How to Reflect—and Improve—On Your First Semester of College
First of all, congratulations.
You’ve just wrapped up your first semester of college!
How do you think you did?
Higher education is a place with little to no hand-holding, fast-paced learning, and people with diverse backgrounds and upbringings.
Knowing how to navigate the crazy world of college can be tricky. So let’s take a look back to see what worked… and what didn’t.
Assessing the Positives
- You’re immersed in a new culture with people who want to achieve the same thing: Earn a college degree. Everywhere you look, whether online or in-person, people are remaining steadfast in their studies, keeping a result in mind.
- You’re are one step closer to achieving your own goal. Whether your end goal is to work in a specific field or start your own business, the end is becoming more apparent. This past semester may even have shed some light on the type of career that you would like to pursue, offering more knowledge and firsthand experience rather than information from a pamphlet.
- You now know how to navigate your school. Remember your first day when there were all of these buildings that looked the same, or all of the resources that your school had, but you can’t seem to find? Not anymore. You don’t have to look up the college map—or if online, always looking up your major requirements.
Assessing the Negatives
- Time management can be a struggle. There is not a lot of time to be hanging out with friends when you first arrive. Like any new experience, it takes a while to adjust to the pace and schedule you have. Most freshman do not get to choose their schedule and most of the classes are prerequisites, so it can be challenging to adjust to the new schedule when there is little motivation.
- Getting good grades can also be a struggle. Grades are arguably the most crucial part of the college experience. Depending on your dream occupation, you might need to achieve high grades to go to graduate school or compete for a certain career. Whatever the reason, getting grades that are good and that make you feel proud is essential. If your grades don’t make you proud or you start to beat yourself up, ask, “Where could I have done better?”
- Identify and learn from your mistakes. Having a newfound sense of freedom can make college a lot harder than most people imagined. Procrastination is terrible, especially when you don’t even realize that you are doing it. One way to stay on top of things is knowing when to say no. Should you say yes to going out with friends on a weeknight? Should you agree to help out with an event for clubs/organizations the night before a test?
- Forgive yourself, and ask for help. Understand that we are still amid a pandemic, and many people are learning in conditions that make them unable to do their best. Plus, the first semester is a big jump into the deep end—and you’re just supposed to figure it out on your own. This semester, vow to use your university’s resources. The tutoring center breaks down information at a slower pace. Professors’ office hours allow you to speak one-on-one and attending shows your willingness to learn get extra help. Peer mentoring programs involve upperclassmen advising what classes to take, whether to buy books, and even how to make internship connections. If you surround yourself with like-minded individuals, it only motivates you to try harder in the future.
All in all, assessing yourself—even if it is a little painful—can help make you more successful in the future.
Being in college is hard.
You’re learning self-control, planning and organizing, and you’re becoming your person all at once.
If you are worried about falling behind in the beginning, give yourself a break. It takes time to adjust.
So as you go back to your next semester in the spring, take a breath, do your power pose and know that you will be a pro in no time.
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