Freshmen should balance work and play

The estimated 3,250 freshmen new to VCU may feel a bit the way Columbus did stepping off his ship and planting his foot on an unknown land 511 years ago.

They probably feel excitement and anxiety, as well as a lump of confusion. Where is the Temple Building anyway?

I’m willing to bet most of them have two goals in mind: How do I pass my classes? How can I have fun while achieving the first goal?

To pass their classes freshmen need to realize that college courses and the professors differ from the educational format of high school.

The professors will not call your parents if you don’t show up for class or if your grades slip. They will not hold your hand and ask you to do well.

“If you want to do well in college, you need to take your classes seriously. This means that you should go to class and do assigned reading regularly,” wrote Indiana University student Ambrosia on the Indiana University website.

Unless you can generate insights that would make Stephen Hawking flinch, you will need to study. It’s a simple fact.

Group study helps, just as long as the group doesn’t end up drinking round after round of Bloody Marys to cap the session. At least wait until after you take the test.

Also, it helps to keep organized.

“Sometimes it helps to make a schedule of all of your assignments so that you know what you are responsible for. It is definitely a good idea to use a planner of some sort,” Ambrosia wrote later in the piece.

You could also, after receiving the syllabus, mark all the test dates on a calendar and then you would see the approaching tests weeks ahead of time.

When Thomas Jefferson designed the Rotunda, sometimes called the most beautiful building in the United States, at the University of Virginia, he made the domed part of the building a library. It has been rumored that he did this so that when students danced with one another in the building they could not help but see the books and be reminded of their studies.

The organizer and calendar work essentially the same way. Though less elegantly moving, they allow students to engage in leisure activities while being reminded of their obligations to academic achievement.

So work hard, study hard and attend all the classes. If the students do all three of these they will be well on their way to achieving academic success.

Now it’s time to move on to the leisure part of the college experience, and to return to Columbus and his sailors.

The sailors were a hard-working lot, and when the job was finished they wanted to party as heavily as they could. While Columbus’s men weren’t around long enough to let their palate taste grog, they certainly had other spirits to loosen tense muscles and lower stress.

In many ways, little has changed since their day.

College students should attend social gatherings and meet new people. Meeting a diverse group of individuals and exploring their personalities can enrich a student’s mind just as a lecture in a classroom does.

For many students social gatherings may also be therapeutic. Extroverts, of which all accounts suggest to be around 75 percent of the population, can gain energy by socializing with people. One Carl Jung site uses the term “people-recharging” to describe this effect.

However, freshmen should approach the social gatherings with caution. There is no need to attend every party you hear about. If those 21-year-old freshmen do decide to imbibe alcohol, drink leisurely rather then guzzling pitchers filled with beer. People’s interest in you will only be comically related if you lose control of your motor skills. And they won’t be laughing with you.

For all the freshmen out there experiencing their first days of college, good luck.

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