How to rock your semester in five easy steps

Adjusting to college can be both stressful and exciting. As a senior at Minnesota State University, Mankato, I have had a few years of experience with the first week of school and getting used to a new routine. Here are five tips on how freshmen, transfer, and returning students can adjust to life as a college student:

1. Don’t be afraid to make new friends. You might be tempted to stick with what or who you know, to go back to the same friend groups you had last year, or to cling tightly to high school friends. Here’s my advice: expand your horizon. It’s not bad to keep old friends, but reaching out to befriend strangers will increase your social skills and self-confidence. Getting to know someone who has different interests, beliefs, or skills will allow you to learn new things and increase your compassion for others. You can’t judge a person on first glance or from hearsay – you have to get to know them as a person.

2. Join a club or organization. Joining a club can help you learn a new skill and make new friends. Last year, I decided to go to the Swing Dance club in the CSU Ballroom on Monday nights starting at 9 p.m. I had made a friend from work who invited me to come the first time and I ended up enjoying it. I didn’t know that I even liked swing dancing until I tried it. This is only one example of the many things you can try on campus. Other clubs to try include the Fencing club, Ultimate Frisbee, Bridges (where you’ll meet international students), the Water Polo Club, or a fraternity or sorority, just to name a few. A list of student organizations can be found at http://msumankatostudentlife.orgsync.com/.

3. Stick to a schedule. When you’re in school, it can be easy to fall behind on homework, sleep, or personal hygiene. Try to develop a schedule; for example, I’m going to do homework at 4 p.m., no matter how lazy I feel. Then I will for sure get at least part of it done and not feel so rushed to finish all of it at the last minute. I will eat at 6 p.m. so I’m not hungry. I will hang out with friends after that. Then, at 11 p.m., I will go to bed so that I get enough sleep. Writing down the schedule and crossing things off after you finish them will give you a sense of accomplishment. I’ve found that sticking to a schedule, even if you have to make a different one every day, is a lot easier than wasting a lot of time, then realizing that you only have an hour to meet a deadline. It’s okay to stay up late some nights, but if you’re staying up until 4 in the morning every night, it’s time to put away Netflix and catch some much needed zzz’s. Getting at least seven hours of sleep will improve your mental health, concentration skills, and overall well-being. Believe me, I know from experience.

4. Exercise. It can get very tiring, sitting and staring at the blank Word document on your computer for hours at a time, trying to think of an idea for a paper. To get your brain moving, it is healthy to get up and get your body moving. After exercising, I feel refreshed, energized, and more motivated to take on the paper or the reading that I need to do. Exercise by going to the Otto Recreation Center, walking around campus and enjoying the weather (before it gets cold), or going to fitness classes, which are free for students. You can find the schedule for these free classes at https://www.mnsu.edu/campusrec/fitness/groupfitness.html.

5. Ask for help. There are many resources on campus that are here to help you. The Career Development Center can help you find jobs, write a resume or cover letter, or prepare for interviews. The Counseling Center offers 10 free counseling sessions to help you be mentally healthy. The Kearney International Center is also there help international students to succeed in Mankato. All of these resources are located on the second floor of the CSU.

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