By Omar Jimenez, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Omar Jimenez of Kennesaw, Georgia, is a sophomore in Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He is going into his second year of training on the Northwestern basketball team.
(CNN) - The time has finally come to venture off to college. The emotional roller coaster of excitement and apprehension is a common theme for students and parents alike.
College is not just a place of higher learning but a preview for the real world. The social and academic environment is completely different from that of high school, making the transition tough for some students. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five keys to making the jump from high school to college and landing squarely on both feet.
Honestly, just being responsible goes a long way. There are opportunities to have great social lives in college, but no one will be happy if it comes at the expense of academics. The key is to find a personal balance between having fun and doing schoolwork. The real responsibility comes from being able to make these decisions without the seemingly endless parental nudges given throughout high school.
Personally, I always find that getting work done before hanging out with friends is the best route to take. It is definitely a drag to force yourself to sit down and knock out all your work, but it makes the reward of finishing for the day that much more worth it.
Being responsible will take you pretty far in college, but what about the schoolwork? Isn’t there a lot to keep up with? Everybody says, “Don’t fall behind on your assignments,” but it is much easier said than done. Instead of focusing on a broad goal such as not falling behind, break it down into more manageable pieces.
For starters, being organized makes studying easier and much less intimidating. Getting a planner (and using it often) is not a bad idea either. School will seem much easier through organization and proper pacing. For example, if it is Monday and there is a 140-page reading due the following Monday, don’t wait until Sunday night. Read 20 pages a night for the next week, and things will work out much better - guaranteed.
Stress is something that will never go away in college, but dealing with it makes all the difference. Join a club, find a sport to play, get a Hulu or Netflix account; just find a way to pass the time where classes and grades do not matter. It will lead to more happiness, and being involved in clubs, sports, etc., will help you gain friends and popularity. From personal experience, I have found that I work much better when I am happy. I relieve stress through extracurricular activities and work more efficiently from then on. Yes, it may be a simple process, but sometimes simplicity is what makes things effective.
It seems like all we do in life is talk, and college is no different. Being able to talk to people in college, from the dean to a dining hall worker, is important. Learning happens by communicating with other people, and part of the college experience would be wasted by always being isolated. Don’t be afraid to talk to professors after class if you need to, or to e-mail them. It often helps tremendously. Additionally, communicating with peers is critical as it creates opportunities both socially and academically. Forming a study group benefits everyone as one person can catch something that others miss and vice-versa.
The last, but most important, key to making a good transition is to take a step back and realize how special it is to be in college in the first place. Take it as a privilege to get smarter, rather than a burden of more work. Getting a bad grade on an assignment sucks, but it is definitely not the worst thing that can happen.
Schoolwork is important, yes, but don’t forget there is more than just work in college. Have some fun.
In college, when you have days in which nothing seems to be going right, just remember what a privilege it is to be there, and that really it is not a bad day, not at all.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Omar Jimenez.