As a senior, I have learned many lessons in my past three years of college — some of them the hard way. Looking back on all of the advice I wish I had received as a freshman, I’m deciding to share two things that are not commonly expressed, but are necessary to hear.
My first piece of advice is to be stressed. It’s inevitable that you will have stress at many points in your life. Therefore, while you’re still taking easier classes, challenge yourself to be stressed so you know how to handle it later. If you learn coping mechanisms now, then later when you’re an upperclassman, working a part-time job or overloading classes in order to graduate and you develop acute stress, you won’t break down and fail. You’ll learn how to handle stress in any environment.
Planning your time is probably the greatest life skill a person can have; if you can plan a day, then you understand how your mind works. You might find out that studying is easier when you wake up early in the morning. You might function more efficiently with a sleep schedule or maybe you have better concentration after a run. Instead of getting distracted while doing your assignments, you will learn to easily focus and stay focused. It will help you to make hard decisions, such as the classic decision of whether or not to go out this weekend. Additionally, because you have limited time, it will help you think critically faster, which will impress your professors and future employers. This will show you your own strengths and weaknesses.
In academia and the outside world you will also experience emotional stress. This stress can come from things as simple as rejection or lack of control. The same premise as before holds true: If you experience this stress enough, you’ll adjust to it and know how to cope with it. Being stressed will help you become a better person as well as a student.
My second piece of advice is to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Is there an activity that makes you cringe when you’re thinking about it? It might be public speaking, publishing your writing, socializing with a stranger, being alone or being bored. Challenge yourself to overcome that feeling.
At first, you may feel embarrassed, anxious or even frightened. These are all normal feelings, as humans are apt to do what makes them comfortable; it is hardwired into our brains. However, if you have experience with discomfort, it becomes second nature. You’ll learn not only to accomplish the things that you were previously uncomfortable with, but also you’ll know how to handle unexpected situations. There will always be times in your life that you will have to do things that you are uncomfortable with, so instead of waiting anxiously for that day, become familiar with it now so you will be able to act with confidence.
Although taking this advice will gear you toward success, make sure you don’t jump the gun. If you are trying to adapt to stress, ease yourself into it. Start with an extra two-credit class, or become involved with a club or organization on campus. If it’s emotional stress, try to establish a strong support network of friends and family or even reach out to a hotline. When you are working to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, put yourself in situations to work on it. If you fear public speaking, take a course where reinforced feedback is given so you learn how to improve.
If you take both of these pieces of advice, I believe nothing will be able to stop you in college and in life.
Joshua Hummell is a senior double-majoring in classical and Near Eastern studies and history.