If you’re like most of us, you have a couple of New Year’s resolutions floating around in the back of your mind, either bad habits you plan on breaking or goals you plan on achieving in 2012.
New Year’s is the perfect opportunity to make a fresh start, but it also provides college students with a brand new semester—a great chance for students to get off on the right foot academically, professionally, and socially!
Here are some totally do-able New Year’s resolutions for college students. Decide which ones you’re going to follow through, and be sure to share the list with your friends!
1. Stop complaining … and start doing.
In most instances, all you have to do is ask a college student, “How’s school?” before the complaints start flying. After all, there are just too many classes coupled with too many tests to take and too many papers to write! It’s easy to procrastinate when you start to feel overwhelmed, so in 2012 vow to stop complaining and start doing!
The Boston Globe reported in 2010 that the average college student studies just 14 hours per week, so that old “I’m so busy!” excuse isn’t going to cut it much longer. Turn off your phone to resist the urge to text and be sure to log out of Facebook and Twitter. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel—and how much free time you wind up having—when you get things done on time or (gasp!) ahead of schedule.
2. Manage stress wisely.
If you’re constantly stressed to the max, you won’t even have the motivation to “stop complaining and start doing,” as resolution #1 suggests, but it is possible to learn how to manage your stress wisely. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends starting with small steps, such as taking a hot shower or telling a friend or family member how you’re feeling. The Mayo Clinic offers some more in-depth advice for tackling stress here.
3. Use your meal plan.
The College Board points out that room and board help escalate the cost of attending college like you wouldn’t even believe. Living and eating your meals on campus gets expensive quick, but you might not even be aware of the costs if Mom and Dad are footing the bill for your education.
Stopping by the dining hall or flashing your student ID to use your flex dollars for fast food on campus might seem boring, but if you constantly order pizza or go out to eat even though you’re on a meal plan, you’re essentially paying for food twice—and draining your wallet in the process. Make dining off campus a special treat and you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll save by using your pre-paid meal plan!
4. Manage your debt.
Student loans and credit cards have become a way of life among today’s college students—debt is accepted as “ordinary” rather than frowned upon as it was in the past. However, it’s a good idea to start keeping track of how much you owe now. Far too many students figure they’ll worry about debt once they graduate, only to realize they can’t find a job earning enough to make minimum payments, let alone pay for housing, utilities and other basic necessities.
The New York Times reported in 2011 that as people get older, they begin to experience “the burden of debt repayment versus the pleasure of going to college.” Know what you owe, and only use your credit card(s) in case of emergency. And no, that cute new Coach purse does not classify as an emergency.
5. Buy a few nice outfits.
Although you were just warned against growing debt and only using credit cards when you really, really need to, you should invest in a few professional outfits for upcoming internships and job interviews.
Torn jeans and flip flops might be okay for classes, but they’ll be frowned upon in most professional workplaces. There’s no need to purchase uber-pricey haute couture, but a nice-looking suit or simple dress-shirt-and-pants combo can go a long way when it comes to landing an internship or job.
6. Party less often, or limit the alcohol when you do.
Parents often think, “Not my kid!” but the reality is that a lot of college students drink. Parties are abundant on most college campuses, and even though graduates from top party colleges can earn great salaries, learning about the effects of alcohol are sobering for many people.
According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much—whether on a single occasion or over time—can have serious health consequences. Binge drinking or alcohol abuse can damage your organs, weaken your immune system, and contribute to different types of cancers. That said, if you’re going to drink, drink in moderation—and never drive after you’ve been drinking.
7. Expand your horizons.
College is a great time to expand your horizons by getting out of your comfort zone. Take a class outside your major as an elective, join a club that deals with something you’ve heard of, or go to a worship service with a friend that’s a different religion than you are. It may feel weird or seem odd at first, but once you graduate and enter the “Real World” you’ll be faced with these “challenges” on a regular basis—and you’ll be expected to follow through with them.
8. Start networking now.
Even though you’re still in college, it’s never too soon to start networking. Get in touch with people that work in your potential industry now rather than once you’re holding that new diploma. “The concept is to plant the seeds before you need to harvest them,” Heather Krasna, director of career services at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs, told U.S. News and World Report.
Your best bets? Use the fact that you’re still in college to gain people’s interest—most people are willing to help students. Use LinkedIn and Twitter responsibly, and see if a professor or your parents’ friends or co-workers would be interested in mentoring you.
There are plenty of other New Year’s resolutions for college students, but we think these eight can help you out in more ways than one. Happy 2012 and good luck this semester—spring break will be here before you know it!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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