.

There’s nothing better than embellishing your notes titled: ‘The false promises of the American dream‘ with doodles and hearts.

Talk to your classmates

I’ve started talking more to the people who sit around me in class, instead of scrolling on my phone. I’ve met some of the funniest people who I talk to regularly this way. Now, I can’t imagine class without my talkative peers. 

It’s beneficial to build a relationship with your classmates, so you can lean on each other if you need help. Making friends in class will motivate you to continue a strong attendance streak.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions in class

When in a crowded classroom, it can be easy to feel discouraged from asking a question. You pay for an education, make sure you get the most out of your money.

Long gone are the days when I’ll sit stiffly in my chair, wondering if my question is worth asking. Since I’ve started prioritizing my education and caring less about what people think, I’ve felt more confident and successful in my classes.