I am not good at school. If you’re looking for advice on how to get all As, make the Dean’s List, or cram for finals, this is not the place to look. The advice I do have to offer, however, I hope will help you not only in college but throughout your life afterwards.
First thing’s first: practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of keeping yourself in the present moment and not thinking about anything that does not exist directly in front of you or around you. It’s about being aware of your surroundings and nothing else. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed when you think about the amount of studying and homework you have to do in college. When you add a job on top of that and then friends and family on top of that, too, it can seem like a heavy burden. What you need to remember is that what you actually carry on your shoulders is nothing. Look around. There is nothing but air. Even if your aspirations are to cure cancer or win the Nobel Prize you need to give yourself a moment every now and then to be free of your own expectations. When you’re sitting on the bus or driving your car, you are traveling, nothing else. When you’re sitting in your biology class don’t think about your math class, because you’re not there. Taking one thing at a time is not something you just say. It’s something you have to actually learn to do, so be patient with yourself.
The poet Maya Angelou once said, “People might forget what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” It’s hard to know how you come across to other people sometimes, but it’s important because people take things really personally. It’s easy to get caught up in our own stuff and we might take for granted that if we seem mad one day, other people will just assume that it’s because our mom shrunk our favorite t-shirt in the wash or our boyfriend borrowed our car and used all the gas. They don’t know any of these things and they will assume you are mad at them and they won’t understand why. And it does matter what other people think of you. You can be one of those people who go around saying they don’t care what people think as a way of justifying your behavior, but people remember all the things you don’t want them to. Remember to smile and be kind.
Respect your body, don’t drink too much coffee. This might seem counterintuitive because coffee is supposed to help us get things done, but after a certain point it can actually hinder you. The same goes for Adderall. Any kind of stimulant will raise your levels of cortisol which increases your stress and anxiety. Anxiety is exhausting. Next time you think you’re so tired you absolutely cannot function without a fourth cup of coffee, think about the fact that you’re probably just tired from being so stressed out. And then take a minute to be mindful.
Girls: STOP DIETING. NOW. If you are on a diet, STOP. You are spending too much of your energy thinking about what you eat and what you look like. You have so much more to offer the world than your body, and you are so much more important than what you put in your mouth. You are not fat, lazy, weak, or worthless. You are beautiful and you are alive, so live.
The most technical advice I have to offer is to remember the value of the first draft. Don’t be a perfectionist. Allow yourself to make mistakes, you can always go back later and revise things. Form should always come before detail. And believe me, I know how easy it is to get bogged down in the details. I cannot count the number of projects I’ve given up on because it didn’t come out absolutely perfect from the start. Think about all the things you’ve had to learn to do in your life. How many of those things did you get right the first time? When you were little you couldn’t even pour your own cereal. You must do a thing over and over again until it becomes a reflex. As you grow up you might feel that your intellect should make up for your lack of muscle memory, but it doesn’t. Keep trying.
My last bit of advice is simple: Always make sure you get enough sleep. Everything else can wait.