The following is a list of sage-like advice I would like to pass along from one human being to another, on the topic of undergraduate studies. These, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the things I learned while earning my degree:
Don’t be too eager with your money, practise patience
I don’t blame you for wanting to get your bills, textbooks and school supplies all taken care of at once. Why wouldn’t you want to put that whole headache to bed? The problem is a little patience can actually save you more time and money in the long run. Don’t rush into a class without first thinking it through, don’t buy all your books without being certain you will actually need them, and don’t go out and buy a beret because you loved your first film studies class.
Bad food is overpriced just as often as good food
Let’s face it, not many universities are known for their amazing cuisine, and unfortunately the prices don’t often reflect the overall quality. You should learn to savour the moments when you have a really “good” or even “decent” meal while on campus. Don’t expect that something more expensive is going to taste better just because it’s pricey. There are, however, always hidden gems to seek out that will help you avoid eating lukewarm pizza every day.
Do what you want, even if you aren’t doing what you want
That is, unless you’re attending some sort of specialized post-secondary school where you will most likely end up having to endure a lot of classes and a lot of activities that are, really, meaningless to your degree. Try your best to shoehorn your focus of study into everything you’re doing, regardless of the faculty or department. At the end of the day it’s your money, and if the shoe doesn’t fit, dammit, you’d better make it fit.
This can also apply outside the academic world. Go have a picnic.
Practise selective reading
You actually aren’t expected to read every bit of material that comes your way throughout the course of a class. Get that through your thick skull. The best thing you can do as a student (in life it’s not so bad either) is to learn how to read something selectively. Understanding when someone is babbling and when someone is making a significant, definitive point can make late night study sessions go a little bit quicker.
Avoid written exams
Sitting in a gym that’s absolutely oozing of tension and anxiety, frantically scribbling out essay after essay by hand over the course of a few hours while the muscles in your hand begin to lock and rebel against the tyranny of your awkward prose.
Short answer and multiple-choice exams are fine, but there’s no worse environment to craft a worthwhile, intelligent argument than in the sweaty box of pain that is the exam room. Opt for the classes that allow you to research and develop your papers over time rather than force you to regress into grade school handwriting mode.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Not exactly specific to the post-secondary education experience, but classics are classics for a reason.