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Speak up and find balance: suggestions for college students

Now that October is here, students are getting close to being halfway through this first semester of the school year.

My school days are well behind me now (next May marks a whole decade since I finished college at Elon University), but I still find myself thinking about those days every once and a while. There are plenty of things I think I’d do differently if I had to attend college all over again.

Here are a few things I wished I’d known before heading to college, and a few bits of advice I’d give to current college students. Maybe some of it will be helpful to someone.

Firstly, try your best to find a balance between schoolwork and fun.

Any movie or TV show will show college as Party Central, where you can get into a lot of trouble while having a good time. But that’s not every person’s college experience. It certainly wasn’t mine, because I much preferred an evening in my dorm room watching movies with a friend or two.

For some people, the party scene IS what they seek out, and they’re so hungover all the time that they barely bother to attend class or do their schoolwork. For others, they can be so focused on getting good grades and doing stuff that’ll look good on a resume that they miss out on fun social events because there’s just no time in their schedule to take a break.

It may take some trial and error, but try to learn when to take a break from studying to have some fun, and learn when to turn down an invitation to party so that you don’t have to spend all night writing that important midterm paper. That’s a good way to get a well-rounded college experience.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors.

They have designated “office hours” for a reason! That’s time specifically set aside for students to come to them with concerns or questions, especially if they’re struggling with something. And it’s a good way to simply connect with your professor too.

When I headed off to college, I didn’t even really consider that asking questions of my teachers outside of class was possible. I was the kind of student who learned everything by reading my textbook, and if you didn’t get everything you needed from that, then tough luck! Also, I was quite shy back in those days too, so asking for help was not even something I thought about.

So I missed out on those extra interactions with my professors. I missed out on extra advice or guidance. There were one or two professors I did talk more with, but it really took until my last year of school to feel comfortable reaching out.

Teachers can be good mentors, but not if you never talk to them.

Thirdly, step outside of your college campus every now and then!

At Elon, it was so easy to stay in the campus “bubble” all the time. I could go to class, eat all my meals, and even check my mail without ever venturing out to the surrounding area. But during my last year of college, I served as a youth leader at a church in downtown Burlington. That pushed me to meet more people in the community and explore parts of the town I had rarely visited before.

There was so much I was missing out on, and I had no idea! The people at the church, for example, had restaurant recommendations for me that I’d never even heard of. It was a nice change of pace than being on or close to campus all the time. I wish I had been adventurous enough to explore earlier.

Lastly, never say no to free food.

In addition to education, college is also full of free food. Seriously, any good event or club meeting will feature snacks or pizza or maybe even a full meal. How can anyone turn that down??

Truthfully, this is one of the things I already knew before attending college. But what I discovered along the way is that sharing a meal is a great opportunity to meet people and to bring those people together. The food is just a bonus!

So if you’re having trouble meeting new friends, try attending an event with free food. Discussing how good (or terrible) the food is can be a great conversation starter.

These are just a few general bits of advice since the college experience is different for anyone who chooses to attend. Good luck to all the students out there as the year continues (even with all the added difficulties of the ongoing pandemic). Study hard but have fun too!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.