We are so excited to have so many familiar faces back on campus, and all of the new ones as well! This semester is going to look far different than any before, so some of the professors in the psychology department are here to offer up their best advice from when they were undergraduates!
-Get organized. Build a schedule but leave plenty of extra time because things often take longer than you may expect.
-Ask for help, even if it is embarrassing.
-Prioritize assignments and other things that you want to accomplish. That way if something comes up and you can’t do it all, you will know what to focus on. Relatedly, pay attention to the syllabus and how much each assignment is worth. If time is short, don’t waste time on things that are not worth that much, focus on doing a good job on the things that count.
-Have fun. Most of you will look back on this time as one of the best times of your life. Get out there, make friends, take risks (safely).
-Talk to your professors, and don’t wait until the situation is desperate. We are human.
-Try to set good habits from the beginning. It’s a lot easier to form a good habit than to break a bad one, and I say that as someone who is trying to break a couple of them.
-And something I often find myself telling students who’ve messed up, even in a big way: admit you made a mistake, ask what you have learned from this (I sometimes learn that I need more sleep) and then move forward. Don’t keep beating yourself up about the mistake other than to remind yourself that you don’t want to make it again.
-Say yes to more things that make you nervous/a little scared. I have learned so much from doing things that initially scared me. Sometimes fear is trying to help us learn things about ourselves and the only way to learn it is to lean into that discomfort (within reason obviously)
-Invest more in other people. I was very driven (as I know our psych students are as well) and sometimes I chose to pursue academic/career goals over relational goals. I have come to recognize that relationships provide meaning to everything else we do and I sometimes wish I had said yes more often to late nights, last minute trips, coffee meetups, etc., instead of working.
-Be kind to yourself. Set lofty goals but also be nice to yourself when you fall short. Failing is part of learning and growing…not something to be avoided but a step along the way.
-Go to class! Even if you think you can keep up with the readings and learning on your own, it’s helpful to keep yourself on track and keep up to date on any announcements if you go to class every day. Honestly, sometimes I would sit in class and do homework for other classes, balance my checkbook, or write love letters to my girlfriend (it was easier to get away with such things at a large state school), but I felt better prepared for each of my classes when I attended them regularly.
-Talk to your professors! At first I didn’t speak to my professors, then I pestered them with questions after class that challenged half of the psychology studies presented in the slides, and finally I learned to attend office hours and have a more civil conversation. Your professors are passionate about the topics they teach and would love to help you learn the material better and most likely know some other ways to present the material than what was done in class, so use office hours to chat and/or learn.
-Talk to students in your class! As a student I was a weird mix of quiet/shy/isolated thinker who tended to sit in the back and not talk to anyone combined with class-clown/passing notes/whispering jokes, depending on the topic and whether I had friends in class. However, I learned to enjoy the friendships that developed by talking to students before or after class that I didn’t know going into the semester. Oftentimes we ended up studying together or inviting each other to parties, but it was nice even to just chit-chat with someone to feel more connected to the class.
-Seek out professors who do work that’s interesting to you, and find a way to work for/with them. It’s amazing how those experiences help shape and reveal your interests, and how they can translate into opportunities later.
-Learn how to go to bed at a reasonable hour. It turns out a lot of stuff happens before 10am.
-Always get apartments on the top floor of the building. That way the neighbors can never stomp on the floor when you make the slightest bit of noise. That’s the worst
This semester is uncharted, but the advice offered by some of our professors will help us all make it through! Also, remember to have grace for yourself and your professors, because we are all trying to figure this out and no one has all of the right answers. Good luck Maroons!