How to Survive College! (The Finicky Cynic Edition)


As you may know, I have recently graduated from college and, with the so-called “profound knowledge” that I have accumulated over the past four years, I thought that I would offer a few good tips for those still attending, or just about to begin college. You know, as a way to get by during these next crazy years as a young adult. 😛

Just a heads up that this post will be super long (at least, longer than usual), and is by no means a comprehensive list. But all of them are based, in part, on my personal experiences, and I hope that you can find some of them relevant to your own lives.

Without further ado, let’s get to it! 😀

1. Freshmen 15 is REAL. Face it, folks: your body at sixteen will not be same than when you’re twenty-two. All of those couch-potato, potato-chip eating days that you did throughout high school will come to haunt you in college. You will definitely starting seeing the changes to your figure-and not necessarily in a good way. And even if you’ve always been an exercise/health freak (like me), staying at a good weight is still a struggle.

Because really, with the easy access to dorm food and fast food restaurants on campus, it is all too easy just to grab a quick bite to eat on the way to class or work. And sitting for many hours in lecture and in front of the computer at home don’t help, either (as I am doing now). 😛 The best way to avoid gaining the fifteen pounds in freshmen year (hence the term “Freshmen Fifteen”) is to be conscious of what you eat, how much of it you eat, your exercise routine, and just knowing your body for what it is.

Although that extra serving of nachos for Late-Night doesn’t sound too bad right now. Hmmm… 😉

2. Put yourself out there. Be open. I know, I know. It’s easy to say “be outgoing” and everything, when in fact most of us would prefer spending our entire days in our dorm rooms, watching shows online. Trust me, I’ve been there. But there is truth to this piece of advice of putting yourself out there: you gain friendships. And before you say, “Psh, I don’t need friends,” well, I’m telling you that you will miss out if you don’t have any. Because really, it comes down to the basic human need: we all need companionship as means of survival. We foster emotions, we discover common interests, and more importantly, we need each other when it comes to partying too late at 2 am, getting wasted, and having someone to walk back home with. Friendships, even mutual acquaintances, are the way to go.

I admit that I haven’t made a ton of friends in my college years due to my extreme shyness and awkwardness at social functions. But I have gotten to know plenty of acquaintances, and the ones who I have gotten close with were the ones I have allowed myself to open up to. And those are keepers. 🙂

3. Maintain friendships. Going off #2, friendships are wonderful but, as you get older, you realize that they are a lot harder to maintain. This is due to the fact that you are growing up, finding jobs and working, taking different classes, and otherwise just having busy lives. I can say that it has been a struggle for the last two years to get my old friends from our Chemistry years (back when we were all freshmen and aspiring Chem majors) to meet up and have dinner together. A couple of times we have succeeded, but even then, we don’t see each other as often anymore. 😦

To put it in *somewhat cliché’d* terms: friends are like flowers, and need to be watered and cared for from time to time. If you feel that it’s been a while since you last talked to your friends, it wouldn’t hurt to hit them up for lunch to catch up with each other. Friendships require a mutual effort between people, and only then will your relationship with them be sustained throughout the years, perhaps even long after graduation!

4. Procrastination will kick you in the ass. I’m sure that you’re sick of people saying not to procrastinate, and I’m not here to tell you if that’s right or wrong. Some people have actually told me that they work best under pressure, when it comes to writing and submitting a paper T-minus ten hours before it was due. Kudos to them, but I can imagine how it must suck to pull an all-nighter for the sake of a paper. I’m usually not a procrastinator, but there have been times when the circumstances were just too great, and I ended up writing an entire paper overnight. It was god-awful- physically and mentally- but I made it, and ended up doing well. I would say that I’m personally not a fan of procrastination, but if you can pull off a brilliant paper with less than two hours of sleep, then by all means go ahead.

5. Rejection will hurt- but do it anyway. This kind of relates to #2: by putting yourself out there in the world, you also increase your chance of getting rejected. Whether it’s from a job interview, a creative writing contest, or even from that girl/guy that you liked, it feels as if you have failed in life. Not so. It’s painful, but those moments are just a few out of the many opportunities that will come. You just have to keep going, keep hoping.

For me, it came down to poetry: for a long time, it had been rejection after rejection from publication in magazines, chapbooks, and full-length books. However, after maybe the twentieth attempt, I managed to get my poems published in my school magazine, as well as in other small literary journals across the nation. If I hadn’t applied by the masses to these places, my chances of being recognized would have been much slimmer- if not at all. You definitely develop a tougher skin when you face rejection, and you learn to just roll with it. Out of the 9 “failures,” there will always be that one “success.” And one is all that matters. 🙂

6. Have an ego (sort of). Go ahead, think highly of yourself. Be charming, be sassy, be the louder, more outgoing version of yourself. This is not to say that you should be arrogant or condescending towards others, but rather carrying yourself as if you have everything figured out in your life, even if you don’t. Because having that extra bit of confidence definitely attracts people- add in a dash of humor and character and people will love you. There really is no point in being shy or unsure of yourself; at this point in your life, people will not wait up for you to get yourself figured out. You are in charge of yourself, and knowing how to gain friendships and trust in people while remaining at ease with your comfort limits will greatly benefit you in the long run.

7. Plan, plan, plan. I know that there are some of you out there who don’t have an actual to-do check list for the day, and that’s admirable (carpe diem!). But for straight-edges like me, I need to know exactly what I will be doing throughout the day. Especially in college, when there’s so many things going on, I need to write down everything that I need to do, or else I will forget it.

Life pro-tip: write everything down. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’ll remember- you won’t. 😛

Like, seriously: I plan everything down to a T. Before I turn in the night before, I write down exactly what I will be doing the following day on a sticky note: from morning to afternoon to night-time. Call it a Type-A personality, but that’s how I get things done. My university planner is also my life as well. Even laptops and phones are great tools for planning. Anything, really.

8. Take your time. Slow down. Especially during your first year, you will definitely get swept up in all of the busyness that college has to offer: from classes to club activities to job/internship opportunities and so forth. You might think that you have to decided then and there what your major will be, as well as plans for the future after graduation. In the moment, all of it seems overwhelming, and you may find yourself stressed out.

But I’m here to say this: Slow. Down. Take your time finding out what you want to do, even if it takes all four years. We’re never really done searching through life, anyway, even after college. I’ve seen many people (including myself) who have switched majors since freshmen year, going from one subject to another before finding one that they enjoy doing. Or at least, settling on one. Allow yourself to play around with several clubs during your first 2 years at university before choosing which of the few to stay in and fully commit to. Explore your options before diving into them, and I assure you that you will then get the most out of your college years.

9. Attend office hours. Whether it’s for your professor or for your TA, going to their offices outside of class for help will definitely benefit you in the long run. Not only do you get to have your questions answered, but you also get to know them just by chatting with them. I firmly believe that, by making the trip to their offices at least once or twice per school term, it makes a substantial difference on your grade in that class. Seriously, you could be getting an A in the class rather than a B, or even a C. Depending on your professor or TA, they can help you go over math problems or rough drafts of papers, which help a ton. You will know what they expect from students in the class; all you have to do, then, is go by what they expect, and you will be literally milking that “A” from the course. 😛

10. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re struggling. This doesn’t just apply to school, but also to personal issues, in general. My school was really useful in that it offer on-campus health and psychological services to students who were struggling with problems such as depression, sexuality, drugs and alcohol, and so forth. I actually used the services a few times before, and I thought that there were pretty helpful, in offering me suggestions that I could apply for myself in the future.

At the same time, seeking guidance doesn’t necessarily mean looking for professional help. Having good friends, even peers, that love you no matter what are just as useful to your mental and academic health. Truth is, we all struggle to some extent in our lives, so knowing that everyone has a personal issue(s) is somewhat comforting, as we all can help each other out. 🙂

11. Make an effort to go to at least one sports event. I admit, I’m not a huge sports person. Heck, I didn’t even attend a single football or basketball game while in college! At the same time, I don’t regret not attending, since I never really cared for either sports (well, basketball is okay, but football is just a mystery to me…)

BUT: I have been to a women’s gymnastics meet, as well as a track-and-field event for my school. While not as highly watched as football or basketball, those sports nevertheless are ones that I actually enjoy spectating. So finding something that you enjoy or would enjoy watching (even dancing competitions!) is definitely a good way to get out there and see the athletic talents that the school is proud of. 🙂

12. Study abroad. True, it’s a lot of time and money to go overseas, but studying abroad doesn’t necessarily mean going far away. I knew some students who just transfer to a nearby college for the academic school year, as a way to get a change in scenery and meet new people. Even “studying abroad” within a state, within a city, counts as a chance to discover a new place, a new way of working.

And of course, there are plenty of opportunities to receive funding and scholarships for traveling. I didn’t even qualify for financial aid, but I still got some money to pay for half of my expenses, which was incredible. My decision to study abroad in France during the summer of my third year was definitely something that I did not regret, and I look forward to returning there again. Very, very soon. 😉

So whether you want to go somewhere in Europe, Asia, even the United States, go for it. Fight for it and earn it. Only then will you get to your destination. ❤

All right, that’s about it for me! I am sure that I missed something in this super long list, so if you have any questions or more tips on surviving college, feel free to Comment! Otherwise, have a good day, lovely people! 🙂

– The Finicky Cynic

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7 thoughts on “How to Survive College! (The Finicky Cynic Edition)

  1. Pingback: My Top Ten Posts of 2015! – The Finicky Cynic

  2. Pingback: My Advice to College Freshmen – The Finicky Cynic

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