A Nerd’s Guide to Get Through College


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By: Andre Lopes Massa

It’s been a long time since the last time I’ve blogged here on the Historical Nerds. Since my last post, I have become a college graduate from George Mason University, experiencing the highs and lows of post-graduate life. For those that have read my posts on this blog from the time I founded it as a freshmen project all those years ago, I just want to thank you for persisting with me all this time and being patient with me. For new and old readers alike, since graduation, I have decided to become a teacher, with the aim of earning my Masters of Education to teach social studies in high school and eventually transitioning to becoming a college professor. Through much soul searching, I have found that helping to develop the next generation of critical thinkers is my calling in life, with the first step to realizing that dream coming next month when I take the Praxis II exam.

Anyways, you’ll see that my writing style will change a good deal from my previous content, from the sophisticated sounding, research heavy content belonging to the confines of a college paper to something more direct, with the purpose of lending advice from my personal experiences for various situations you may go through in your lives. For this week’s post, I’ll be giving advice on how to get through college so, by all means, read on if you happen to still live with the dreaded all nighter.

  1. Always have good time management

I can’t stress enough how much my performance in school improved because I finally learned to master this. Many times, college can pile so much stress on you that it becomes very tempting to take a break from work with an hour of Netflix, that then becomes two, and then three and so on until suddenly you realize that you only have 6 hours to do a paper that must be turned in at 10 a.m. the next morning. Next thing you know, you’re getting no sleep as you frantically try to piece together something respectable that might get you a C and then pray that your printer doesn’t have some kind of malfunction, like running out of ink because you didn’t have the time to check your printer and think of back-up plans just in case. If you’re wondering how I can describe this scenario with so much detail, it’s because this was my life multiple times in my early college career. Trust me when I say that the aftermath of it all wasn’t fun.

The best way to fix this is to realize that stress can be managed and conquered, that with enough belief in yourself, no situation will ever cause you to retreat to the world of Netflix or your favorite video game and forget that your assignments don’t exist. The one action that helped me immensely was that I went to my bookstore on campus and made an extra purchase each year with my textbooks; a weekly planner. Something as simple as that opened new doors to mastering time management. Take some time every Sunday to fill out your planner, laying out each day from when you have class, work, club meetings etc. That gives you an idea of when you can plan when you have time to study, do homework, and, yes, relax and hang out with friends. Trust me, your papers will turn out much better when you spend just an hour every two days working on the paper three weeks before it’s due then cramming the whole process in just a single night. And it’s a lot less stressful too, allowing me to really enjoy the authentic college experience too.

  1. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there

This is especially true if you happen to move out of your house and move a good deal away from your family. In just a short, few months, you have very little contact with those you once knew in high school and you may begin to feel homesick. It’s all well and good to go home for the weekend if you can to help in the early going but eventually it may hinder you in the long run from finding a group of friends that may last a lifetime.

Skip going home for a few weekends. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try to meet some new friends. Maybe attend the event that your campus may put together to have freshmen meet and begin to interact with your peers. Join a club, fraternity/sorority or a new activity you may have never tried before. College campuses literally have some kind of club for every interest, from sports groups for the athletically inclined to groups that may meet every Friday night for Dungeons and Dragons. My freshmen year, I joined a variety of clubs ranging from intramural soccer, to a gamer club, eventually settling and forging a career with the George Mason Debate Team where I made friends that I would even fly across multiple states to see. It all started with me confronting my introverted nature and the fears that come with it and putting myself out there. Do the same; you have nothing to lose and only potential lifelong friends to gain.

  1. Don’t be resistant to change. Welcome it instead

Plans are never set. As humans, we are always constantly changing, with new passions and goals. Our beliefs always change with those, and it’s not something you should fear. College is a wonderful opportunity to become exposed to new cultures, people, and a chance to immerse yourself in a wide array of literature from politics, to religion, to the sciences. When you graduate, you will not be the person you were as a freshman and that’s okay.

Always have an open mind. Listen to what others may say. Challenge yourself each day to talk and listen with an open mind to someone who may have different beliefs from you and actively look for literature and others who may disagree with you. This has the effect of allowing you to become more empathetic of others as you begin to understand why they have the beliefs they do, it makes you a better critical thinker as you become forced to defend yourself by delving into the complexities of argumentation, and you may even confront your own beliefs and change them because of that exposure. Coming into college, I could have been described as a Marxist, atheist, and, for those who have read this blog for a long time, that label may not fully encapsulate my beliefs. However, because I always kept an open mind, spoke and experienced cultures and beliefs that were different from mind, and being able to examine myself critically, I now have some beliefs that may lie on the “conservative” end of the political spectrum and I am much more open to the idea of religion being a force of good in the world. Don’t be afraid of walking at graduation a different person than you were when you started, for all we know that may be a good thing.

It feels damn good to be back. Hopefully these lessons can prove to help you all out. Stay tuned for more from me as I will try to post every Sunday. Till next time.

-Andre

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