How to Thrive at University

Photograph by Tala Parker

Photograph by Tala Parker

1) Understand you aren’t the smartest person, but that you do deserve to be here

At many schools, and especially those big name ones (like Stanford, for instance), many kids come in having the experience of always getting good grades, being well liked by teachers, and being asked for help by other students. However, when they get to school they may be surprised to find that they are surrounded by people who are equally if not more smart than they are. First off, understand that you aren’t the smartest person, and that it’s ok. You have certain skills and are knowledgeable in areas others are not. And, more than that, you are worth more than just your smartness. Everyone brings different things to the table. You do deserve to be here.

2) duck syndrome is real, so just forget about what everyone else is doing

Here at Stanford we have this lovely thing called duck syndrome, which is basically when people feel as though everyone around them is just smooth sailing and not struggling a bit, when in fact under the surface they’re paddling fast and are stressed out just like everyone else. Almost everyone manages to put on a good facade and present the coolest and brightest aspects of themselves, but everyone struggles with college. Worry about yourself rather than getting caught up in how others are projecting themselves.

3) surround yourself with people you want to be around

This may seem pretty basic, but making friends at university can be hard, especially at first. My advice is to push yourself to go out to social events, introduce yourself in class, and overall make an effort to meet people. That being said, don’t push yourself to be social when you just can’t. Listen to what your body and mind is telling you if you feel you need a break. People don’t want to be around cranky people, so it’s better to rest and be able to give your 100% another time. After meeting people, you’ll notice that some will drift off, but you eventually will find a few who you truly enjoying spending your time around.

4) Know when to say yes/no

On a similar vein to tip #3, it’s important to listen to what you need/want instead of what you believe you should be doing. At university, there are so many events and opportunities it can become really overwhelming. Remember that you also have classes and social commitments before taking on more. That being said, try out things that you are interested in. If it turns out you’re not interested, drop it rather than half-assing it, cause that’s not helpful to anyone.

5) know what you’re passionate about and good at and use that to your advantage

At university, you may have to write many papers, some of which will be researched based. I recommend that you choose a topic you have some basic understanding of, for it’ll make the whole writing process so much easier. It’s good to look into topic’s you’re less familiar with, but if you want to have a relatively easy time do not choose a topic that is brand new to you. This goes for classes too. It’s great and really important to try things that are new to you, but proceed with caution.

6) be nice-ish to your roommate

Chances are, freshman year you’re going to have a roommate. In my experience, this really isn’t all that bad (coming from an only child too), but it’s important to be friendly and willing to make compromises. School can be stressful, and it’s really helpful to have a space––your own space––which you can go back to and relax, unworried about roommate drama. However, it can be good to keep some distance between your roommate, for it can be tiring if you constantly feel pressure to interact and talk with them.

7) buy rly good noise canceling headphones

Speaking of roommates, do yourself a favor and buy a pair of noise canceling headphones. Your roommate is going to make noise, just like you are, and it’s important to be able to work/relax without constantly being annoyed at them.

8) stop talking about how you always pull all nighters. Better yet, stop pulling all nighters

There’s this weird phenomenon at Stanford where people feel that in order to be a true Stanford student, they must always be on the grind. This means that people constantly talk about how they have so much work and how they stayed up so late to do it. While it’s true that University is a lot of work, it’s important to not feed into that system of perpetuating the need to prove your worth by demonstrating that you will destroy your body and mind in the name of getting an education.

9) you’re basically an adult. manage your time

You’re on your own now, and that means you can stay up all night if you want and no one will give a shit (except maybe your roommate––see tip #6). It also means you can spend all your time partying and hanging out with friends or all of it studying. I recommend a bit of both. You’ll figure it out.

10) advice can only get you so far / listen to yourself

In the end, you are living your college experience, not me or your parents or your friends or your teachers. Sure, you can get advice, but listen to what you think. Learn from your experiences, especially the mistakes. Trust your inner compass.

Have fun ;)

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