I’ve always been a very organized person. I’m lost without my planner and, for the most part, require a routine just to function. I care about my grades, but I’m also involved in so many other things, so I need structure to be sure I take care of all my responsibilities and still factor in time to have fun. I’ve written out my top 6 rules to stick by that keep me on track and help me make the most out of my UCF experience. I hope they help you too.
1. Have goals.
I started a tradition in my seventh grade year, where I would write a goal for each new school year on a Post-It note, and put it somewhere where I could see it. I carried this with me into college, but I started to make goals more often. I can give myself deadlines each semester, or just create daily to-do lists. I make them for myself, and they don't always directly relate to my academic success. I’ve made goals to see improvement in my artwork through my drawing classes, to find my personal fashion style, to feel confident enough to apply for an internship, and to get another piercing. Some things may seem silly, but this helps me to prioritize and to slowly become the student and person I aspire to be.
2. Take advantage of your resources.
Being a college student can be hard, and situations will arise in which you will need help with something. Remember that there are people and services to help you get from point A to point B. Free printing and scantrons are available. Advisors will help you schedule and aim for graduation. If you are struggling emotionally/mentally or financially, services like UCF Cares and Knights Pantry are here for you. The Recreation and Wellness Center on campus is full of people ready to help you achieve your health or fitness goals. If you want to be more involved on campus or join a club but don’t know where to start, Knights of the Round Table is available to connect students with campus organizations that will help them make the most out UCF life.
3. Pick a major you enjoy, but also think about what that major will do for you.
By the time I was 7 years old and still dreaming of being a famous singer or fashion designer, I was being told that I should have a “back-up” job, that I should consider nursing, business, law school, or architecture. I always understood the value in these professions, but I also always knew that they weren’t for me. My interests never truly matched up with the suggestions I was given. I am now an art education and advertising-public relations double major. “What do you want to do with that?” I’ll give you the answer Robert Reedy, my frustrating and brilliant 3-D Design professor, told my class. “What can you do...in this world? Huh? What can you do? Whatever you f****** want.” And I believe him. My areas of study will prepare me to create beautiful artwork, to observe, to think creatively, to copywrite, find my voice and communicate the why I want, understand advertising, to lead, to research, to learn, and to always search for more. I could teach high school art classes. I could write for a travel magazine. I could promote for a music label. I can do whatever I want because I’ve reflected on what interests me and, luckily, found the majors that will help me attain the skills I need to work doing something I love. Put in a few hours of meditation, perhaps schedule a meeting with an advisor, and you will find something.
4. Make time for fun and self-care.
I don’t think I need to convince anyone that college can be difficult. It can feel as though there are too many credits to take, to many exams and assignments, too many obligations, and not enough hours in the day. It’s important to find what makes you happy outside of school and helps you relax on difficult days. Since starting at UCF, I’ve been swing dancing at least twice a week. I enjoy being able to play with musicality and techniques, appreciating music that I love. It’s what I look forward to on days when I’m too overwhelmed. I could go on for days about how much it has benefited my mental and physical health. It’s also important to take care of your body in addition to your mind. I’ve found that eating healthier makes me feel better and more prepared to take on each day. As tempting as a cheap McDonald’s lunch every day can be, it doesn’t feel the same as a homemade meal. Trust me. By now I understand what I need to do in my downtime to truly be productive when I need to be. I live for my evenings alone at home, meal prepping for the week, in a green face mask, listening to Etta James with my phone on airplane mode. But that's my routine. It doesn't have to be yours and self-care doesn't always have to be bath bombs and nature walks. Sometimes self-care means sleeping in and watching a few episodes of Parks & Rec. Find your own personal self-care routine. Your mind and body will thank you.
5. Create a support system.
Although I’ve always been quite independent, I’ve come to realize how much I need a support system. I’m lucky enough to still have daily contact with my high school best friends, in addition to the wonderful people I’ve met in college. My close circle is still small, sometimes fragmented and spread across several states, but our relationships are strong enough that I can confide in them if I need help, and vice versa. Find your support system by making the effort to maintain communication with your hometown friends, keep in contact with family, being involved in your religious organization of choice, or join a club. We all need people in our corner.
6. Accept change and understand how to manage it.
Change is an inevitable part of life. By coming to college, I’ve already experienced the changes of graduating, moving away from home, and adjusting to a new life. Some of you may not have gone through all these things, some may have gone through more. In any case, we are bound to deal with change at some point in the future. We won’t be in college forever. Our social circles or jobs may change, our grades might fluctuate, our interests and life paths may shift. Almost nothing is truly set in stone so we need to be able to manage when life takes us a different route unexpectedly. Dwelling on the past is counterproductive. Be proactive, think critically, and reflect. I’m ready to take on whatever gets thrown at me because UCF has given me the opportunities to work at becoming the best person I can be, ready to take charge and charge on!