Adapting to College Life- Surviving AND Thriving

Hey everyone, thanks for joining me again. My name is Quinn O’Brien, and this is the 3rd entry in my blog!

Last blog, I talked about defining your passion, managing stress, and really building your life around that passion rather than trying to fit it into the various other aspects of your life like school, work, and even relationships.

One of the most important points I made is that passions are built off our core values, a passion isn’t something that you pursue because you deemed it your favorite, it’s actually part of you.

I’m summing up my last post because it’s important to this week’s topic, which is a message about adapting.

So what are we adapting to? Well, college life, obviously, but moreso, we’re trying to figure out how to thrive, not just survive in our first few weeks living as adults and managing the responsibilities that come along with that. Don’t get me wrong, though, the first few weeks of college, at least for me, were just a matter of keeping my head above the water.

I had assignments come due that I didn’t even know existed, I procrastinated a lot of my first projects just because I didn’t exactly know how to get started, and frankly, I was just trying to get through each day. Attending lectures, figuring out where they were on campus, and then trying to balance student organizations and establishing a social life on top of it all was more than enough of a challenge.

Now, all that can be stressful, but like I talked about last week, managing stress is mostly managing your perspective. But stress aside, we still have to DO things to be successful, or at least to accomplish our goals. If you aren’t stressed about the upcoming exam, great! But you still need to do studying to actually get through the class so you’re making progress towards whatever your career goal may be.

That brings us back to the idea of thriving versus surviving; thriving is another subjective term, but let’s define it broadly as:

  1. Doing well at your occupation (a college student),
  2. Being actively involved in whatever student orgs/activities you’re a part of
  3. And maintaining your social life.

Part of the reason this concept is so hard to talk about is because the process of thriving is different for everyone, but luckily, the end result looks similar. For example, think of the different ways people study or prepare for a test! I’m the kind of person who likes to go to lecture, be 100% focused the entire time, and take all my notes during that time and then I do minimal studying outside of class. There are other people who instead might go to lecture, they sleep whole time, but hearing the professor-even in their sleep I guess- and then going home and copying notes off a power point works fine for them and they do just as well on the test as someone like me does if not better because they are dedicating twice the time to class.

So since we’ve got a general idea of what thriving is, now let’s talk about some of the different ways we can get to that point.

To experience the feeling of thriving, some people spend a lot of time during the day in their notebooks studying or rewriting things, and then they go to bed at a reasonable hour. Other people (me) go to class like I said, take notes there, spend the rest of the night hanging out with friends or doing something fun, THEN we stay up until midnight cramming a bunch of work that’s due in a few days, and then we realize we forgot to eat, so we go to Pancheros, Bdubs, or Hurts Donuts and hang out with friends to detox.

As we can see, the process of thriving is very vague. We know the end result looks like, but it’s kind of hard to visualize a universal process that works for everyone. SO, I’m going to take a step back and refer again to the concept of adapting. In other words, making changes. Now some of you who are like my girlfriend who feel most comfortable to being prepared and having every part of the day planned and accounted for aren’t going to like what I’m about to say.

Stop planning! Stop overpreparing for everything, experiment, try to see where you can cut corners, and then ADAPT.

You’re probably doing well in class if you’re one of the planners, but if you’re still not, you need to understand that it’s probably other factors causing you to struggle in class, such as mental health or stress. Now the problem is these corners you can cut aren’t always obvious, and you’re just going to have to experiment and make some changes, whether that’s waiting till lecture to take notes instead of taking them beforehand to make time for, Netflix, food, or working out. Just try something different!

I’m not just saying the planners have it wrong, though, because procrastinators and “go with the flow” students like myself also need to make changes. We can continue to look at ourselves and say, “oh, we’re ahead of the curve, we’ve already got a good perspective and stress isn’t an issue, I’m comfortable.” What that means to me, though, is that we need to make some changes, we need to get uncomfortable. Discomfort is where the greatest growth occurs. Don’t worry though, whenever you feel uncomfortable, that feeling isn’t going to be constantly hanging over you wherever you go. You’re still in control and can ease into the process and cope however necessary, whether that’s hanging out with friends a little more or just having an extra helping of ice cream in the cafeteria.

So basically, what I’m trying to say is that the picture of thriving we’ve painted in society where comfort is success isn’t all it seems. The most fulfilled people, statistically speaking, are the ones who feel engaged, stretched, and in touch with their social life and relationships. Therefore, thriving really exists primarily in change and resulting growth, and that requires that we make ourselves uncomfortable.

So try some of that out this week! If you’re normally a micromanaging school-a-holic, try waiting till class to take notes and spend a little extra time with friends or doing something you enjoy. And if you’re not doing enough studying, don’t be afraid to dedicate more time to schoolwork than you have in the past and see how it helps.

No matter where you’re at in life, get a little uncomfortable, and experience a little growth. I promise, thriving is a worthwhile goal.

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