Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dear Class of 2015

I am about 3/4ths of the way finished with my first year of college and I inevitably have great amounts of wisdom to pour out on the class of 2015,right?
Wrong. Truth is, I'm learning as I go. I want to share some of the things I have learned, but I'm definitely still learning. I am going to be 100% bluntly honest on what you should expect going into college, some practical tips for success, and even some very poorly taken pictures of items that I didn't think to get for my dorm at first but ended up saving my life (literally and figuratively).

What is college REALLY like?
I am an engineering major. My view on college looks radically different from another major's view. My experience is also very different than someone who is a super genius, so if that is you, this post probably won't help you much. So if you are planning on majoring in something science related (or medical, maybe), this will run pretty close to what you should expect. If not, or if you scored a 36 on your ACT, this could be drastically different.

College is hard. I went from making high As in high school without trying, competing in math competitions, and being in the top 5% of my class without even studying to becoming a "study zombie". Most of the classes you take as an engineer throw a lot of complicated information at you and you are expected to master it in no time. For me, this meant that I no longer had a life and became a slave to books (I will talk more on this later... just know I am by no means actually advocating this). It is really tough for me to transition from the student I was in high school to the one  that I am right now. I know when I was in your shoes and people told me it would be hard, I didn't believe them. I thought if I just studied 24/7, how could I not make an A? You won't realize it until you're here, but that's how college works. It's really really intentionally tough.

So, for most engineers, the college experience is different than what other people might get to experience. My social life outside of study groups and talking to my mom on the phone at night doesn't really exist. I don't always get to attend sporting events or other events on campus because every day calls for hours of studying. I even left our homecoming game at half-time to study for a chemistry exam (that I made an 88 on, might I add). I sleep as much as I can, I go to the gym whenever I can squeeze it in, and that's about where it ends.

I'm not exaggerating here. I have many many friends in engineering and their experiences are very similar. It's tough and taxing, but it's not all bad. It's interesting and you reach a level of pride in yourself you never have before because you never thought you were capable of doing these things (at least I didn't, maybe you do). It's definitely going to be worth the effort put in, and almost every day I think about the moment when a diploma gets put in my hand.

Tips for Success:
1) Get a planner! I will talk more about this later, but my planner literally saved my life. It honestly holds my life together. I know what I need to do and when every thing is due and when my next test is and scholarship deadlines. It has my life in there. Every school year I tried to keep a planner and without fail after two weeks I never touched it again. In college, its impossible to be a sane person and not have some planner-type item. My first semester I did not have one and I constantly had nightmares of missed deadlines and tests I didn't study for. I was on the verge of a mental breakdown (no exaggeration) and my planner saved my life. It's that important people!
2) Mentally Prepare Yourself: I still work at this every day. The probability of failing a class or making a C is very high as an engineer. Around 50% of engineering students fail their first semester of Calculus, let alone the other classes. I have scholarships that I am determined to keep as long as possible, but I make sure that I tell myself if I lose them it's okay and its not the end of the world. College is very much of a mind game.
3)Come here with a purpose/GET INVOLVED WITH CHURCH: I can not stress this one enough. I would have no drive some days to get out of bed and do the things I do if I did not wholeheartedly believe that God put me on this earth to be an engineer and to serve him through it. Sunday mornings are heaven on Earth for me. Jesus carries my burdens. I am always worth it in his eyes. I draw my strength from my God and oh my gosh I can't imagine trying to tackle this without him. It couldn't be done, not for me. The first Sunday you are in college, find a church. (If you are going to Tech, Steven's Street Baptist is a WONDERFUL church and I'd be delighted to take you).
4) Try your best to live like a normal person: It's stereotypical that engineers don't have a life, but I encourage you to try to live as normally as possible. I try to go to the gym at least 2 week nights and every day on the weekend. I get 8+ hours of sleep best I can whenever I can. I eat healthy things so I feel good. I try to relax every now and then and watch a movie or hang out with someone. You have to have an outlet.
5) Get a strong support system. As I said before, I couldn't do this without Jesus, but I also couldn't do this without some other people. My family. When I think I fail a test, my mom is the first person that I call. She is able to talk me out of the "post-test insanity". I'm constantly given money by family members to get whatever I need, being encouraged by them that I can do this. My boyfriend, who is also an engineering major, and I try to talk each other up as much as possible. My room mate is always there to listen when I need to vent. I don't care who you get to listen (even though Jesus does need to be one of those people), just make sure you have somebody.

This is a smallish list of things that I did not think to get before college started and then realized I desperately did need them, so I thought I would share these with you. But first, heres some pictures of my dorm al together!

1) As I already said, a planner. Mine is the Lilly Pulitzer Agenda. I got this because, as I said, I don't have a very great history of keeping up with a planner, so I decided if it was pretty enough I would have to use it. I love love love it and I will forever buy one now.

2) Good sheets: I love my bed. My bed is where I go to destress, and it's likely to become yours too. With that being said, I can't stress enough how important it is to get good sheets. Let me clarify: good does not necessarily mean most expensive. I got mine at Target for $14.99 mostly because they were the right color of royal blue. However, I had not yet tapped into the magic that are the Target sheets.For years when I went to things such as Girls State or church camp, I used my brothers old knit sheets from his college years and HATED THEM. I always woke up in a cold sweat, and then lay awake fearing what might happen when I start college. Would I sweat ice water? Would my sheets bring me pain??? Then I slipped into these babies. Miraculously, when its hot outside they keep you cool inside. And then when it's cold outside they keep you nice and toasty. Also, they don't get stained from benzol peroxide, a common agent used in acne medication (that I use, and most of my towels are bleached from). And finally, they wash up so nicely which is very important to me because I wash my sheets like a obsessive freak. Sheets are important people. 
3) A bedside fan. Depending on your sleeping arrangements, this may or may not apply. However, most college dorms include a loft setup of some sort and as we all know, heat rises. After one night of sleeping in a lofted bed without a fan, I knew something had to change. So my parents and I searched until we ran across this 10 dollar wonder from staples. Not only can it be used as a clip-on fan, it also comes with a stand to use on your desk. Mine is stylishly fashioned to the side of my bed with duct tape because the clip isn't technically big enough for the railing, but it gets the job done. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that I would burst into flames at night without this baby. 
4) Similarly, a beside lamp: Again, I am in a lofted bed, so lamps that hang up in the air aren't very prevalent. Investing in a clip-on lamp is essential. I have a room mate who also likes her sleep, but I also want to go through flash cards in bed or read my bible in a more relaxed setting. This bad boy solved the problem. Now I don't have to worry about waking up my room mate from her slumbers and I also don't equate my desk with a place where relaxation goes to die. Sometimes it's nice to crawl into bed and study. 

5) Keeping along the same lines, a lap desk. This is something that I knew I needed before college and my sweet Nana actually got this for me for Christmas in 2013. To actually get into bed and do work requires some form of desk in a lot of cases, and this one is perfect for that. It also comes in handy when I go to do laundry and am waiting on my clothes to wash. I just take it with me and sit in the lounge and study why my laundry finishes up. Thanks Nana!
6) Finishing up with the things that can be used in bed, it's also beneficial to have a back rest(I'm not actually sure what these are called). It makes doing work in bed (or even just reading) a lot more comfortable. Again, thanks nana!
7) I lied, one last thing for your bed. If you are in a lofted bed, a mattress caddy is essential. Mine holds things like my retainer, my bible, my headphones, glasses, lotion, and phone. You don't really think about things you might need by your side in bed until you're suspended in the air without a night stand. I got this off of ebay for probably 8 bucks. (props to me for this sweet aerial view, right?)
8) A yoga mat. For the nights I don't really have time to go to the gym, I pull out my yoga mat and exercise in my dorm. Yoga not only is a great work out, but it also helps you de-stress. There are lots of videos on youtube specifically for college students. Its great for sleep, digestion, studying, you name it. It also is one of the only forms of exercise you can do in your dorm room. This was another item I got beforehand, actually as a graduation present, thanks to my brother. 
9) Dry Erase Markers: For engineers, this is so important. I invested in the 18 pack at Sams club because I use them that much. The library is covered in white boards, the study room in my dorm has one, I even have a small one in my room. I keep expo markers in storage, on my desk, and even in my backpack with me because you just never know. I use these probably every day. Great for doing math/chemistry. I swear by these. 
10) For my ladies, a jewelry carrier. This works so perfectly and I am so in love with it. If you are like me, you have lots of fashion jewelry and you are really stressing about how you are going to lug all of that bag and forth with you. I come to you with a solution: This holder comes with a hook. At school I leave it hanging on a command hook for easy access. It rolls up for travel, and in .5 seconds I have packed all of my jewelry to go home. It really is THAT simple. I keep earrings, headbands, hair bands, necklaces, and bobby pins in there and it works wonders. My nana got mine from 31 gifts and it is a life saver. 

11) Finally, A comfy chair. I use this one separate from my desk chair that comes in the dorm. I learned last semester that it is good to have places in your dorm for you to relax and unwind and without them you learn to hate your desk. I use this to watch the occasional movie or tv show mainly. It also works great with company. When not in use, it folds up and slips between my desk and the wall. It also looks super cool because its a BUNGEE chair! Cool, right? Unfortunately I think I raided every Target in Nashville looking for the last one in Middle Tennessee, so you might have to find a substitute. 

Of course, this list doesn't include the obvious. You know you need bedding and flash cards and pencils. These are just things that improved my life so much that  I realized I could not possibly live without them, no exaggeration there. Remember, you are moving away from home. This new place you are moving into is your new home, make it as comfortable and accommodating as possible. 

So, we have come to the conclusion of a very long blogpost. I hope you all are enjoying the last few months of your senior year. These months were by far my favorite ones, so take it all in and please do not rush to this moment. Senior year is very unique. I wish you all lots of success and happiness in your years to come and if you have any questions, want more advice, anything, please contact me. God bless!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Hope. LOTS of information that will help so many freshmen make the transition more easily. P.S. Love the aerial shot! lol