The new semester is upon you. Perhaps you are three months removed from high school. Maybe you are looking to start a new career and haven’t been inside a classroom (other than your third grader’s) in a number of years. No matter. The challenge ahead is real, and you have a decision. You have to decide how to approach this opportunity. Will you treat it like dark clouds sweeping over the hills or will you embrace it, hoping to gain as much as possible in the process?
Attitude is Everything
Sure, it’s a cliché, but it’s mostly true. Having a positive attitude is essential. It’s not really everything, but it’s a big deal. I think a lot of people have the wrong idea when it comes to having a positive attitude. Being positive doesn’t mean you have to walk around with a big, goofy grin on your face all of the time, and it doesn’t mean you have to dedicate large swaths of time to listing the good things in your life. You don’t even have to walk around whispering, “I think I can, I think I can,” over and over again. The first step is to just make sure that you aren’t assuming the worst. When you’re given a task, don’t assume you can’t do it well. Instead, take a deep breath and decide how to conquer it.
Embrace Time Management
It’s early in the semester. Sure, you have a number of reading assignments (which you should absolutely complete), but the really time-consuming assignments haven’t started yet. Now is your chance to plan. You might think that this is the sort of skill that can’t be learned, that you either are or are not good at managing your time. I’m no expert on the science behind why some people seem to be experts at this while others struggle, but I can tell you that I have improved greatly over the years. I wish I had realized the value of managing my tasks much earlier in my life.
Getting all of your due dates and other obligations in one place for quick reference will go a long way toward minimizing your stress over the next 4+ months. It doesn’t mean you won’t scramble or struggle at times, but it should keep you from overlooking important tasks if you are diligent.
I recommend using whatever low-cost resources you have at your disposal. For people who want to depend on electronics, the Google Calendar that is a component of your MAC email address is a great starting point. It syncs well with most smartphones and can be used across different device platforms seamlessly. Organizing different aspects of your life in the calendar can help you be where you need to be with what you need to have. Alternatively, the Student Planner is available in the bookstore at a very low cost to students. It already has a large number of MAC events printed in it to keep you informed of important dates. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.
If you’re not sure how to tackle the time management aspect of college, you can come by The Learning Center, and one of our staff members can discuss realistic approaches to budgeting your time. And on the subject of being realistic…
Know Your Resources
There is one of those conveniently sharable quotes that circulates on social media that really rings true here: “I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.” This quote, and a large number of variations, has been attributed to a wide variety of famous people (most likely this is a Mae West original) and applied to a variety of situations. Hopefully, you are enrolled this semester because you believe it will be worth it. But that doesn’t mean it will always be easy. As you work through each task, remember the end goal and the reasons that you are here. It’s unrealistic to believe that it will never be hard. And when it is tough, it’s important to know what resources you have available.
So what resources are available? For academic challenges, visiting with your instructor during office hours is a great place to start. Checking in with the Learning Center to see how they might be able to help is a smart move as well. Additionally, there is a wonderful program called EXCEL at MAC that offers tutoring, academic advising, and guidance on financial aid and transfer.
Many students don’t realize that MAC offers free, confidential personal counseling. This service is invaluable to students and employees at MAC. There are a wide variety of reasons someone might visit our counselor because there are so many benefits to meeting with one. I visit with him often, and it really keeps me balanced and lowers my stress. Stopping by Student Services to make an appointment or just viewing the counseling resources are both great options for anyone. Remember the goal is to know what the resource is before you need to use it, so that you don’t have to find the resource once you are in need.
Finally, it’s important to jump in. This could mean attacking every task head on, joining one of the many clubs and organizations MAC offers, or just striking up conversations with students around you. Regardless of the approach, the goal is the same: Be an active participant in the experience ahead of you. You can decide now to get the most out of the next couple of years. It will make a remarkable difference.