I’m going into my third year at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. Sadly, I did not pass the requirements to get into my third year immediately, so I have a repeat of the second year. When I went into my education, I was a happy go-lucky guy who saw no problems whatsoever. After two years, I’m still happy but I have learned that sometimes, you need to be careful. So, if you’re going to start your college life, here are some tips from the field that I have gathered over the past two years.
Tip #1: Sign up for all your courses and tests
This might sound like simple advice. It’s not. At my college we have to manually sign up for all of our courses. When you sign up for a course, you are automatically signed up for the test. If you fail the test, however, you can sign up for a re-sit. A few of my classmates (and myself, as well) have forgotten to sign up for the re-sit, making sure we wouldn’t be able to pass the class for that year anymore. Don’t do this. Keep it up with written lists. Write down every subject that you sign up for, and if you pass or fail the first test. Check that you are signed up for everything, courses and re-sits, before the deadline of signing up is over.
Tips #2: Pick your project-partners, wisely.
Group projects are a requirement for every course. You will learn how to do academic research in preparation for your final thesis, as well learn how to work in group projects. The first thing you might learn is that group projects are horrible. Unless you carefully select your project partners, you will find out just which of your classmates are the annoying, lazy, non-working ones are… right before you have to hand in your project.
Some lessons you may learn is that friends don’t make the best project partners. It happens. Don’t let it ruin your friendship, just find someone else to work with. Learn with who you’ve got a good working relationship with.
Also, if you don’t know who the lazy friend in your project-group is, it’s probably you.
Tips #3: Do the work. Seriously.
Sometimes you may think that things are easy. You don’t do much work, yet you still receive good grades. If you had this mindset in high school, it’s easy to transfer it back to college. Don’t. You will quickly learn that, while some subjects may come easy to you, others definitely will not. Also, portfolios. Portfolios are easy work, most of the time. They become a gargantuan task when you have to finish one in 24 hours.
Don’t procrastinate the work you have to do. Do tiny bits and pieces every day, fill up that portfolio slowly and you will thank yourself later.
Tip #4: Don’t complain. Give constructive feedback.
Things will never go smoothly during your (planned) four-year tenure at a college. You will go either through reconstructions of the curriculum, your internships may not go through properly or any other bureaucratic screw-ups will be a cause for annoyance and concern. My internship was messed up, twice, during my first two years of college. Our college arranges for you to be placed at a middle/high school, so we couldn’t search for our own places. Knowing this I let go of a sure thing, where eventually one of my classmates was placed. So I was internship-less for the first few weeks. I got annoyed, but instead of complaining and bitching about it, I discussed the circumstances. After a while they found me an internship placement because of the way it was handled in the beginning. The second year they messed up my placement again. This time, I went into a lengthy conversation with the head of the internshipbureau at our school to discuss what went wrong and where it went wrong. We calmly conversed and they took my feedback to heart and decided to make changes. If I would’ve gone in swearing, what good would’ve done it to either them or me?
Moral of this story: Be nice, be calm, but don’t be a pushover.
Tip #5: Have fun.
You’re a young adult. Have fun. Go to parties if that’s what you want. You have time to diversify your area of interests, follow electives on subjects you have a small interest in or know nothing about. This is the time to experiment. Have fun. Just don’t be the douchebag playing Wonderwall on an acoustic guitar at a party. No one likes that asshole.