How to Survive Your Undergraduate Degree – A Guide for the Young Folk

How to Survive Your Undergraduate Degree – A Guide for the Young Folk

Hello undergraduate students of UCR! It’s me, that old person on campus who you tend to ask for directions because she appears to have been to college for a long time. Unfortunately, I’m just as clueless as you are when it comes to finding the rooms in the Humanities & Social Sciences building… but I do have a few tips for you in other areas. You see, because I am a mature student (read: old) and have successfully completed an undergraduate degree in my youth (that I didn’t use for ten years) – I do know a few things about surviving college. With that, I’d like to help you because I have some concerns.

That thing you’re sitting on all the time is called a “staircase.”

Yeah, I know the elevator is right there and the first floor is in the shade, but some of us have to walk up those three flights of doom because we’ve spent ten years sitting at an office job and our ass grew 4 sizes during that time. Sure, right now you’re young and you walk all the time so a little sitdown and elevator ride feels like a good thing, but trust me — save the elevators for when you mess up your knees doing poorly formed squats in a pale attempt to get your undergraduate body back.

I bet you think your skateboard is sexy.

Maybe it is to the young folks on campus. Rolling around all cool with your hands in your pockets, earbud cords dangling from your ears with a distressed vintage t-shirt that says I’m not part of your system, man! Maybe you are sexy, but you are also mowing me and my dogs over on the sidewalk. You’re also rolling down the opposite side of the street into my bike lane… or worse- my car. It’s not that I hate skateboards. It’s that I hate you listening to music, looking at your phone, careening towards your death me on a skateboard.

Three hour lectures are approximately five hours shorter than the job you’re going to need to pay back your student loans.

It’s easier to stop complaining about them now. Consider it like a cross department meeting. Sit at the back, keep your ears peeled for key information and pretend to be “checking emails” like the rest of us while secretly reading your horoscope or cruising instagram.

The hangover is only going to get worse when you’re older.

Believe me when I speak this truth — the two day hangover is real and it comes with your 30’s. I’m not saying you should go on a binge drinking spree or develop a habit, but you’ll never recover faster from anything than you will in your early 20’s. This includes sickness, breaking bones, breaking hearts and hangovers. Remember Chef from Southpark‘s wise words — “There’s a time and a place for everything children, and it’s called college.”

Choose your panic wisely.

Unless you’re going to be additional school to learn how to cut people/animals up or argue them in court, your overall GPA and grades won’t matter that much in four years. This is not to say you should skirt by and barely pass every class, but carefully choose what you want to stress over. Do you love biology? Bust ass in that, and maybe just write enough about Shakespeare to get your C and leave. College is the time to find what you like, and go for it. There often isn’t another chance for most of us. Take advantage of it!

Go to your professor’s office hours.

Don’t go because you think they’re cool and “want to hang out”, but instead think of a follow up question from class or swing by to say you liked (or didn’t like!) a reading. Some of the best instruction I’ve ever gotten was during office hours and through the relationships I made with my professors. It feels awkward at first, but think about it for a second. Your professor has devoted their entire life to the subject they’re teaching. It’s usually not because they get paid a ton either, but a labor of love. If you, their humble and young student, has some genuine interest in the same topic they’re obsessed with — that’s probably worth a conversation. You never know how the connections you make in college, both with your peers and professors, will help you network throughout your life.

Enjoy it.

Finally, just enjoy your experiences here. Enjoy the awkward parties and the abstract lectures that run a little too long. Even if you go back when you’re an old curmudgeon like me, the experience is never going to be the same as it was when you are young & unencumbered by the world. It’ll be gone before you know it!

14 thoughts on “How to Survive Your Undergraduate Degree – A Guide for the Young Folk

  1. The “go to your professor’s office hours” just makes me think of Tom Riddle asking Prof. Slughorn about horcruxes. Wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t expressed an interest! 🙂

  2. Totally off topic but I just finished an amazing debut fiction novel and wanted to share it with someone. I’m sure you have plenty of assigned reading to do, but if you ever again need/want to read an excellent new work of fiction – I highly recommend “Stay with Me: A Novel” by Ayobami Adebayo.

  3. Note: “your death”
    Ripsticks were apparently still a thing when I was in my 5th year of undergrad… at least with that, you couldn’t multi-task while riding.
    … I too wish I had read this in my undergrad years.

  4. Ehhh even if you are going to go to school to learn how to cut up people/animals, you should still take a chill pill. Grades matter, but in hindsight I was way too OCD

  5. I’m still cracking up over the “cut up people/animals” comment… not to put too fine of a point on it! This is indeed good advice, though, and I might have to share a few gems with my daughter.

    I figured out the “don’t panic over grades” part sorta by accident. Class I loved and related to my major? Busted my ass and earned an A. Class I loved and not related? Still earned an A. Hated and related to my major? Some kind of a B, maybe. Class I hated and not related… forget about it. Often mooched major “help” with assignments off other people (usually a boy – I know, I should be ashamed), did the bare minimum, got a C- and did not GAF. I still graduated with an okay GPA. Guess how many employers have asked about it? Granted, I never went to grad school and THEN my GPA would have mattered.

  6. Since I’m on my second to last semester it does feel kind of like it went by fast. However, the whole surviving thing I’m ready to be done with, a real job and time to ride my ponies sounds like much more fun than homework, shitty part time job with crap money, and no time for horses because of god awful group work

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