Your Guide to an Unforgettable College Experience

A graduate celebrates at the conclusion of the afternoon Indiana University Bloomington Undergraduate Commencement at Assembly Hall on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

Ah, college. Is it the best time of your life? Maybe. Does every relative, family friend, acquaintance, and stranger you meet in the grocery store checkout line ceaselessly insist that it’s the best time of your life? Absolutely.

It’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on the Unforgettable College Experience that everyone raves about. Admittedly, college can be a bit of pressure cooker; between piles of homework, extracurriculars, and the simultaneous excitement and terror of being completely in control of your own life for the first time, it can be hard to stop and notice what’s so special about right now. But, whether it feels like it or not, college is a place and time unlike any other in your life—you’re surrounded by countless perspectives, opportunities, and resources that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

So, how can you make the most of it before it’s all gone? Check out a few of these ideas to carpe your collegiate diem:

  1. Take some time to slow down

Gif: Winnie the Pooh sleeping

At the risk of sounding like an aggressively inspirational Pinterest quote, I have to say: a little mindfulness goes a long way when it comes to appreciating college’s unique moments. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend an hour meditating every day; taking time for yourself can be something as simple as eating lunch without your phone as a distraction, or taking a five-minute study break to stretch. Anything that helps you step out of that pressure cooker and recharge for a few minutes makes appreciating college’s breakneck pace a whole lot easier.

  1. Write

Gif: Obama writing, but while president.

Chances are, college will throw a boatload of new experiences at you, and all of them will shape you in a million tiny, imperceptible ways. Journaling is an incredible way to keep track of the good and bad moments alike—and, because it’s just for you, you can be completely honest about how you feel. With writing, you can expect double the return, too: you get to reflect on important moments now, and have something concrete to look back on down the road. I like to write down three things I’m grateful for every day: nothing fancy, just a few quick lines in the Notes app on my phone to record why I’m thankful for clean laundry, or IU’s amazing gym facilities, or something one of my professors did that day. Sifting through seemingly mundane, day-to-day moments and picking out something you’re grateful for is a great way to appreciate all of the amazing things that are around you, all the time.

  1. Take pictures

Gif: taking a picture

Somewhere, someone Distinguished and Opinionated is groaning at me for encouraging young people to take even more photos in an age ruled by social media and incessant self-documentation, but I don’t care.  The truth is, having photos of your friends and your room and the way the sunlight was shining through the branches that Thursday afternoon is vital, even though it may seem frivolous in the moment. You’ll want to have something to look back on, and if that journal’s not looking too hot in the word department, you don’t have to sweat it–like they say, a picture’s worth a thousand of ‘em.

  1. Take advantage of college resources while you canGif: smells like opportunity

When else in your life will you have unlimited access to an Olympic-sized pool, 750+ clubs, music practice rooms, career counselors, free comedy showsdiscounted theatre tickets, a rare books library, Big Ten athletics, free movies, 200+ research centers, and experts in any field you can imagine?

  1. Get something out of all of your classes

Gif: The Office

With everything else whirring around you at hyper speed, it can sometimes be hard to remember that you’re ultimately here for one reason: to learn as much as you possibly can. if I’ve learned one thing from my time here so far, it’s that I’m the one responsible for making sure I get exactly what I want out of my education. Take charge: if something interests you, speak up. Go to your professor’s office hours. Ask about their current research. You are surrounded by brilliant people and knowledge in fields you didn’t even know existed, and now is the time to explore. My first semester, I went out on a limb and emailed a professor who I thought was doing really cool work; that very same week, we got together to chat about his research, and I ended up joining his lab. These kinds of opportunities practically flood IU’s campus—all you have to do is pick one that sounds interesting to you, and go for it.

  1. Know your limits

Gif: Will Smith, Fresh Prince of Bel Air: Im'ma chill.

That being said, there’s a difference between involved and being stretched too thin. It may seem like a great idea to join twelve different clubs—hey, you’re experiencing everything, right?—but by stressing yourself to the point of exhaustion, you’re won’t be getting much out of any of them. If you pick a few activities to commit to more deeply, you’ll be able to experience them more fully, and make a real impact of your own.

Hope these tips offer some useful strategies for appreciating everything college has to offer! As usual, if you have any questions, drop ‘em in a comment down below. Till next time!

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