Though I hate to see it in print, perhaps the most needed winter break in college history is long gone. Replacing it is a new semester much like its predecessor. The only difference is its novelty, and that makes all the difference to me.
A new semester brings with it a new opportunity to learn, dream, and achieve. To that end, I have compiled here a brief list of things to keep in mind as we progress through Mississippi College and into the larger world.
Though some of us are closer to the edge of the diving board than others, I believe these tips, gleaned from personal experience, are useful regardless of how many others one may have. May these nuggets be as filling and potent as those in Alumni Hall.
Never think that you are locked into a path or program you declared as a freshman. I decided I’d rather be a writer and jumped out of the pre-legal track and into a journalism minor after my first semester, and I haven’t looked back since. I kept my history major because I enjoyed the subject. Always be on the lookout for new learning opportunities.
Instead, come into college and figure out what you are made to do. I know that sounds daunting and indiscernible, but it is totally possible if you follow the things you’re good at. College started out as and still is a place to find enlightenment; don’t be afraid to learn something new. Take those first three or four semesters of basic courses to figure out your interests.
Endeavor always to understand your neighbor. As you learn for your major, you should also expand your mind when it comes to your fellow humans. Everyone has a story, and it is always a story worth hearing. Let everyone you encounter challenge you to a greater sense of wisdom and empathy. And just be kind.
Never do assignments or study at the last minute. This is one I’m still mastering, but it makes a big difference accomplishing a little bit of a paper or study guide some days in advance. That way, the day before or the morning of a big test, all you have to do is read your notes. Sometimes this is hard when the semester gets in full swing, but try to spread your work out as much as possible.
Instead, try to treat your class schedule like an eight-to-five job, if possible. Accomplish what you can during the day and unwind at night. Go exercise in the mornings or afternoons to blow off steam, and make time to read a good book or watch something good on TV. Make self-care a priority whatever form it takes.
Never, under any circumstances, evaluate your prospective job market before you close your eyes at night. I did this over the summer and it only made my chest hurt.
Instead, research job possibilities in the morning after a nice, hot shower and with a strong, bracing cup of coffee. You really only need to do this when you’re my age, but sites like LinkedIn or Indeed should be read with your morning news. That way you’ll have all day to do something about it.
Find a way to keep track of your thoughts. I started writing in pocket notebooks after my first semester, and it is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Not only do I have a place to reflect, but I also have a record of one of the most formative chapters of my life. I hope historians in the future will read them for an eyewitness account of 2020.
Get to know your professors; they’re here to help you. And don’t forget your friends; they’re here to keep life from getting too serious. Many of the relationships you make in college can last all your life. Your teachers have a wealth of experience, and your friends will keep you from having wealth through fun outings.
If you subscribe to this advice, you might end up like me, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on who you are. I hope that this semester will rank among your best yet, and that you will leave it in May a better person than when you entered it in January.