The Thing Everyone Misses Most From College

The thing people miss most from college isn’t the parties. It’s something even more precious.

One of the most jarring things about post-grad life is the jarring shift in lifestyle. Now not everyone may have had this, but most people had such a massive increase in independence moving from high school to college. It’s jarring, Now you can go to sleep whenever you want or not at all. You can skip a day or three of classes and no one will stop you (although you are paying thousands of dollars to just skip class). A bag of Sour Patch Kids can be your means of sustenance for an entire weekend and cleaning your bathroom becomes optional.

Lots of kids thrive under all this increase in free-time; the kids who are seemingly doing it all from joining new clubs, getting good grades, and still managing to party every night somehow. Others are obliterated by it. Skipping classes leads to knowing even less about the class, worse grades, and the next thing you know a test is coming up, but it was only announced in the class they skipped. Getting high takes such a priority over everything from cleaning, cooking, and exercise that it’s all you’re really known for. Everyone reacts to this new independence differently, but its an independence that’ll only increase after graduation.

For those who could afford the luxury, the large amounts of free time were the best aspect of college. It goes hand in hand with the increased independence, but this free time disappears after college with full employment. Joining clubs, partying, getting high–they all required that you not only had the independence to do them, but the free time as well. And most college kids have that in spades. You can point to some kids who had to work while at college and it’s a shame that they had to deal with the extra stresses of college without as many of the benefits. Free time was a luxury that not even all college students got. Yet for those who did, it’s a feeling unlike any other. You only had to put in as much work into classes as you felt like and just get up and leave class itself if you felt like it. And then there were all the vacations on top of that.

In college and earlier school, all the vacations were ridiculous. You’d get multiple months off in the summer for finishing a grade level. No other reason. Spring vacation, winter vacation, holiday break; my parents would always be surprised (and annoyed) at all the time I had off. You didn’t have any work to do and its not like you had to use up your personal vacation days to use them. Lots of high-schoolers would start working or bolstering their college resumes with tests and classes over the summers, but it’s a shame that they don’t realize what they’ll soon lose.

In college, its the perfect storm of early adulthood with free time that really lets you start experiencing things that you wanted, or at least stuff you think you wanted. Freshman year is a blitz of hanging out with different people until you find the group you want to hang out with, clubs to try out each week, Greek societies, parties, figuring out your major. You can make some life-altering decisions for the better or worse. It’s wild to think that I made all these choices as an 18 year old. I may have been a legal adult, but I sure wasn’t one mentally.

Free time can be dangerous. You can be as productive as you want to be. Spend all your time partying and you’ll feel the consequences soon enough. Plenty of people will warn you about that, but the inverse is also true. One can spend all your time studying, working, and stretching yourself to the limit. After a point its unsustainable and there’s no one required to stop you from doing it. It’s something I fell victim to and regret immensely. I had so much free time and I used it all to study. Obviously studying is important, but college does offer other services. There were so many people I met towards the end of my college career that I felt would’ve been great people to hang out with, but I only met them once my final classes were more or less done. Clubs I would’ve loved to try were ones I only heard about in my final semester.

Party all the time and your grades will suffer. Study all the time and you will suffer. Both are easy pitfalls to fall into and its up to you and your new independence to find what works best for you.

Free time is a resource and it’s your goal to spread the wealth while you have it.

Finals Season is a crazy time

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Finals.

The worst concept ever created. Death is a more welcoming idea. Whoever thought that it would be a good idea to test students on every single class they’ve had in a matter of a week and have each of those tests be worth anywhere from 20% to 50% of your overall grade should get prize.

Like the complete opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize. A Hitler War Prize maybe.

Finals week is where the men are separated from the boys and it turns out everyone are boys. It really makes you put into perspective what important in your life. If you’ve been through it you’d understand and everyone should go through at least one finals week in their life because you can really find what your purpose is.

Just imagine this. You’re 2 finals in. They’ve weathered your confidence. Studying for Saturday’s two tests is looming over your head. Your eyes ache, your head hurts, and you have not moved from your spot in the library for hours.

What would you rather be doing instead? You start bargaining in your head. “If I study later tonight I can game for about an hour” or maybe “If I just study all night tomorrow, I’ll be able to write that novel I’ve been picking at for the past couple of weeks”

Whatever you’d rather be doing is the real you. You find out what you miss most and it can get pretty mundane. At one point, laundry became an escape from finals for me. I hate doing laundry.

Everyone is a little stressed about finals, but some either have such good grades that one C won’t hurt them while others need a 102 to pass the one last class they need to graduate. Semesters are defined in about a week. I remember freshman year I had A’s and A-‘s across the board. I was content. I was cocky. Why study for finals when I could watch some old cartoons I watched as a kid? I knew what happened in the episodes, but they’re still cool to watch. My good grades so far must mean that I already know everything that I need to know for the finals. I never stood a chance. My naivety was my downfall. That and my fascination with superhero cartoons.

I won’t give out any exact numbers, but it got ugly quick. Like 2017 politics ugly.

I vowed to never let that happen again. The pointless slaughter of my freshman GPA would not be in vain.

I started prepping. My notes marked dates and what the finals would cover. I’d figure out all my finals dates and when I should start studying for each weeks before finals reared its horrible mug. I can’t say that finals for me are easy in anyway, but I sure feel better during the week.

I got time to workout and write (with the occasional cartoon thrown in there). I mean sure I could study more to get that 89 on the final to a 90, but as long as my grades didn’t completely falter I’m content.

Other people I know don’t even bother preparing and it works fine for them. The stress finals puts them into some next level state where their sole purpose in life becomes to absorb information and then spout it out at given times during the test. It’s quite a sight. I’d ask them why they did that to themselves. Why hurt yourself for an entire week? It was the only way they knew and it got the job done. I feel like far too many people hold this philosophy and I respect that.

Some people don’t crack under pressure.

Finals affects everyone differently. At some base level everyone is stressed. I feel like I can relate better with other students because I know they’re feeling something similar to me. However, I don’t handle stress well. You can tell from a distance when I’m stressed; I dress worse, my hair is messy because I play with my hair when I’m unnerved, and above all else I’ll get a forehead full of bright red pimples. Don’t let the appearance full you, I’m used to the stress. I am always some level of stress about something and it is a habit I’m trying to fight off. I’m more focused when I’m stressed, hence why my high school baseball coach referred to me solely as “Mr. Clutch”. I stepped up when it mattered, but man do I feel horrible the whole time doing it.

I try to keep to my routine during finals. Try to eat as healthy as always (with obvious failure), workout everyday, and sleep in a regular cycle.

Some people show no signs of change. A girl I know still dresses like its just another day, her makeup is on like nothing is new, and her demeanor is just as happy as if she was at Disney World. It’s sickening. However, when we sat down to study, she broke down mentally. “I am so screwed, I don’t know anything. I should just drop out”. Fucking hell. Finals got to her too.

Finals induces stress which is dealt with in a variety of ways or not at all. It pushes you mentally and that can leave your body in a way worse off space.

One of my friends from back home always posts stories about him working until 4 AM and then starting his day again at 7 AM. It’s both a shame and a marvel to watch. The kid always tries his best, but putting shit up can add up quick. If I had to choose one piece of advice I could tell myself about finals when I was younger it would either be get as much sleep as you usual do (granted that isn’t much), plan waaaaaaaay ahead for finals, or maintain a routine so your body doesn’t go into shock from the sudden 3 all-nighters in a row.

My high school teacher would tell us while studying for the AP exams, “The hay will already be in the barn the day of the test”. You either know it or you don’t. At some point forcing anything else is only counterproductive.

Or at least I think that’s what that meant. Whatever, I should be studying right now anyways.

Dealing with Stress in College

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Everyone gets stressed. Or at least every human gets stressed. It’s a good feeling to have, but not exactly a good one to feel. It reminds you what you have to do and the significance of doing it right. Stress is good until it screws up what you’re trying to do.

However, that was more for our ancestors, keeping us alert when we thought predators were nearby. It’s a bit harder to focus on a test when you can barely breath properly. You can sneak by without dealing directly with stress pretty easily in high school. The workloads can be brutal, but at the end of the day classes aren’t designed to potentially give you a 40 (except for my honors chemistry class, I hated that class)

College is the perfect storm of stress though. The difficulty jumps up to a whole new level and its entirely up to you on how to approach the problem. Do you not go to your 8 AM classes so your not as tired? Or do you skip your night class so you can go to bed at a reasonable hour? And that’s just classes. Imagine a part time job, relationships, sanity, all that can really add up.

Stress is as common as the common cold on a campus. Most people just kinda ride the waves, only really freaking out when Finals come and other major tests. Is there a cure doc? Meh, depends on who you are.

I know a girl who would just bounce a volleyball on a wall for a couple minutes and completely simmer down. As her neighbor I could hear every single instance and would shoot out a quick, “What’s wrong?” text until it stopped. I tried something similar in retaliation with a football, but it worked me up more than anything. At one point I was pretty sure the wall was going to give in before my stress. Sometimes all you really need is that small activity once in a while to set things straight. If there is a basketball near me, I’ll throw it up in the air and catch it. Nothing revolutionary, just a nice feeling.

Some find that one athletic activity that gets their mind off things. Weightlifting makes you feel more powerful and in control. Nothing feels better than letting out all your frustration on a barbell stacked with weight. If you can move it, then you can do anything. Running and other cardio workouts can give you the time to either work out what you’re going through or give you that clear head you need to resolve what you need to. Sports as a whole can encompass either of the above and usually include that added social element. Even during finals, my roommates and I would find the time to play basketball. Trash-talk is a great release is all I’m saying and plenty social.

Being social is something I’ve never been good at, but socializing can be that exact mental break one needs. Being around other people you enjoy being around, especially those who are more positive can really alter your perspective on things. Whether it be talking about what is stressing you out or shooting the shit with your buddies can do wonders. Sometimes stress reaches the point where it consumes you and all that is needed is a step-back. People (and animals) are pretty good at helping others out in their time of need.

A more unusual approach I came across in college is meditation. Now I’m not saying you need to give up on all earthly possessions and shave your head. All it really is is taking 10-15 minutes where you sit in silence, taking deep breaths, and not think about anything. It gives your head a little break from a day full of stimulation and constant nagging. It is not an end all cure and it won’t make you some sort of enlightened person, but a little “mind time” never hurt.

Not all stress releases are good though. Some people have a release that works once for them and it becomes their crutch. In the long run they may hurt more than the stress being dealt with.

A vast majority of kids drink and smoke until they don’t remember why they were even worried in the first place. There are plenty of reasons why this is not the best approach, but sometimes the biggest hindrance is stress itself. My friend’s best papers were written while he was not sober. He’d stress over his diction and grammar when he wasn’t smoking, but once he was in the right state of mind, he’d just let his ideas flow out. It reached the point where he required to be high to do homework. God forbid he ran out of weed, the kid would come to a complete halt academically and it was pretty pathetic. Alcohol and drugs are okay if its a one and done kind of arrangement, but reaching the point where they become a necessity is never a good sign.

Others just live with it. Every second is stressful, yet what’s the harm? Yesterday I was stressed so what does it matter if it continues? Riding out stress is a brutal habit I had early in high school. Why deal with the stress if I was gonna get stressed the very next day. I rode the wave of stress and did not do shit to stop it. I’m not going to say it was the worst option, it did get me through some rough patches, but man did it suck. Life was just a blur at the time and the only constant in my life seemed to be the stress. It’s not a part of my life I look back at fondly.

There are definitely other ways to deal with stress out there. I’m sure I’m forgetting a good chunk of methods. Feel free to share your own and who knows maybe I’ll pick it up too. Stress sucks, but it’s not an impossible solution. We’re only human.