Choose three

You really can have sleep, a social life and good grades

as seen in The Current on 08.24.2011

View the article in The Current.

Are you a social pariah? Suffering from crappy grades? Frequently spotted staggering around campus like a sleepless zombie? Well don't feel too worthless if you answered yes to any of these the college life trifecta is considered unattainable by many. Even if it's too late to save me, I've learned some lessons that may help you achieve a fuller and richer college experience.

To begin, let's talk about that classic collegiate fallback known as the "cram session." With years of firsthand procrastination experience under my collegiate belt, I have three words about cramming: Don't do it. Though it's as common as split ends, what most students don't talk about is the misery waiting at the other side of a 24-hour Adderall and energy-drink binge. If it's not specifically prescribed for you, the Adderall pains are a no-brainer. And while energy drinks do provide a short burst of energy while studying, the outrageous amount of caffeine and sugar in them will only make you feel even more tired later on.

I cannot tell you how many times I've stumbled into an exam, bleary-eyed and cranky beyond what really should be considered legal, only to find some overeager classmate in a sweaty panic, worrying that the last 10 consecutive days of studying hadn't prepared them sufficiently. In the end, guess which one of us was more likely to blank out after receiving the exam?

Procrastination is the enemy; it is a butcher of good grades and all-important sleep. With the constant thrum of social activities on campus, the excitement can easily lead students to stray from their studies. Next to setting a schedule, one of my secret weapons for overcoming procrastination disorder is SelfControl. This app is the bomb, though only available for Macs. It blocks access to websites you choose think Facebook, Gmail, Tumblr for a set period of time while allowing access to the rest of the Web.

Another trick involves incentives for getting work done early. If you do, reward yourself with a feast of the most fattening delicacies you can find. Tell yourself if you get your studying out of the way the Friday before a big exam that you can attend every ABC-, Rubik's cube-, white trash- or toga-themed party you want that weekend or whatever floats your boat.

You probably already know whether you are a morning lark or a night owl. By timing study periods to coincide with your natural circadian rhythm, you can boost your performance. If you haven't found that rhythm, experiment with the time of day you study. Also, learn your study style are you best in absolute silence, with Deadmau5 blasting, or with a group of classmates at Starbucks? You should shape where and when you study around these factors.

Another simple suggestion is getting to know your professors. I'm not telling you to be a brown-noser. All I'm saying is, communication with your professor is key. A professor who knows you by name will unquestionably trust you more, and this could come in handy in a variety of situations.

When it comes to maintaining a blossoming social calendar, force yourself to make a schedule for each upcoming week, even if you aren't a big planner. Track your academic progress in tandem with the social events you wish to attend, and reward yourself when you have completed all the studying you'd planned at the end of each week. After all, it is easiest to stick with a plan when you can actually see that it's working.

If you're having trouble balancing your social life in particular, consider joining a social or sports club at your school. These are advantageous because they plan out all social events for you, and you don't even have to lift a finger.

My final word on achieving this collegiate trifecta is to be realistic. Don't get me wrong studying is hard! It involves intense concentration, dedication of time, and the motivation to succeed. Sometimes you'll underestimate the amount of time you need to complete your work. So take a deep breath, don't get frustrated, and factor in some extra time to allow flexibility in your schedule. Or if you've read this whole thing and you're still against my instructions for collegiate bliss, you still always have the option to flip the equation and go to those parties now, cram for the next two days, and return to the land of the undead.

Problems Solved

How do I avoid the dreaded "freshman 15" without an eating disorder or drug problem?

as seen in The Current on 08.24.2011

View the article in The Current.

The simplest answer is moderation. One easy way to stay fit is to register for a workout or sports class each semester. Including a friend can help keep you motivated. In addition to keeping you in top form, it could also boost your GPA as long as you actually show up to class. Also, don't go alcohol-crazy your first semester in. This can easily escalate to alcoholism, legal trouble, or a reputation you could have a hard time living down. Drinking is a huge factor in collegiate weight gain, largely because freshmen don't take into account the calories consumed in alcohol. Oh, as you can imagine, hangovers make it far less likely you'll actually make that gym appointment too.

How do I deal with the Antichrist as a roommate?

There are various types of personality types that drive anyone up the wall, especially when you're stuck in the same tiny freshman dorm room with them. Crappy roommates include the 24/7 Snoozer, the Psycho Gamer, the Drunk Skunk, the Love Bug (gag), the Homebody, and the One With a Crush on You (flattering, but WTF, roomie?). Luckily, there's a universal solution to dealing with them all, and that is communication. It is on your shoulders to tell your problem roommate when you are upset or annoyed with them after all, how will they even know you have a problem with them if you never voice it? Once you bring up the conflict, they will more than likely change their ways. If they don't, you should speak to someone working for residential life at your school. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, you may be switched to a new dorm or get a new roommate.

Where can I study without getting distracted?

No matter how you like to study in a quiet setting resembling the inside of a padded cell, in relaxed and casual groups, or in a comfortable place where you can show up in boxers you have options. Your school's library is a popular choice, unless you run into a lot of friends and acquaintances there which would render it extremely counterproductive. Do some research online and find some 24-hour restaurants or coffee shops near your school. Most IHOPs, Starbucks, Jim's, and Denny's are open 24-7 and have free Wi-Fi, but check first to make sure. My biggest piece of advice to you about studying environments, however, is to avoid studying in any environments that could lead you to sleep (cough, your bed). The textbook-under-the-pillow thing has long been ruled out as effective study practice even when the exam is in the morning.