How to Survive College

For lack of a better opening, here’s a Twitter-sized anecdote.

Mom, to teenage brother: “You know, you should ask Hannah for ideas about college. She’s been doing it for awhile now.”

Me: sherlock success anderson emma makes things sherlock spoilers GIF

But I guess, after accidentally doing college in cuttime and surviving, I really do know something about how it works.

Let’s be honest. College is an amazing opportunity (thanks for the blessing, God) that’s also terrifying and awful and will probably suck the life out of you (thanks for the sanctification, God). We do it, because we know that higher education can actually benefit us later in life provided we do it right and survive to graduation. But how? How to survive college?

Glad you asked, because it just so happens I have a list. (Mycroft has a file.) To cut to the chase, this post is about basic hacks that will help you survive college. These are just things that I’ve found useful, and maybe they’ll work for you too. And the best part is, you can start using some of them right now.

Step 1: Begin before the semester.

After all, a villain must always be one step ahead.

  • Ask advice from other people who go to college- preferably, your college. Find out about the hardest courses and how to ace them, and look for little life hacks from other students. (Hint: You’re already doing that!)
  • Do everything ahead of time. Don’t procrastinate. Figure out what courses you’re taking, get them all set up, and fill out all the forms well before the semester starts. This leaves you extra time in case you miss something.
  • When you’re not in school, practice writing essays. If you’re still in high school or are taking a summer break, now is the ideal time to practice writing a generic five-paragraph essay. Find some prompts, set a timer for 40 minutes, and see what you can crank out.
  • Update: Learn to speed-read. I neglected to mention this before (facepalm) but if you do it right, speed-reading can help you study effectively by teaching you different types of reading. Try this article for starters.

Step 2: Go in with a plan.

 planning GIF

Don’t get beaten by a cat.

  • Read the syllabus. Just… read the syllabus.
  • Download everything: all assignment instructions, rubrics, source articles, and anything else you might find useful. It may seem ridiculous, but it’s so much easier than desperately hunting for that old article a day before your paper is due.
  • Organize your files using your computer’s file explorer, Google Drive, or Microsoft Office Suite. Downloading stuff is no good if you can’t find it later.
  • While you’re at it, organize your tasks by day. I use Google Calendar and Tasks, which lets me assign daily tasks to myself and check them off as I go. Other people use planner apps which basically do the same thing.
  • Keep track of your textbooks. When you’re buying and renting multiple books (see below) for a whole semester, it’s really easy to forget which ones belong to you and when to return the ones that don’t. Ergo, write it down.

Step 3: Get the right resources.

Image result for sonic screwdriver gif

I watched one episode, so I’m allowed to use this gif, right?

  • Rent your books instead of buying them. Chegg Study and Amazon.com are great resources for this.
  • If you can, earn credit in other ways. CLEP and DSST exams give you credit for subjects you already know, and ALEKS courses give you a fast-paced review until you’re getting good grades. P.S. ACE Credit can store your credit on a transcript until you’re ready to send it to a college.
  • There are also some great study sites. Free Clep Prep is technically for CLEP and DSST, but the site has all kinds of resources for pretty much every intro-level course and subject.
  • InstantCert is great test-prep, designed for CLEP exams.
  • Quizlet is also good. Personally I hate studying with flash cards, but if they help you, Quizlet is the way to go.

Step 4: Work.

 nike shia labeouf just do it by thismightbeaaron im funny dammit GIF

Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

  • College is basically a job, so treat it like one. Work hard and take it seriously.
  • Do your school from nine to five. School starts promptly at 9am and ends right before dinner (with good breaks in between), and then you can watch Netflix. This way, you probably won’t have to pull any all-nighters.
  • Get over yourself. The truth is college often makes you work hard at things you don’t even like- for example, recording videos of yourself talking. Just do it anyway. Chances are you’re a lot better at school than you think.
  • Sleep at night. I shouldn’t have to say this to you adults (and almost-adults), but put your phone away and go to sleep before 11pm.

Step 5: Make it fun.

Image result for gif sherlock just happy to be alive

Life can be fun.

  • Make yourself have fun. Let’s face it, college isn’t always fun, so you have to find little ways to enjoy it. It’s as simple as talking yourself into being excited or choosing essay topics that sound interesting and don’t stress you out.
  • Listen to music that makes you happy and helps you study. Try Spotify or Pandora, or just plain old YouTube if you can resist the cat videos. (I’ve heard video games soundtracks can help people focus on tasks.)
  • Reward yourself with snacks. After thirty solid minutes of writing that dull essay, give yourself a snack. A healthy snack. Maybe a little chocolate if it’s a really dull essay.
  • Find fun ways of studying. Do you like to sit and read outside? Can you make up a song to memorize the rulers of England? Do you learn better mind palace-style? Try it and see.

Step 6: Think twice before making a dumb decision.

Image result for captain america gif

See, Cap said so. Better listen to Cap.

  • Keep at it. Everyone feels awful in the heat of the semester: some people are tempted to cheat, others just want to give up trying. Both of those are wrong. College really is a huge opportunity, regardless of how you feel now. Don’t waste it.
  • Talk about your problems. Ask your mom for advice when you’re stressed out, or have your friend group ask you every week how you are doing. It does wonders for accountability.
  • Don’t be stupid. Cheating is always a wrong decision, and it almost never improves your grades even if you’re not caught. (For example.) Remember, school is for learning, not proving what you already know.
  • Get the help you need. Try Chegg Study or check out the resources in your university’s library. Think about it: for 30 bucks, would you rather buy two crappy essays or actually learn how to put your thoughts on paper?

Step 7: Live a life outside of school.

Image result for work gif

Sorry. This gif is too much to resist.

  • Start a project outside of school. Volunteer, learn to make bread, or get a part-time job. This gives you balance and lets you invest in something besides three months of papers.
  • Don’t let college kill you. Drink water so you don’t die. Find some kind of exercise that you like (or, at least, you don’t hate); if you live close enough to your campus, try walking to school instead of driving.
  • Talk to other humans. Don’t just be grumpy about how misrepresented the Puritans are; go rant to a friend about it. It helps you process and understand the facts better, and in the meantime you’ll actually be talking to people.
  • Give your brain a break. Try watching a movie on repeat (like, ahem, Doctor Strange) or re-read your old favorite book. Just find something to help your brain relax.
  • If you need to, quit during the summer. Most people take a summer break. College is brain work, and sometimes you just need to rest.

And here we are. This list is not a lifesaving device, but hopefully something on it will make your life at college a little bit better. At the very least, you should be able to survive.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. *evil cackling*

Advertisements

Of Surveys and Updates

Well.

Star Wars movies movie star wars hello GIF

We haven’t talked for awhile.

I apologize that I’ve almost completely disappeared from the internet over the past few weeks. School leaves me nearly zero time for writing or blogging (not to mention sucks away my motivation for it), so it may be a little while before I’m back to my normal pace of weekly posting. In the meantime, though, how would you like some updates and things to do while I’m gone?

First, you can help with a survey on books and authors. A friend of mine from Kingdom Pen is gathering info from book-loving teens about reading and books and all other literary things. That sounds fun, doesn’t it? It is. So, if you’re a teenage-ish bookworm, click on this link and take the survey! Many thanks to you.

Well, once you’ve done that (don’t worry, I’ll wait), allow me to thank you for participating in the Indie e-Con Book Awards. It was fantastic to see authors and readers come together on the internet to talk about some of our favorite things. I didn’t get to attend that much thanks to school, but I know everyone had fun.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s chat a little about Alen’s WarThat is to ask, how in the world did you like it? I’d love to hear your thoughts! I like talking about my books. By the way, if you really really liked the book, go ahead and rate or review it on Goodreads or Amazon. I love reviews, so thank you kindly.

Finally, some things to compensate for my unprecedented appearance. Have you been to my Resources page? That’s where I’ve compiled a lot of helpful articles and blogs, as well as some books and videos. You should check it out. For now, I recommend the Write About Dragons channel (by Brandon Sanderson!) if you want some brilliant writing advice, or the Rafflecopter blog if you want some tips on marketing.

And I promise I’ll be back within five weeks at the very worst. It’s almost the end of the school year, guys. Hang in there!

A Few Things About Adulting

adultingcoverYes, I’m writing about adulthood today.

Okay, okay. I’ve only been an official adult for eight-ish months now, so I claim no expertise in this realm, but I figured that I have a lot of younger teens reading my blog who will appreciate the tidbits I’ve learned so far. Besides that, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to grow up, and I don’t know, but my blog seems like a permissible place to share my thoughts. So take this post for what I hope it’s worth: some casual advice to kids who are (as I was) terrified of the prospect of 18.

Now for some hashtag real talk.

It’s not that much harder, just more complicated.

Let’s face the facts. Most people think adulthood will look like this:

Han Solo is ecstatic!

But in reality, most of the time it actually looks like this:

Here, a reason of many why I will miss Matt terribly. This gesture is perfectly that of the little boy who loses something precious. Sure he’s not a boy, but what I love about Eleven/the Doctor is that there are so many elements of a child in him. After all he’s somewhere around a thousand years old. He’s dealt with so many joys and so many pains. Bound to make you kind of backwards forwards, right? But it’s the actor who totally goes deep inside and recalls being the child …

Yes, adulthood is harder than the other teen years. Just like tenth grade was harder than ninth grade. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The truth is, adulting is a combination of regular teenage school and work, a few new tasks thrown in, and paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. If you’ve ever self-published, you know what I’m talking about: money plus government always equals paperwork.

Adulthood is no exception. You’ll be doing almost exactly the same things that Mom used to make you help her do, except this time you have to write it down in case you get audited. And how do we survive that? Well, if you’ll pardon a bit of bandwagon: if everyone else can do it, so can you.

Which brings me to the next point…

It’s okay to ask for help.

sherlock

No one is born knowing how to file tax forms. Everyone at some point has asked Mom how to write out a check. Never has anyone become too good to ask one’s truck-loving neighbor about the best brand of antifreeze windshield fluid. They just ask people about things. And do you know the best part? If you ask, people will answer.

Yes, some cashiers will look at you sideways when you ask, “Do I swipe the card now?” and one or two of them may in fact bite your head off for it. If this happens, smile politely, move on, and make a note of not patronizing Mr Bumble’s establishment again. But in the last seven months of adulting, I’ve learned that most folks are of the regular, decent sort. They are willing, eager in fact, to help a well-meaning young person learn the same things they had to learn twenty plus years ago. Besides, once you’ve found someone who likes to help young people learn how to adult, you’ve probably found a good friend, which is always a plus.

We can be adults at home, too.

This one makes my head spin. As soon as I turned eighteen, I started hearing the inevitable train of questioning. Where am I going to college? When am I going to move out? What the heck- why would I not move out on my own? I can’t make sense of the logic (or lack thereof) behind it: if moving to a different locale changes the nature of one’s entire being, why not just trade rooms with a sibling? Obviously, adulthood has little to do with location. Whether you stay at home or move out is beside the point; money, personal maturity, and environment are much more important factors.

Lookit me! I’m adulting!

But, people say, how can we grow up when we’re dealing with such dysfunctional family members? Surely that is a reason to move out. Okay. Maybe you’re in a situation where you should not under any circumstances stay with your family; there’s just no living with certain people. In that case, go right ahead and God speed ye! But the rest of us have probably just paved our floors with eggshells. Duh, people make mistakes (that’s what people do), and if we have that much trouble living with the ordinary, well-meaning, annoying people who raised us, we’re probably just as bad. Are we really expecting ourselves to function that much better in a dorm with other ordinary, well-meaning, annoying college kids?

Of course it’s not wrong to live in an apartment rather than your parents’ house. In fact, it may make more financial sense to move out, and the change of responsibility might be good for you. (Truth be told, hardly anybody cares where you keep your stuff for the next four years of your life.) But don’t let peer pressure make your decisions for you. Look critically at your options, and whatever you decide, be confident in that choice. Just do your thing and be an adult no matter where you are.

It’s about the attitude change.

When it comes down to it, being an adult means everyone’s attitudes- including yours- need to change. The minor-adult law is kind of arbitrary. On the morning of your eighteenth birthday, are you suddenly endowed with a new spirit that seventeen-year-and-364-day-old you didn’t have? In a fantasy world, maybe, but not here. To summarize a long and boring history lesson: the government realized that kids grew up somewhere between the ages of ten and twenty, and it picked the nice even number of eighteen.

This is both electrifying and unnerving. Suddenly, you have an unrestricted license and can drive wherever and whenever you like. You can buy anything (except alcohol; that has to wait three years) and do anything so long as it’s within the limits of the law. Freedom!

But you’ve watched Spiderman; you now have great responsibility. At age seventeen, if you stole money from a cash register, the cops yelled at your parents, who in turn yelled at you and made you pay back the goods. Now, if you steal at age eighteen, it’s on the record forever, and you’re a thief who has to answer to the law. The government’s attitude changed; society’s attitude changed; they’re expecting your attitude to change, too. And that seems unfair, but hey- welcome to life. You’ll get used to it.

shrugging

My life isn’t over.

Being an adult is actually kind of fun. In Texas, turning eighteen gives one the privilege to drive at any time of the day and with as many friends as one likes. Under normal circumstances, adults can go anywhere in the world they like. And people have finally stopped asking this former homeschooler why I’m not in school.

cartoon high five clap best friend the emperors new groove

Yes, paperwork is annoying and complex; yes, I have to be very careful about my behavior; and yes, I have a lot more random tasks to complete. But whining about it isn’t going to bring me back to childhood- and to be honest, I don’t really want to go back.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed being a kid. Playing in sandboxes and getting my shoes dirty, eating ice cream not knowing of the existence of calories… all that was nice, but that’s not where I am now. It’s time for me to be an adult. Everyone needs a healthy balance of work and play, and that balance changes as we grow up. That’s how we were made.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 

1 Corinthians 13:11

When it comes down to it, growing up isn’t really about what you’re capable of doing and how well you perform at doing it. It’s about doing what you think is best, screwing up, admitting the mistake, and doing that much better next time. It’s about getting closer to the person God made you to be, and that isn’t really so scary after all.

I Have Been Tagged

Today is a big day, kids. Not because it’s Valentine’s Day, nor because it’s the digital release date for Doctor Strange.

No, this marks the first time that I realized that I was nominated for a tag and then forgot to take it. Hooray me! Maybe this is just what college looks like, or perhaps I’m finally losing what is left of my mind. But the important thing is that now I’ve remembered this tag, and we get a new post of gifs and philosophical ranting.

Anyway, today we’re doing the Blogger Recognition Award tag. Thanks to Jess at The Artful Author for nominating me! (PS: Her blog is very good. Go read it.)

blogger-recognition-award-badge

Behold, an award.

The rules.

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select 15 other bloggers for this award.
  6. Comment on each blog to let them know you nominated them and link to the post you created.

Insert mandatory Barbossa gif about guidelines versus rules.

So where did this blog come from, anyway?

Once upon a time, I was a newly self-published teen author who was a dunce at marketing but a prodigy at research, and in all of those researching adventures, I found out how important it was for a self-publisher to have a blog. After all, people want to know the author as well as the book, and what reader doesn’t love weekly blogs? Time to get together and talk about writing.

In addition, I’m of that rare female Mastermind type, which means I love to think and write out my thoughts. How nice to have a single space where I could write about anything and everything that struck my fancy for all my internet friends to see! Oh, and the gifs were a particularly useful bonus.

It’s a pretty simple equation. Add these two facts together, and you have my blog.

Now for some advice…

Advice #1: You’re the boss, so just write.

When I first considered tweaking my blog’s theme, I was a bit worried about losing readers. People were coming for story rants and writing tips, not for philosophical digressions into the worldview of Thomas Jefferson. But I left out one critical factor in my equations: for every writer who leaves, there is a philosopher or artist or history buff to take his or her place. Blogging is not about the numbers. It’s about sharing your thoughts, doubts, and ideas with others. Write well in the genre you love best, and the readers will come; they always do when you’re writing honestly.

But with that in mind, remember the next bit:

Advice #2: Be mindful of what you’re writing.

BBC sherlock benedict cumberbatch sherlock holmes bbc one

I suppose this has been on my mind lately because of the increasing globalization of… well, of everything. Write a tweet and regret it forever. We’ve all seen countless flame war dramas play out online, possibly even this week: public figure writes thoughtless tweet, population takes offense, and figure loses face and/or job. That could happen to any of us. Deleting tweets doesn’t always work, either, not when people can take screenshots and share them faster than the speed of light. That’s why it’s so important to be considerate- and, I would add, prayerful- about what you share online. It can be as simple as having your sister read your posts before publishing. People have watched their careers vanish into the void of cyberspace simply because they didn’t think twice before hitting “post,” and we would do well to learn from those tragedies.

Well, way to end on a happy note. Good job, Hannah.

And now for tags.

Otherwise known as the breaking of the rules. You see, the odds are that everyone I can tag has already been tagged by someone else, therefore the act of me tagging them, though considerate, would be worthless. So I’ll just leave you with some easy criteria: if you have a blog and you know what an Oxford comma is, consider yourself tagged.

Until next week, fare well and happy Valentine’s!