How to Survive Your First Weeks of Classes Without Having a Nervous Breakdown

For all of you collegiate overachievers out there, never fear! I know what you're thinking: college means sacrificing one of three things: your friends, your grades, or any sleep you hope to get. In fact, you probably have this facial expression and these words going through your head like a flashing neon sign on the Vegas strip.

There is a way to keep your GPA intact while still having the semblance of a social life. If you're a masochist like yours truly and taking 18 credits, a triple major, and summer school to graduate in three years you're in luck, because I know just how to do it. College academics do not have to be something that looms over your head 24/7.

Getting Organized

Print out all of your s​yllabi.

...preferably on both sides of the page. (That way, you won't drill through your print quota and you'll also be acting in an environmentally conscious way.) If you also use a computer, keep a copy of your syllabi on your desktop, possibly in a folder dedicated to each class, so if you happen to spill your late night coffee all over your desk, you have instant access to a new one. You could also make use of IU Box to keep all of your academic files in the cloud, which comes in handy with video presentations and collaborations with classmates, and in the moments when you're trying to find a printer at the last minute for a paper due within the next twenty. Also, some professors don't always have their syllabi posted on OnCourse; kindly ask for a copy of the file.

Get a planner, and write down all papers, quizzes, due dates, and especially the final exams.

You want to know earlier than later if exams will conflict or if you're going to end up with four exams on one day. Imagine the alternative: cramming for all of them during finals week. Not a pretty picture. Additionally, if your professor includes a schedule of the reading or homework assignments, you may also write those in as well. BewareSome professors list the lecture dates and what reading will be covered during the lecture, which means you should list the reading on the previous day of class in your planner so you will have done the reading in advance. Also, you may not want to put the more detailed bits, like reading and homework, into your planner for more than two weeks in advance. If they change the schedule and you wrote it all down in pen, you'll have a lovely time with a couple bottles of white-out.

See what your professors' individual policies are,

...such as late-papers, office hours, and grade breakdowns. It'll help you effectively allocate the stress you need to get things done, without the over-stressing that can often be a standstill to production.

Attend class, and take good notes. 

Some professors like to use PowerPoint Presentations, while others stick to the blackboard. Some are lectures, while others are seminars. Get in touch with how they present information in class, and adjust your note-taking accordingly. Also, find out if they allow students to take notes on laptops during class. All last year, I only took handwritten notes, but this year, I'm finding that Microsoft Word's Note-Taking View is especially helpful, especially when professors like to jump around during lectures and the material is not always laid out logically or chronologically. Again, do readings before class on the material, then take notes during the lecture that supplement your reading notes; keep an eye out and star a piece of info if its mentioned in both places (don't write it twice unless that'll help you remember).  However, remember kids, don't give yourself carpal tunnel and write legibly. Don't skip class, even when the lecture is 2 hours and you're all like:

Get to know your professors. 

Make a list of their office hours, so you'll know which professors you may be able to drop-in on between classes and which ones you'll have to make an appointment in order to meet with them. Greet them like this, and you'll have no problems.

Also, these people can be pretty interesting. For example, among your 4-6 professors and their respective AI's and TA's, you're going to find varied backgrounds, interests, and life stories. Two of my professors graduated from Harvard (I know what you're thinking, but I was still slightly fan-girling out anyhow), several are department chairs, many have gripping research interests, and another won a Guggenheim. Many are just plain amusing, or, like my Intro to Psych & Brain Sciences professor, have an amazing taste in music (imagine walking into a 200 person lecture hall and hearing Tegan & Sara or the Lumineers playing on the projector screen). Also, meet your advisors, as they are some essential resources here as well. Your meetings may end up kind of like this, but it helps when you're registering for classes for the following semester and you have no clue what you're doing.

Remember, you're at Indiana University, and that's a pretty amazing place to be.

For Your Social Life (Etc.), However...

Friends

Friends are often your support system at college, especially if your family lives such a distance away that it is inconvenient and slightly less than economical to drive home every weekend. Make new ones, but remember the ones you already have. Make an effort to talk to the cute guy or girl sitting next to you in class. It helps having someone to have your back when it comes to keeping up in class. However, this may be the wrong way to approach someone, but hey, to each his (or her) own.

Studying

Yeah, I know, this seems like the opposite of what it takes to have a social life, and you probably think

Make a trip to Wells a way to spend time with a friend. You can really study in the first floor reading room of the East Tower (best for when you actually need to study and can surreptitiously scope out some new eye candy from between the stacks) or the fourth floor of the West Tower (where you can alternate between studying, people watching, and keeping up with the goings-on in each others' lives).

Getting Involved

So, you need a some community involvement on your resume? The Student Involvement Fair and My Involvment are great resources in order to find groups that you can get involved with on campus. For me, it was always great going to Psychology Club or Circolo Italiano, and it's a great place to meet people and network within the academic disciplines one is studying.

Going Out

Rewarding yourself is a way to both get rid of the stress from a week of hard work and to treat yourself for getting everything done. If you go out to parties, first rule: Do not go alone, especially at night. Go somewhere with friends you trust, and beware of the effects of alcohol on decision making, whether or not you're partaking.. Similarly, be careful what you drink, as you may not know what is truly in it. Also, have emergency numbers in your phone, such as IUPD, Bloomington PD, or RedTire Taxi and the like, and, if you live on campus, your residence hall's front desk or after hours phone number. Nothing's worse than being locked out because you lost your keys or your ID. Be prepared. Carry pepper spray. Don't get arrested. Have fun!

For some other great tips on keeping it together while studying at IU, these blogs have some great ones.

About The Author
Ian BeverPsychology, English, Italian major, creative writing concentration, philosophy minor, Class of 2015

Hi! I'm Ian and I'm currently a senior at IU majoring in psychology, English (with a concentration in creative writing), and Italian, and minoring in philosophy. I'm also a member of the IUB chapters of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Pi Eta Sigma/Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, and IUB Psychology Club. You might have also seen me around campus working as a Technology Center Consultant for UITS, but at the moment I'm spending my senior year abroad in Bologna, Italy and Canterbury, England.

After graduation, I plan on pursuing an M.S. in Human Computer Interaction Design and ending up wherever that may lead.

Sometimes I can be clever and amusing, so I hope you enjoy sharing my experiences here at IU!