Going back to college hacks
Do you want to go back to college? Are you an older learner who is returning to university studies with the goal of degree completion? Congratulations. This is probably one of the most exciting times of your life.
But let’s also be real.
Going back to college can also cause great anxiety. This point is particularly true if you are transitioning from lots of open time to a schedule that is highly structured.
As a college professor, I can tell you that just like students, faculty also struggle with getting back into the academic. End of summer and holiday breaks are two examples.
Given the topic, I’d like to share with you 7 success strategies for returning to school with an eye on stress reduction.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to use one or more of these to fit your specific situation. I encourage you to read them all in order to gain the maximum benefits.
Let’s jump right in!
1. Set limits on smart phone use
I’m listing this one first because it is probably the most difficult to manage on the list. According to recent research, college students spend a whopping 8-10 hours on their phone each day. The majority of time is gobbled up on social media and texting friends.
There’s nothing wrong with staying in touch. In fact, it can be healthy. The trick is to set limits. An example of this is scheduling 1-hour a day to respond to messages and interact on Facebook.
Other tips include:
- Deciding not to jump on social media as soon as you wake up. Instead, schedule that time for later in the day.
- Being mindful of how social media and texting can be a time sponge
- Placing smartphones out of view so they don’t act as a visual temptation
2. Master the Power of No
One of the hardest skills to learn in life is saying no to others. For college students, this ability can be super challenging. That’s because most learning environments are collaborative in nature. In turn, this makes us naturally want to help people in need.
That said, keep the following in mind. Someone else’s crisis is not your emergency. In other words, don’t be afraid to make yourself unavailable to others when necessary.
An example might be a friend who is going through lots of drama the night before you have a major test.
Saying no for college students also means:
- Being OK with skipping some social events
- Not volunteering for activities you don’t have time for
- Being OK with not responding to social media posts
3. Make your study area calming
The place where you study needs to be sacred. Think of it as an area where your mind absorbs knowledge and empowers your spirit. Ideally, this location will also spark creativity and renewal.
Some college students place soothing artwork or pictures on a wall to help them chillax. Others paint their rooms in warm colors, like browns and tans, to promote calmness. Think oceans, sky, clouds and mountains here.
- Having green plants around
- Keeping a well-organized area for writing, reading and research
- Minimizing outside distractions
4. Tuning out the news
Are you a news junkie? You wouldn’t be alone. A lot of college students (and faculty) are glued to the news like a moth to a flame.
While exposure to some news is important, it can also increase anxiety. Moreover, being too attached to current events can suck you into a rabbit hole of websites and stories.
To be successful in college, you’ll need to focus like a laser on learning concepts and constructs. This means taking time to process new material and then applying this knowledge through an assignment deliverable (i.e., an essay, exam, project).
By turning out the news, you reduce manic energy and promote inner calmness. That’s not to say you shouldn’t know what’s happening in the world. You should.
Just don’t let yourself get sucked into the daily news cycle.
5. Schedule time for fun
An obvious tip but none the less important to mention. Scheduling time for fun is critical to your success. That’s because “down time” helps to spark creativity.
Just as your body becomes exhausted after long periods of physical exertion, so does your brain. That’s why scheduling time for fun is important to your academic success.
Under this point, I encourage you to make chillaxing part of your daily schedule. It can’t be wall to wall studies after all. Otherwise, you’ll burn out.
Examples of scheduling fun include:
- A date with someone
- Spending time with friends or family
- Watching a movie or something on Netflix
6. Physical activity
There’s nothing worse than being tied to a desk with your nose in a book for hours on end. This is particularly true if you are studying material with concepts that are difficult to grasp.
That’s why you must schedule physical activity.
By getting in a little exercise, you help to pace yourself while allowing for mini-breaks. You don’t have to bang 10 bang out bench presses at the gym either. Small activities can do wonders.
Examples of physical activity include:
- A brisk walk around campus or the place you live for 15 minutes
- Resistance band work (see this YouTube video)
- Simple abdominal exercises or stretching
7. Avoid toxic relationships
The final tip is easier said than done. Here’s the thing. If you want to reduce stress as a college student, you’ve got to nix those toxic relationships.
For example – do you have a “friend” that seems to take more than they give? How about a relative who is constantly in need? Close to someone who regularly puts you down?
And if you can’t do that, at least limit interaction. That’s probably rough to hear but at the end of the day, you are the one trying to earn that degree. The last thing you need is toxic energy.
It’s OK to be selfish with this one. Don’t be afraid of cutting off people off who are unhealthy for you.
Summing Things Up
If you are looking for more helpful strategies as a student, I highly recommend reading the Secrets of College Success by Jacobs and Hyman.
Inside, you’ll find lots of practical advice from other students who have the same goal as you – degree completion!
College should be one of the most exciting times of your life. New knowledge, new insight, and new possibilities. Keep your spirits high and reduce stress as much as possible.
With the right attitude and a smart plan, you’ll be on your way to earning a credential that will benefit you for a lifetime.
Wood, J. (2015). College Students In Study Spend 8 to 10 Hours Daily on Cell Phone. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/08/31/new-study-finds-cell-phone-addiction-increasingly-realistic-possibility/74312.html