In Part One of this two-part post, I gave you some tips on dating, studying and smart financial management during your university years. In this second part, I have some more sound advice for you on making the most of your college years and being the most successful student you can be while still having a good time.
College should be fun and exciting, but there’s nothing fun about stressing out because you’re unhealthy, failing your classes or behind on your work. If you start building good habits and you stick to your priorities, you’ll have the time, energy and peace of mind to enjoy your friends and your freedom too. So here are some more of my best tips for being a successful student.
6. Party hearty? Bull. Party smart!
Yes, you should have a good time with your friends while at college. And you will have a million opportunities to do so. But this can be a real drawback. Every night somebody is going to be doing something (other than studying) and they will want you to join in. Let me tell you, if you want to go out every single night of the week, it is certainly possible because you will always know someone doing something that can distract you from your studies or workouts. But you need to focus on what you’re in college for; building a future for yourself.
Limit your partying to Friday or Saturday night (not both) and only if your work is done. There are always people studying on Friday and Saturday nights so you won’t feel like you’re missing out. Don’t rationalize that you need a break and can make up the time on Sunday. Finish studying for your exams, get all of your assignments done, make sure you’re on schedule with long-term projects and then give yourself a break.
As a varsity athlete for four years, almost every single weekend we were traveling to a race. We would leave on a Friday morning and usually come back Sunday morning or Sunday night so I missed out on quite a few parties but I had bigger goals, I was competing and representing my university on the track team and cross country team.
Not only will you be up to date on all of your work, but you’ll enjoy yourself more when you do go out because you won’t have obligations hanging over your head or waiting for you when you get back. Trust me, there’s nothing relaxing about going out with your friends and staying out until 2am if all you’re thinking about is whether or not you’re going to fail that exam tomorrow.
7. You booze, you lose.
University campuses are known for being party central. Aside from going out to clubs or hanging out with friends who have a case of beer hidden under their beds, you’ll find a thousand opportunities to drink. People who own bars and liquor stores are smart. They know that the few blocks surrounding college campuses are a gold mine, so you will see booze everywhere you look. But be very, very careful.
It’s way too easy to develop a drinking problem and even if your drinking doesn’t become a serious issue, it will destroy your health and get in the way of your college success. Plus, even if you just do cheap nights, it’ll make you broke very fast.
It’s really hard to do well in your classes if you’re hung over from the night before. Drinking dehydrates you and depletes your body of vital nutrients and hydration that you need for optimal brain function. Plus, you miss half a day of studying because you slept in.
Drinking also wreaks havoc on your looks. All those calories in your cocktail or beer are useless. They have no nutritional value, but the calories add up fast. This means they end up as stored fat. You might work out three to six times a week at the gym, but if you’re drinking hundreds of empty calories you’re working out for nothing.
So have a beer or a little wine every now and then or for special occasions, but forget about the keg parties and two-for-one drinks during happy hour. Those are not your friends.
8. Find a workout partner and set realistic fitness goals.
It’s always a good idea to have a workout partner, but no time is better than during your college years. There are just so many excuses and opportunities to slack off with your workouts. You need someone with the same mindset and some of the same goals to keep you on track and accountable.
If you don’t already have a friend on campus who works out, then find someone at the gym, on your sports team, or even by putting an ad up on one of the college bulletin boards. A good workout partner will share at least some of your fitness goals workout activities. If you’re doing a lot of weight-training for size and strength, your partner shouldn’t be focused solely on spinning classes or cardio. If your workout partner is trying to lose fifty pounds and you’re trying to gain twenty, you might not be a good match.
Your workout partner doesn’t have to be your twin, but you should have enough similarities and enough differences to make it work. If you have trouble getting motivated to go to the gym, a really disciplined workout partner may be just what you need. If you’re just learning about strength-training, then someone a little more advanced could help you out or vice versa.
All my roommates were into bodybuilding in university and they would often take me to the gym with them and if I wasn’t a runner trying to stay lean and mean, I could have made some great muscle gains because of their accountability.
9. Know and act on your priorities.
When I was at the university, my priorities were doing well in my classes and in my athletic activities and graduating debt-free. I focused on those three priorities and my actions followed suit. I went to (almost) every class unless, even the ones that almost put me to sleep. I paid attention and didn’t mess around. I studied hard and I did my work. Those actions matched my first priority and I met my goal of getting a good education.
I worked out, trained and ate smart, and did my absolute best in athletics. By my fourth year of University I was named Captain of the University of Western Cross Country team and lead my team to a Top 5 finish at the provincial championships. Those actions matched my second priority and I did very well.
I used the envelope system to budget my money, worked two jobs every summer, and stayed away from debit and credit cards. Those actions matched my third priority and I graduated without the stress and expense of being thousands of dollars of debt. I was able to start making and saving money immediately upon entering the fitness industry after graduation.
Focusing on and following my priorities was hard work sometimes and sometimes it meant that I skipped what I wanted to do because I did what I needed to. But I still had a great time in college. I just scheduled my fun around my priorities.
If you don’t have a plan, you will have a very hard time meeting your goals and making your dreams for your future a reality. If you have a plan then everything turns into chaos. Lay out your three or four top priorities for your college years and then write down what habits, disciplines and actions match those priorities. Schedule these things first and schedule your fun around those priorities.
10. Make smart nutritional choices.
If you have a poor diet, it will affect every area of your college life. You’ll look awful and therefore lack confidence in social situations and other areas of your life. You will have very little energy, which means you will spend more time napping than studying, working out or even having fun. Your brain won’t be able to function well on a poor diet, which affects your studies.
Unfortunately, college campuses are like minefields of poor nutrition, although some campuses are getting better. While you will find a few healthy options on the dining hall menu, you’ll have to bypass a lot of land mines to get to them.
Dining hall buffet lines are loaded with casseroles and cream sauces, fatty sandwiches filled with processed meats, pasta dishes galore, pizza, hot dogs and a lot of other garbage. The dessert table is often bigger than the vegetable table.
Aside from the unhealthy foods being served in the dining hall, you have snack shops, pizza places and vending machines everywhere on a college campus. That’s not even counting all the food-oriented activities with your friends.
You can eat a healthy diet on campus and still enjoy some treats, but you have to make good choices 95% of the time and take some steps to avoid temptation.
Most colleges allow you to have a mini-fridge in your room. Get one and stock it with healthy foods like almond milk, low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, pre-cooked chicken breast or skinless thighs, some cooked shrimp. Focus on healthy proteins and fats that will curb your hunger.
You should also have a blender on top of your fridge to whip up healthy smoothies and protein shakes. Have one for breakfast and you’ll be able to sleep in a little longer or hit the gym instead of waiting in line at the dining hall to get dried out scrambled eggs. Keep a bowl of fiber-rich fruits such as apples, pears and bananas for a sweet snack or a pop of energy. Mix up some walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds and keep them handy in your room and in your backpack so you won’t be tempted when you pass the nearest vending machine. All of these things will help you fill up a bit (with nutrient-dense foods) before you hit the dining hall, so that you can make healthier choices when you get there.
You should still enjoy going out for pizza or wings with your friends now and then, but moderation is key. It shouldn’t be every night and when you do know you’re going out, you should have a healthy snack about 30 minutes before you go. Eat an apple and a handful of nuts before you leave and you’ll still have enough appetite for pizza but you won’t scarf down the large by yourself because you’re starving.
I hope you have an amazing time attending the university. You should; it’s a great time of life and it’s also the last few years before you have to start taking on a lot of added work and responsibility. Following these tips will help you enjoy college while succeeding.
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