College at first glance seems incredibly intimidating — at least for me it did when I started this past fall. Moving down South and homesickness were just two problems I faced, not to mention adjusting to online classes. But by second semester, I found my rhythm and discovered how to successfully navigate college. Here are some tricks I’ve learned along the way. 

Maintain healthy eating habits

Having the right diet is an essential practice to a successful semester. I frequently skipped meals and felt too lazy to go to the dining hall. I would instead satisfy my hunger with the muffins and bagels sold at the Depot by Kaldi’s Coffee. When I felt myself unable to concentrate during classes, though, I soon understood the importance of balancing a healthy diet and one that includes a fair amount of proteins, dairy and veggies. By taking advantage of the salad bar at the Dobbs Common Table and the poke bar at Cox Hall, I was able to better maintain my health.

Illustration by Angel Li

Avoid sleep deprivation

Whether it was studying for midterms late into the night or maybe diving too deep into a TV show when I should have been sleeping, it was never easy to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. I often found myself pulling multiple all-nighters a week to cram for midterm exams and to absorb as much class material as my brain allowed. But this only caused headaches, bloodshot eyes and dark circles. Instead of sacrificing sleep for a higher grade, I attempted to find a balance between the two by taking my time to schedule out my weeks in advance. In planning ahead, I was able to remain productive throughout the day without having to worry about cram sessions. 

Keep a consistent workout routine

I recognized that consistent exercise throughout college is crucial to preserving my health. Despite not being even close to an avid athlete, with much difficulty I formed the habit of jogging laps around the Quad every day. With that came many benefits, including a longer attention span, stronger muscles and an increase in energy. In forming a habit, working out won’t seem as heavy a burden, and I certainly do not regret the benefits that come with consistent exercise. Fitness videos like Chloe Ting’s were a great place to start for me, no matter how much my abs hurt after. 

Explore a wide variety of classes

During my freshman year, I recognized the advantages of exploring classes — and not just classes that merely fulfilled my general education requirements but those that genuinely interested me. I came to college with a wide list of majors that I wished to choose from; but, surprisingly, one semester was enough to drastically shorten that list. I became aware that courses that I was sure would become my major were bound to change. I refrained from limiting myself to what I originally thought I could pursue. Courses that I wasn’t so sure about proved to be immensely fascinating and enjoyable. By the time I finish exploring, I’m sure I’ll have a clearer grasp on the major I’ll actually want to pursue. I will expose myself more to the subjects I am passionate about; that’s what makes academic life worth it. 

Practice class registration beforehand

Registering for classes has been one of the most stressful experiences during my time at Emory, and I’m not alone. Under the pressure of time, the class registration process is a ruthless battle between fellow students. Competing to enroll in classes, especially for the more popular ones, was a big task, and I will never forget the anxiety that rushed over when I failed to enroll in the classes that I desperately wanted to take. Having a “mock trial” of class registration before the actual registration time period contributed to my successful enrollments. By memorizing the location of my priority classes’ checkboxes and repeatedly moving my mouse to get used to the fast-paced registration period are a few ways that I’ve practiced for the big day. Also I tried using a clock that shows seconds to begin enrollment as early as possible. 

Four years of college, as I’ve heard, fly by quickly. Making the most out of the college experience and creating long-lasting memories are foundational to producing the “best four years of your life.” Still, navigating through college, especially during a pandemic, can be exceptionally strenuous. So far, I’ve found that one simple switch can transform your college experience — implementing all five has been a game changer for me without a doubt.