College Survival Skills

We go to college to learn mega loads of information intended to prepare us for our future careers. But college isn't simply a data dump. It is the end of parental supervision and a major lifestyle change. In high school, our time, activities, eating, and sleeping patterns are usually pretty structured. But the move into college can translate into a mass of free time that ends up being frittered away doing nothing much of anything. Then the demands of school hit and all of a sudden the only way to keep your head above water seems to be all-night cramfests and pizza banquets, topped off with double espressos and Mountain Dew to keep you going the next day. It can really get to be exhausting.

Many people think of wellness as eating right and exercise. While these are important components for your health, there is a lot more that goes into a person's overall wellbeing. Lets take a look at some of the major problems college students report.

Dude, I've been up for the past 72 hours!

Young adults need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. A poll taken by the National Sleep foundation found that most young adults get only 6.8 hours of sleep a night. That means they are chronically sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation leads to a lowered immune system, difficulty with long term memory, and possible depression. Here are some tips for a better night’s sleep:

  • Sleep and wake at the same time every day
  • Use the bed only for sleep. Avoid reading, working, or watching TV in bed (Okay, okay. We know this is hard to do in the dorm!)
  • Avoid eating a large, late-evening meal with heavy foods before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco may feel soothing but they actually disrupt sleep.
  • Get some physical exercise during the day. If you exercise no later than 3 hours before bedtime, it helps you relax and sleep better. But exercising right before bed can keep you awake. 

I'm only in class for 15 hours a week!

The difference between an "A" student and a "C" student may not be due to intelligence, but how wisely each uses their time. You can manage your time by planning a schedule. Figure out what activities you have to do and what activities you want to do. Your schedule should include time for fun as well as work. Here are some tips:

  • Plan enough time studying to do justice to each subject. A general rule of thumb is 3 hours of studying per week per credit in the course. By multiplying your credit load by three, you can get an idea of the time you should provide for studying.
  • Establish a habit of at a regular time in a regular place.
  • Utilize free time. The one or two hour periods between classes are easily wasted. Using them for studying will help to free you up for recreation.
  • Limit study time to blocks of no more than 2 hours per subject. After this time, your ability to concentrate rapidly decreases - so take a break, and then switch to a new subject.

My roommate is driving me crazy!

Your roommate isn't always going to be your best friend. If you expect that, and they aren't, it can be a big letdown. You might stay up late, while they go to bed early. You may be a neat freak, and they leave so many piles everywhere you can't walk without hearing a crunch beneath your feet. But if you both communicate respectfully, things usually work out. Issues that really need to be talked about right off the bat include:

  • Privacy
  • Respect for personal property
  • Sleep habits and quiet hours
  • Party habits
  • Lifestyle: clean or messy
  • Smoking
  • Taste in music

Don't wait until you're so mad that you're ready to blow. That will lead to fighting and hard feelings. Talk about an issue as SOON as it comes up.

To get along with your roommate:

  • Be considerate and nice, follow the golden rule: "Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you."
  • Don't blow small issues out of proportion, but do talk about larger issues that you are concerned about.
  • When you discuss problems, offer constructive criticism. Also point out your roommate's good qualities.
  • Realize that you are not perfect and listen to suggestions your roommate has.
  • Don't gossip too much. Secrets about others have a way of biting us in the butt.
  • Keep yourself clean. No one wants a smelly roommate.
  • Be considerate when it comes to dating. Just because you are in love doesn't mean your roommate wants your significant other there 24-7.
  • Stay out of your roommate's side of the room and out of their possessions.

It's that time again... beer-thirty!

It's widely recognized that heavy drinking doesn't exactly boost your intellect. Most people figure that their booze-induced foolishness wears off after the hangover is gone. But, even limited stints of overindulgence may have long-term effects. So it's important to know your limits, eat before you drink, alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and look out for your friends. The Centers for Disease Control defines heavy drinking as more than two drinks daily for men and more than one drink daily for women (one drink = 1 shot of liquor, 1 can of beer, or 4 ounces of wine). Here are some other facts about alcohol:

  • Heavy drinking limits your ability to remember and to think abstractly for several weeks.
  • Alcohol is a powerful depressant than can leave you feeling down and out.
  • Almost all of the sexual indiscretions at Carroll College involved alcohol.

Who's up for pizza?

A recent Tufts University survey found that 50% of students eat too much fat. New research conducted by the National Institute of Aging indicated people who eat high-fat diets and high-fat/high-sugar diets damage their ability to learn and remember. So eat yourself smart, not stupid. Here's how:

  • Eat a variety of foods from all food groups. Get plenty of fruits & vegetables; whole grain breads, cereals, & pastas; lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats found in nuts, oils, and fish.
  • Eat breakfast. Studies show students who do score better on tests. As a bonus, breakfast eaters also tend to have healthier weights than breakfast skippers.
  • Snack smart to keep energy levels up during the day. Sugar is the primary brain fuel, so include healthy carbohydrate sources, like fruit, yogurt, and trail mix.
  • Drink enough water. It will help you maintain a healthy weight, and even mild dehydration can lead to decreased ability to concentrate and lack of coordination.
  • Dump diets. Not allowing tasty foods sometimes, like the above mentioned pizza, and other treats can lead to a greater desire for these foods and a tendency to overeat. Crash diets usually result in a loss of vital water and lean muscle tissue, and 95% of people gain the weight back and more. Adopt healthy habits instead.

I'm straight trippin' about the Chemistry final!

Suddenly it's crunch time. Thinking about all you have to do before finals can seriously stress you out. Having a game plan can help you avoid stress and substantially increase your chance for success. Here are some tips:

  • Establish your priorities. Two papers to write and three exams to study for all in the next week? Decide what you have to finish today and what can wait for another day or two. Then focus only on the task at hand.
  • Do what works for you. Some people need silence and others need quiet music. Some people study well with a partner while others do best on their own.
  • Recognize and accept your limits. You're an English major taking physics this semester? Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Not many people get A's in every class they take.
  • Take time to relax. Get some exercise or fresh air, or go to a yoga class. Enjoy 10-15 minutes of peace and quiet. Sit in a comfortable position, practice deep breathing, and think about a favorite place.
  • Be optimistic. Think positively ("I can do well on this test.") Don't allow past failures to affect your attitude.


Are you one of the more than 100 million Americans that regularly fail to get a good nights sleep? 

There are many causes for insomnia, most include:

  1. Caffeine & nicotine. Try to limit the amount of caffeine or nicotine especially near bedtime. Even if it does not prevent you from going to sleep, it may trigger awakenings later in the night.
  2. Alcohol. While alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it is likely to make sleep more fragile through out the night.
  3. Exercise. A work out too close to bedtime (within 4 hrs.) can disrupt your bodies ability to shut down, and sleep well. Exercise is recommended, but but at least four hours before you retire for the night.
  4. Stress While you sleep, the emotional centers in your brain rev up, while areas involved in judgment wind down, giving free reign to unconscious feelings and drives. For tips on ways to reduce stress; see the Counseling Services page.Please be respectful of your roommate's sleep needs as well. Remember, if you really want to get a good nights sleep, it's not enough to complain about it, you need to be willing to look at your habits, and maybe make some changes.