College is a tough undertaking. It can and should be a lot of fun. It is also an exciting time of finding your own way and becoming an adult. But it’s still hard work and if you blow it academically, chances are you’ll regret it. If you’re reading this article, then most likely you’re into fitness. Just like academics, if you ruin your health and workouts because of sloppy habits and too much junk food, you’ll most definitely regret that as well.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to attend a university and the opportunities that my education has afforded me ever since. Higher education is a privilege that not everyone is given, so make the most of it. Be appreciative, thankful and hard working and success will follow.
Here are some tips that can help you succeed in the classroom, stay healthy in a pretty unhealthy environment and still have a great time.
1. Forget about dating.
Yeah, I know, this one is a bit controversial but hear me out. You’re pretty sure that dating hot girls is an essential part of the college experience. But here’s the truth: You have the rest of your life to meet and date beautiful women. That is, unless you’re stuck working long hours at one or two jobs because you pissed away your education in favor of going out with a different girl every night.
Even having a relationship can really lead you off-course. Even great relationships take time away from your priorities and if a relationship ends or has problems, it can kill your motivation.
Throughout university I lived with more than fourteen roommates over the course of four years and I witness my roomies struggle with school because of unnecessary stress their relationships brought to the table.
Believe me; I understand that it’s hard to think about NOT dating when you’re surrounded by great-looking girls. At the University of Western Ontario, now called Western University (in London, Ontario), the Three-Second Rule was firmly in place: Every three seconds, you were guaranteed to see a hot female. Take it in, enjoy it and use it for motivation, and leave it at that. Think about it this way; if you focus and do what’s necessary now (studying), you will have more freedom and flexibility to do what you want later in life and with far less stress. Besides, it’s a lot easier and less stressful to date when you have the money to go where you want instead of the local pizza joint. The good job that comes from doing well in college gives you that freedom.
Now, I’m not saying don’t go out on a few dates here but I do believe that if you don’t plan on buying, why even go shopping? In university, I had no intention of getting into a serious relationship with a girl because I had way too many other goals of higher importance at the time. How did it all work for me? I got engaged on my thirtieth birthday, married and have a beautiful baby girl now. I am very happy I focused on my education, than career and than a girl. Now, everyone has a different story and mine is not the “right one” but I certainly think it was a wise path.
2. Schedule your workouts and schedule them wisely.
One of the benefits (and potential drawbacks) of college is that you are in charge of your own time. No one is going to look over your shoulder or remind you of everything you need to do every day. It’s up to you to schedule your time properly and if you can make sure your butt is in class every day, you can also make sure you get to the gym.
It’s a fact that we are much more likely to show up for something if we schedule it and actually write it down or put it in on the calendar in our phone. Schedule your workout time and stick to it just like it’s a class. It’s also important to schedule it so your time is maximized. Try not to schedule a time when everybody else is out of class and hitting the gym too (times like 5pm – 7pm). Not only are you likely to spend most of your time waiting for machines, but when it’s too crowded people tend to socialize instead of work out. If the busy time is the only time that works for you, make sure you stick to your workout plan and avoid the social happy hour.
The best time to hit the gym on campus is before 8am or after 8pm. Lunch time can be good as well. You want to get in there when it’s quiet, the serious athletes are working out (instead of a bunch of people distracting you with chatter), and you’re more likely to get through your workout.
Warning: Many gyms turn into a fashion show around 5-7pm and the girls get dolled out to the max, it’s actually quite a sight. Although it’s great if you want to get a solid neck work, it’s not going to help you pack on fifteen pounds of solid muscle in your first semester.
3. Be smart financially.
The years spent at the university are going to be a time when you form many lifelong habits. Whether those habits are helpful or harmful is up to you. One of the best habits you can develop during your college years is smart money management.
I graduated from the university completely debt-free. I did that partly by working my butt off every summer. My parents matched whatever I made during the summer, so I worked two jobs every single summer. I worked as a mason, a framer on residential construction sites, worked on an assembly line building motor homes, and even sold Cutco Cutlery. And on top of that, I trained 1-2 hours a day in preparation for the upcoming cross-country season. My social life was work and running practice but I didn’t care and I was focused on my goals.
Yes, it was hard work. My summer wasn’t the two-month party some of my other friends were having, but those friends were all broke through college and then graduated with thousands of dollars-worth of debt that takes years to pay off!
Another thing that really helped me financially was budgeting using the envelope system. Every month, I decided how much cash I wanted to spend during the month and divided that up into envelopes marked “Food”, “Entertainment”, “Clothing” and so on. When the envelope was empty, I was done spending on that category for the month. This system helped me learn to budget and not using a debit or credit card kept me from accidentally overspending. There were certain weekends where the Entertainment envelope was empty which made my weekend plans easy. If people asked, “Vince, you coming out tonight?” And I would reply, “I have no cash. If you’re paying the tab, I’m in, otherwise count me out tonight.” If I had cash leftover in the entertainment envelope, I would enjoy a fun night out with a few beverages J
4. Hang out with the smart people.
If you’re thinking “smart people” is a euphemism for “losers”, you couldn’t be more wrong. Smart people are the successful people of tomorrow. Being smart also doesn’t mean that you can’t be a jock, popular with women, or fun to be around. Smart people come in all sizes and they’re the people you should be hanging out with, for several reasons.
Smart people tend to have really good organizational skills and study habits, and typically enjoy sharing them with other smart people. You might be surprised at the difficulty level of some of your classes and at the sheer volume of work you’ll be doing. This isn’t high school. You’re going to have to step up your game and get serious. Your smart friends can give you some great tips on taking notes, studying for exams, scheduling long-term projects and assistance with other academic resources.
Smart people are also a lot more understanding of your academic priorities. When your friends are the people who are studying hard and getting good grades, they’re going to be a lot more willing to let you do the same. The partying dude down the hall from you isn’t going to care about studying. He’s going to try to get you to stop studying for that exam the next day and go out for a few beers. That kind of pressure is hard to fight day in and day out, so avoid it altogether. You can still go out and have fun. Smart people do it when their work is done.
Smart people can also be extremely motivating. When your friends place a high value on doing well academically, it’s easy to get excited about doing that for yourself too. It helps to have a little friendly competition. If your friends are getting failing marks in their classes, you will settle for less and be happy just to pass. If your friends are excelling, it pushes you to excel too.
Four of my roommates in second year all ended up going to med school and are now doctors. Living with roommates who were excelling and going someplace really drove me to be better. If I didn’t live with those guys I probably would have ended up with lower overall grades. Go find the smart people and make them your friends!
5. Go to the library, go to the library, go to the library.
I cannot stress this enough. Your dorm room or the dining hall is a terrible place to study. If you’re in your dorm, your roommate(s) will be distracting you with conversation, the TV, music, video games and invitations to go out. Even if you have a single room, if you’re in your dorm room studying, you can be interrupted several times by different people stopping by. As far as the dining hall and other open areas, they’re filled with distractions, noise and excuses to slack off. In four years of university, I don’t think I ever studied in my dorm room or house. I always went to the library; there was something magical about that place.
Also, your dorm room should be a place where you can relax, rest, socialize and recharge. You shouldn’t be spending hours studying three feet from your bed (which is another temptation in itself). Save your dorm room as your sanctuary and study in a place that’s designed for it.
The library is a place to study and by going there you mentally prepare yourself to buckle down. It’s the same principle as going to the gym to work out.
The library is also the optimum place to study because it is quiet and has the space and resources you need to study well.
You will have the table or desk space you need, reference materials, good lighting, computers and more when you go to the library. Plus, you have the benefit of being out in a public space, a different environment, instead of being secluded in your room which sometimes can cause fatigue.
To help with fatigue and mental blocks, you can spend 50 minutes of every hour studying and 10 minutes taking a break. Studies show that you will be able to focus better and retain more information if you take a break every hour. So go outside and get some fresh air, have a healthy snack, stretch your legs and go to the bathroom, then get back to studying feeling refreshed and ready to go.
These are five of some of the best tips I know and practiced myself for doing well in college and staying healthy and fit at the same time. If you follow these tips, you will have a much better chance of being a successful student and enjoying your college years at the same time. I have more great tips for being a successful student in part two of this article so stay tuned.
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