Chapter I: The College Student

Being a student is without a doubt one of the most taxing phases of one’s life! Not only mentally, but emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially as well. Students are placed under incredibly high levels of stress and pressure for intermittent periods. For instance,a student can study for three months while sacrificing their social life, sleep,and mental health, for a 90 minute exam they’ll never take again. Hopefully. And unfortunately the consequences of burnout have led to safety concerns throughout academic institutions. Mental health diagnosis, school shootings, suicide rates, and documented bulllying incidients have all significantly trippled within this decade alone. Therefore scholars are faced with justifiable concerns, aside from academic performance and resume building. 

Speaking of resume building, this first post of our Mindful Student Series is dedicated to all of the college students! Whether you’re an undergraduate freshman or a sixth year graduate student, being a college student is a full-time job. Even if you are not a full-time student. 

Regardless of your enrollment into community college, online institution, Ivy League college, or public university I congratulate you. And no matter your reasoning for pursuing a higher level of education, you deserve to. College is not as effortless and glamorous as social media portrays it to be, and it does have consequences. College students have an increased risk of self-injurious behavior, drug addiction, sexual assault, depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, and eating disorders. College is not a stressless stage by any means. Some of you are first generation college students (like myself). Some of you are parents. Some of you are active duty military. Some of you are international students. And some of you have earned a full academic and/or athletic ride because of your achievements. With these factors being true, this does not alter your capability to perform. But it does reinforce it. So before you eagerly plummet into the scholarly pool, here are a few mindful Cliff Notes to help you along the way:

Do not register for too many demanding courses during the same semester.

This is a very common mistake for eager students! However there is no reason to register for chemistry, calculus, and microbiology in the same semester. Or even three 400 level English courses. With every college course taken, you require at least four hours a day for reviewing alone. Now imagine that for a demanding course such as biophysics. Yikes. No it does not make a difference if your friends are doing it. Or if your parents want you to take on that demanding load. YOU are the scholar who has to pull all-nighters, and successfully at that. The last thing you want to do is slide through material pertinent to your major. Schedule no more than two demanding courses per semester! Trust me they aren’t going anywhere! 

You are not obligated to sign up for multiple organizations

Referring back to resume building, extracurricular activities and organizations look refreshing on ones resume. Even if you did not fully participate in the organizations. The reality is you may not have the time to devote to them. Which is alright! During syllabus week at Penn State we had a three day Involvement Fair, where students were given the opportunity to sign up for numerous organizations. So naturally anything that caught your interest, you signed up for! I specifically recall signing up for nearly seven organizations! Not realizing I would realistically only be committing to two. I allowed my eager self to underestimate my student self. Humbling experience needless to say. With that being said, choose one organization geared towards your major, and one organization of your liking. Also keep in mind how demanding your major(s) are. Some of you are doubling (and triple) majoring. Be transparent. There will always be opportunities to grow your leadership skills. 

Avoid procrastination at all costs!

 Phew this one is bible! A helpful tip to decrease stress and anxiety is to prioritize your assignments, study guides, and papers! If you know you have an exam every four-six chapters, begin digesting and reviewing your material in the early. Yes I understand it is easier said than done, but it still needs to be said! In reality by doing so you keep your memory sharp with your subject’s material. This is also important for scholars who are not naturally “book smart“ like myself. No shame in it. At Penn State, I had to adapt to learning HOW to retain information more effectively. So if you too are a student who needs additional time for digesting material and formulas, do not sleep on this tip!

Do not skip class… Period!

Okurrr

Your parents are no longer holding your hand through your college career, but you still have to be responsible. It is very feasible to skip a class here or there. But do not get into the habit of falling behind in your work because of this. Hold yourself accountable and show the hell up. At Penn State some of my lecture halls had well over 1000 students. So of course my professor did not take attendance with good reasoning. Regrettable this lead me to become lazy and nonchalant about attending class. I was only hurting myself in the long run. While Tramaine and Stephanie were in class receiving the material and asking questions, I was sleeping in and watching Netflix. Do not be that student. Do not be me. Because once you fall behind it is more difficult (and sometimes insurmountable) to catch up. 

Communicate communicate communicate 

But just in case you choose to ignore me and fall behind, this next Cliff Note has your name written all over it. Communicate with your professors at all times! Now read that again. And again. I cannot stress the importance of communicating with your professors. Think about it: This is the one individual who has the power to curve your grades, and keep you afloat during the semester. This is the same individual who may very well allow you to submit multiple late assignments and extra credit work for a passing grade. Under no circumstances should you go M.I.A without communicating with them. In undergrad I developed a lousy habit of avoiding communicating with my professors when I felt myself falling behind academically. I believed my professors would have judged me or hated me. Especially if I failed an exam (which sometimes happens). I became too embarrassed to speak up in fear of being reprimanded. So I say this: “Let your pride die.” Obtaining your degree is the main reason why you enrolled in specific courses. So if you fall behind, communicate at all costs. A good professor wants you to succeed just as much as you do.

•Utilize your resources 

Were you informed that most college tuition includes more than room and board? Well it took me until my junior year to find this out! And guess what else? Majority of these resources are free of cost! Accessible resources around campus can range from mental health services, peer support groups, mentoring programs, and even free tutoring. Unfortunately from my personal experience, this information was not broadcasted throughout my campus. I was not aware that my Penn State offered such a wide variety of services and resources. It almost felt like you had to go searching for them. When you should not have to at all. Now you know they exist. Familiarize yourself with those free resources. Attend free study groups with your teaching assistant. Receive a psychiatric evaluation if you become overwhelmed during the semester. Do not sit around, and miss the opportunity to be even more successful.  My campus had a psychiatric clinic named CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services). CAPS was located conveniently on campus, and I never even knew it! Inside the clinic were available counselors, and psychiatrists ready and willing to help you. This was information that could have prevented so much turmoil, I had known prior to the semester. Utilize your free resources, because they exist.

Stay away from drugs 

Coming from one of the top partying universities in the country, I understand the importance of a good time. I also understand that drugs help make a good time better. Here is the realism: experimenting with drugs and alcohol can lead to abuse and addiction. Especially in college. Trying something once or twice places you in the likelihood circle to try it three or four more times. So don’t. Peer pressure still exists in college as it did when you were younger. College students have access to opioids, stimulants, and pain killers. And some of the students use them dependently. Drugs such as Xanax and Adderoll are bought and sold like a Mcflurry from McDonalds. It is actually much easier to buy some from a classmate, than visiting your own PCP. Now that is terrifying. Not only are you unaware of what you are ingesting, but you are becoming increasingly at risk of drug dependence and abuse. Say no to drugs. 

There are so many mindful topics and Cliff Notes we could educate you on. However for now use this information and apply it. Pass it on to your peers, and anyone you know currently enrolled in college. Lastly, do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it! College is not impossible, but it does take mindful strength, and support to successful complete it!

Xoxo,

MindMyMelanin

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