College Advice for the “Type A” student

Recently, my older brother (a fellow blogger) pointed out something that resonated with me. He said “[people] never write college advice for ‘Type A students”. And he’s right. If you’ve ever searched for college advice on the internet it’s probably looked something like this: “actually go to class”, “take advantage of office hours”, “don’t procrastinate”, “you can go out every night and party, but you shouldn’t”, etc. If you’re a Type A student like me, these tips are no-brainers. So in the hopes of helping my fellow Type A’s, I’ve compiled a list of things I learned during my first year of undergrad that weren’t so obvious (or easy to live by):

1. Know that you can’t do everything (as much as you want to)

The words “get involved on campus!” are more dangerous than they appear. Type A’s are ambitious individuals; this can lead to overloading one’s schedule which will inevitably cause one to feel overwhelmed.  You want to pick only a few organizations that you really care about and stick to those. If you are involved in too much you will run into scheduling conflicts. You will find yourself canceling meetings to study/nap or worse, you’ll push yourself to do it all and be miserable (and miserable to be around). Having “room in your schedule” does not mean you should fill it! Which brings me to my next point…

2. Be unproductive (responsibly).

There’s a man trying to saw a tree, someone comes up to him and says “that blade looks a little dull, you should sharpen it”, he says: “I can’t! I’m too busy cutting down this tree”. Moral of the story: taking breaks (“being unproductive”) will help you work more effectively later i.e Sharpen the saw.

We all have an ideal self we’re working to reach. My ideal self reads dozens of books in her free time, always has a tidy room, can flawlessly hold crow pose, has defeated the final boss in the binding of isaac (perhaps multiple times), runs half marathons, and efficiently gets ready in the morning. While productive procrastination (like cleaning, working out, doing laundry, etc) is the “best” way to step away from your studies sometimes you just want to do nothing. You’re stressed; you’re exhausted. You tell your roommate you might be in bed by 2:30AM but you know you’re just dreaming. And you can’t figure out, for the life of you, how it’s only Tuesday. At this point, I get into my comfy pants, eat snacks, and watch Netflix. So, find your unproductive comfort. Just don’t get carried away, put a time limit on this bout of laziness (I usually take 30 to 90 minutes).

3. Take care of yourself

Eat and sleep. It’s surprisingly easy to throw these to the wayside when your workload gets heavy, this is because none of those things happen at your desk or in the library (eating a snickers bar and passing out on your laptop does not count as properly eating or sleeping). Eating advice: a good meal can go a long way. Since I usually skip them because I “don’t have time” I just make meals my break from homework, 30-45 minutes where I just relax in my dorm and watch tv. Since I go to college in the middle of no where, there are no food options after 11pm. Keep a pantry in your dorm, if you’re staying up late you’re gonna need a 4th meal. Sleep advice: you need to make an effort to get sleep, 7-8hrs are not going to magically appear in your day. Via my Sleep Cycle App, I was really aware of how little sleep I was getting and by block 3 it started taking a toll on my body/mood. Sometimes your body will not cooperate with your type A lifestyle; you’re just exhausted and really need a good 8hrs. This could mean going to bed without finishing your readings. As a type-A student, it’s hard to admit defeat like that but I try to remember that there’s always tomorrow.

Since I usually can’t get a healthy amount of sleep AND do my homework up to my standards I take naps throughout the week to make up for the sleep I don’t get at night.

4. Deal with your emotions

Type-A personalities are notorious for not expressing their emotions or expressing them via anger and frustration. I am satisfied with myself as long as I try my best but I’m not completely happy unless I get an A (with the exception of my Cellular Biology class, I welcomed that B with open arms). The set back of always striving for perfection: worrying what grade you’re going to get and being frustrated when you ‘re not performing well.

We all have our outlets: yoga, music, writing, watching tv, going for a walk, etc. But often it just helps to talk about it. It’s good to talk to non Type-A friends who can tell you how ridiculous you’re being and remind you that “you always worry and it always works out”. But while they are the voices of reasons you probably won’t get any empathy, I’ve gotten countless comments like “your GPA is way higher than mine so you’re not the one who should be worrying”. With this in mind, definitely talk to someone who shares your work ethic as well. They’ll be the person who encourages you to keep pushing yourself while also telling you to take a quick break first.

5. If your classmate is “better” don’t consider yourself worse

Like most Type-A’s, I am intrinsically motivated to do my best; I can’t comfortably put my name on it if it’s not. Seeing more successful peers doesn’t exactly evoke envy, but it makes me reevaluate myself: what am I not doing that this person is? While it’s good to surround yourself with people that make you want to be better, don’t change how you view yourself. Someone is always going to be better.

6. Reevaluate long and short term goals

These help you keep working towards self improvement. And reevaluating short term goals helps you figure out what’s working and what’s not.

7. Have a balance.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Type A’s usually have the work part down but it takes a lot more than that to be healthy and happy. As obvious as exercise is, I’m mentioning it anyway because it’s that important. It helps you be alert, feel accomplished, and makes you less susceptible to the flu. I love getting ahead on my homework but sometimes it’s good to use that free time to just hang out.

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