"Oh mom! If only you lived in the campus you would know. It's not all that interesting and exciting to live here", my son argued. I understand his frustrations. We were having lunch in one of the popular hangout places for the university my son attended. It was lazy afternoon on a weekday. Most students were attending classes. The streets were still somewhat busy. Here, in university campuses, a busy street means a street filled with pedestrians rather than cars. Some students were having a bite to eat. Some were hanging with friends chatting and laughing away. Some were deeply involved in the books in front of them and some were working on their computers.
Student life is supposed to be the one of the best parts of a person's life. Choices are made for the future. Opportunities present themselves. A student's life can be exciting and fun even though they have to face many hurdles to have everything planned and implemented correctly. It doesn't have to be stressful if a proper structure is followed and maintained. There are several issues a new student faces as he/she enters college. Structure in life may be shaken with the new social, financial and dietary independence. Here are some other challenges:
Spending and saving money: Most students enter college with student loans, scholarships, and grants. Most parents assume the students will be responsible for their own finances even though they do help out with some of the expenses. Financial independence could put a toll on the student's lifestyle and spending habits if not monitored properly. Most students are broke financially the first two or three semesters after their entrance into the college. There are some essential expenses and non-essential expenditures that should be distinguished. Essential expenses such as food, rent or rooming expenses, books, tuition fees, and travel arrangements need to be addressed carefully in the beginning of the semester. An estimate must be made in order to know where a student is as far as the spending for the rest of the semester. Non-essential expenses such as parties, travel, holiday spending, and dating should be considered with finances in mind. At target should be reached where a student will still have some money for unexpected expense incurred.
Time management: With the new-found freedom many students tend to procrastinate from their studies. New friendships are made that demand their time. Activities such as dating, hanging out, watching television, movies, bars and clubs take precedence over studies. It is recommended that for every hour spent in the class room a student should spend minimum of two hours outside the class for the subjects taken. Most students tend to push their study time towards the end of the semester or a day before the exams. The catching up attempts not only put a student under a lot of stress but could lead to failure in classes. A small but simple strategy to manage time with studies is read the lesson before you go to a class, study it right after class and prepare or improvise notes taken within one hour after class. Go back and revise it as soon as the notes are taken. Reading the lesson before class gives an opportunity for a student to understand it better and ask questions in the class. Studying and preparing notes allows them to absorb the content before they forget it. Going back and studying it at a later time allows them to memorize what they have learned so they are ready for the exam when the time comes.
Stress Management: When study times are placed in a particular order and followed on a daily basis stress regarding the studies is reduced considerably. Social gatherings or dating could be managed according to one's daily study time requirement. Allotting time to have decent meals could help keep the immune system going and from getting sick. University campuses are the best places to get plenty of exercise by walking or bicycling to different classes. Keeping on the constant physical move keeps the health intact. Keeping up with bed time is important in maintaining good health. Addressing money issues ahead of time and watching the spending habits could reduce the common pitfalls of being broke.
Relationships: Most students start serious dating and possibly choosing life partners somewhere in their second or third year of college. Developing relationships that could go on for a lifetime can be stressful. Friendships, dating, breaking up, making out, jealousies, misunderstandings, and gossip could deviate students from their main goal of studies very easily. One of my children's childhood friends went for a top honors program at a university and had to be expelled from his school by the end of the first year in order to keep his girlfriend happy, rather than keeping his grade point average. Getting into wrong company with friendships is something to watch for in the beginning of the college itself. Common interests, goals, maturity levels, mutual understanding, and respect should all be considered when keeping company with groups of individuals.
Career choices: Most universities/colleges offer all general education courses for the first two years. By the end of the second year many students have narrowed things down to couple of career choices. Academic advisors could guide a student toward his/her career. Sometimes students make decisions based on their friends' choices or parents' wishes. One must understand these decisions could impact their own interests, priorities for future studies, where they want to reach in life financially or otherwise. Job and career satisfaction starts in the campus itself and stays with a student for life.
Financial Aid: Federal financial aid, Pell grants, Parent Plus loans, academic scholarships, city grants, state grants, and university scholarships are some of the financial aid opportunities a student has at his or her disposal. Taking advantage of these aids not only puts a student's mind at ease with finances but also keeps them focused on their studies. Work/study programs in the campuses offer a wonderful opportunity for students to develop their job skills, strengthen their resumes, and save up some pocket money so they don't have to dip into their loans for other social activities.
If planned properly, university/college life can be the most memorable, enjoyable and best part of a person's life. These are the times a person carries with him/her to pass onto the next generations. Experiences are shared in reunions even thirty years after college. Relationships last a lifetime with friends and life partners. Social life doesn't have to be a drag. Financial constraints can be addressed properly with career choices made. Leading a healthy and happy college life could lead to a happy and healthy life later because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.
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