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The Observer’s declassified school survival guide

With another academic year comes the day-to-day stress of being a student on the tri-campus: early morning labs, long hours studying and papers that won’t write themselves. Then, there’s adjustments in dorm life, from having a random roommate to feeling the pressure to go out every weekend.

No matter where you are in your college experience, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with balancing everything you have on your plate. As we come to the end of the second week of the semester, The Observer editorial board has some tips on how to make the most of your time academically, socially and personally. 

Ask for academic assistance

If there’s a particular class you’re struggling with, take up your professor on open office hours. Professors are very approachable, especially when you ask for help early. Going to office hours early in the semester can lead to strong relationships with professors, making it easier for them to help you. Beyond office hours, the Learning Resource Center at Notre Dame provides free tutoring for first-year classes such as accounting, applied math, microeconomics and chemistry. If you’re struggling with an essay prompt, you can talk to a peer tutor at the Writing Centers at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross. If you want to practice speaking another language, visit Notre Dame’s Center for Study of Language and Culture (CSLC).

Become a Google Calendar guru

We’re not saying that you have to become one of those people who sends their friends calendar invites to hang out, but it definitely helps to use some sort of calendar system in college. Writing down all of your deadlines for the semester in advance is an easy strategy to feel on top of your school work. This can help you plan ahead for weeks when you have three exams and two essays due in the span of a few days. Even for extracurriculars, clubs often plan their events in advance, so it’s useful to have a calendar app notify you of things rather than having to remember it all. (And don’t forget to color code!)

Advocate for mental health 

College can be difficult, and ensuring the stability of your mental health after living through a pandemic is crucial. Notre Dame’s University Counseling Center, Saint Mary’s Health and Counseling Center and Holy Cross counseling services  provide students free access to licensed mental health professionals. If you need a ride off campus to access mental health resources, don’t hesitate to ask an upperclassman or a member of your hall staff. Be aware of your own feelings and check in with your friends — whether they look like they are struggling or not. Remember, taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. 

Email enthusiastically

College can be an intimidating place when you first arrive. The next four years are full of possibilities —  research, study abroad, extracurriculars, work-study jobs, supplementary majors, honors programs and more. The plethora of options can leave you wondering where to start. When exploring these opportunities, remember that all of these people are either your peers or your teachers, and they would be very open to talking with you about whatever you’re interested in. So email that professor who’s researching the anthropology of hip-hop, get lunch with that senior who spent a summer in Jerusalem and reach out to that leader of a club you’ve been eyeing. College is an amazing time to learn the kind of wacky, joy-inducing things adults pay to learn about later in life.

Don’t sleep on dorm life (but do sleep in general)

Living in dorms can get old pretty quick. To have an enjoyable experience, make the best of the time you spend on campus. Be friendly to your roommate(s). Be courteous of the spaces you share with others. Spend time outside your room (and make the most of the nice weather while you still can) so you can meet people outside your hall. You never know where you will meet your best friends.

Pursue your passions

After attending activity fairs, you’ve probably realized, you don’t have time to join all the clubs you expressed interest in. Be realistic about what you are able to commit yourself to. If you have trouble deciding which listservs to unsubscribe from, think about where you want to see yourself at the end of your time here. To which clubs and activities do you want to devote your time? Try new things, so you can find your passions and stick with them. You can always come back to something else if you realize down the road it becomes a better fit for you! It’s never too late to join different clubs. 

Welcome to the tri-campus community! Let’s make it a great year.

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