Advice To My University Freshman Self + Spreadsheet Template

I’m surprised I’m not feeling the disgruntled pull of back-to-school season. This is my first year not going into school once September hits, so I half expected that I’d be itching to get on a bus or go to a campus and get in a classroom. But I’m not.

I’m thinking about the most recent school experience I had: university. I wish I had gone into university with the right mindset—seeking higher education—instead of the wrong impulse—getting out of my childhood home and being “independent.” Nobody in family really did the university thing (and if they did, they weren’t around to mentor me through my last year of high school, which was filled with grief and angst). So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my freshman self, after I’ve done the undergraduate program.

Get your mental health checked out before you have a breakdown.

Seriously, Coryl. You’ll fail a class, scrape by in three others that are prerequisites for the rest of your degree, and you’ll get yourself on academic probation. Your mental health matters and when you’re barely sleeping, abusing alcohol, and not doing anything aside from resisting the call of the void… you need help.

Compile all of your class syllabi into one master spreadsheet/calendar.

Use it. Plan your time. You’ll go through weeks where you have nothing due, and you’ll slack off. And then the next few weeks will be a bloodbath of assignments, tests, readings, and presentations. Hindsight is 20/20, but foresight isn’t half bad either. Here’s a handy Google spreadsheet, based off the ones that older (more successful) Coryl used each semester.

Speak up in class, even if you’re not entirely right.

A good professor—hell, even a decent one—will be able to take your half-baked answer and continue lecturing off of that, and your classmates will already be more interested if they hear someone speak other than your prof. You know all those times the lectures dragged on? That’s because the prof was trying to get you guys to supply some information or questions. Plus, there’s bound to be a participation grade and your prof will remember you (and ask your name, you’ll never get used to saying your name out loud and having to repeat it). You’ll also digest the information better because you gave some input.

Don’t leave things to the last minute—studying, reading, essays.

This is something everyone says, but honestly, when you’re in a double concentration program that has two different languages, nearly a book’s-worth of reading each week, and linguistic studies, all with multi-faceted methods of learning (presentations, essays, quizzes, you name it)—you can’t leave shit to the last minute. You literally are not able to read an entire Shakespeare play in one morning. Your reading speed and your typing speed are not high enough for you to be able to do it all in one shot the night before.

Stop drinking.

It’s not worth it. You’ll gain weight. You’ll develop an addiction you knew you’d get, even before you tasted vodka, and you’ll create a persona with your drunk behaviour that other people will assume is your true personality. You’re not Drunk Coryl. You’re Coryl and when you’re drunk, you’re more like Manic Coryl—and Manic Coryl is not a healthy Coryl.

You got this, Coryl. You didn’t have it when you were a freshman, but you’ll have it by the time you finish.

Now the only things I need to do are stop worrying about my debt and continue plowing forward to reaching my goals.