If You’re Reading This, It’s Not Too Late

Congrats, you’ve made it through most of fall semester. The question is, do you know how to prepare for spring semester?

 

My first semester was two years ago, so I would be lying if I said I remembered exactly how I spent it. I do, however, remember feeling both relieved and anxious and I can confirm this because it’s exactly how I felt during winter break last year. It feels good to know you’ve accomplished something and you are one step closer to your next goal, but it’s scary to realize you don’t know what the future will bring. It’s hard not to worry about your progress, or think about how satisfied you are with your current work ethic, your major or just your life in general. My first semester, I spent more time focused on classes and personal problems than I did taking care of myself, which led to me forming some unhealthy coping mechanisms and being unhappy overall. Not to mention, I was considering changing my major and felt so lost about what I wanted to do. It was a difficult time, but I survived it. There is a way, however, to alleviate that stress and that’s by taking time to think about what you want to prepare for next semester and setting goals so you can do things differently in the future. 

There are a lot of different ways to set goals. My personal favorite is writing all of them down as a gigantic map in my bullet journal (it’s really chaotic). There are also more structured ways, like S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. However you choose to create your goals, make sure your goals are specific and include specific steps on how to achieve that goal and measure your progress on achieving that goal. An example of a goal you could set is getting into your desired major by a certain date.

And so, here are my tips for the best way to prepare for spring semester: 

Remember that you are the boss of your own education. If you were unsatisfied with your classes for autumn semester and are reconsidering your major, don’t feel pressured to stay in classes you don’t want to be in. Use this break to do some research and explore other majors and schedule to meet with an Exploration advisor or consider career counseling. It’s normal to be unsure or lost about what you want to do but it’s important that you address it and make efforts to figure it out.  

Transform your health. If you ate a lot of crappy food and/or didn’t work out in autumn semester, use this break to change that. Drink lots of water and take advantage of home-cooked meals if you aren’t staying on campus. Likewise, try a new recipe if you are sticking around. Maybe learn how to do some yoga. Use this time to improve your health, mentally and physically. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen victim to the “Freshman 15”, but believe me when I say it’s an exhausting way to live and not how you want to spend your first year of college.

Start a routine! Having a routine gives you small goals to accomplish throughout the day and you’ll feel better after each one. Over winter break, these goals don’t have to be “big”. For example, your routine could be getting out of bed by 11 a.m., eating breakfast, making your bed, working out and sleeping by 11 p.m. Creating and sticking to habits during the weeks you aren’t on campus will help you slide into routine when you get back on campus. It will help you manage your work without wasting time and give you time to take care of yourself.

Did you have a good support system in autumn semester? Winter break is the perfect time to reflect on the relationships you created over the last few months. It’s important that you have people on campus who support and uplift you. If the people you hang out with aren’t good influences and don’t encourage your growth, it might be time to distance yourself from them and seek better connections.

Get a planner, calendar, or journal and write down all important deadlines and exam dates at the start of the semester for each of your classes for the entire semester (based on your syllabi). This can include homework, readings, lab reports, essays, basically anything you could get assigned; you can do it during the first few weeks of classes and it will make you feel a lot more prepared later on.

You may have already realized this, but time goes by fast when you’re in college. You might feel exhausted after finals and find yourself wanting to not think about school for a few weeks, but pushing the thought away isn’t going to make the first day of classes come any later. When everything slows down, take time to do some self-reflection, I promise you’ll feel better when you do. Good luck!

How to Survive College: Commuter Edition

I know from personal experience that being a commuter in college can be really hard. The lack of motivation to get up and drive to school, the stress of finding a parking spot, making genuine friends, and eating on campus (especially without a meal plan) are all things that you constantly think about. It’s not easy to make a campus as big as Ohio State feel like home, but thankfully resources like Off Campus and Commuter Student Services (OCCSS) exist to help commuters feel more comfortable.

What is OCCSS? 

The Off Campus and Commuter Student Services office exists to improve the quality of life for off-campus and commuter students. The office is located on the third floor of the Ohio Union, which is without a doubt the best place on campus for commuters. OCCSS provides a commuter kitchen, which is directly next to the Sigma Phi Epsilon Commuter Lounge on the third floor (you’ll have to visit the OCCSS office first to get access to it), and lockers at the Ohio Union and the Younkin Success Center. They can also help students find housing, roommates, and provide services like Rideshare and Carpool that allow students to share transportation to and from campus.

How can OCCSS make commuting easier? 

Eating on campus

Eating on campus as a commuter is difficult especially without a meal plan because it’s harder to manage how much you spend on food during the academic year. Like I said, the Ohio Union is a great spot for commuters because it has options like the Union Market, Sloopy’s and Woody’s. Plus, it’s located along High Street, which means even more tempting food options. If you have classes every day and spend long hours on campus, it’s really easy to eat out frequently and form unhealthy eating habits, which does not feel great. Packing and heating up food from home in the commuter kitchen saves a lot of money, doesn’t take much time to do and is much better for your health. Campus Dining also offers a commuter meal plan, which is good for eating on campus 3-5 times a week using funding that’s added your BuckID account. 

Staying on campus

Although you might not have a room on campus, you can still feel at home. In my first semester, I often went home as soon as my classes ended, and I didn’t spend my time effectively when I went home; because I also wasn’t involved with campus activities, it made me dread being here. If you can, try to avoid scheduling/driving to classes during rush hour traffic hours–trust me: you will waste a lot of time sitting in traffic and it’s really not worth it. Instead of going home at 5 p.m., just find something to do on campus, whether its eating dinner, going to an event or getting work done. My favorite thing about the Ohio Union are the lockers because you can store extra clothes, books you don’t want to carry around, snacks, a blanket, etc., and they are available to reserve at the beginning of every semester; this makes remaining on campus more manageable. The commuter lounge is also a great space to do homework, take a nap, mingle with other commuters or just eat lunch. 

Making Friends 

Unless most of the friends you had in high school conveniently moved to the same college as you, it can be a challenge establishing friendships as a commuter. The biggest struggle for me was being comfortable staying on campus after my classes were over, and finding campus involvement. OCCSS hosts events during the academic year like a Cornhole Tournament, roommate fairs, the Scarlet Warrior Challenge and the Off Campus Living Expo. They also have a commuter mentoring program for first-year commuters which pairs new students with a mentor and includes monthly group events on campus and in the Columbus area. There are also a ton of other organizations on campus in general–pick the one you are most interested in and try it out, you’ll thank yourself later.

Ultimately, what I want you to know is that commuting doesn’t mean you can’t experience college the same way as others. I hope this was helpful and good luck, commuters!