Advice on How to be a ‘Real Human’ (in Your Last Year of College & First Year of Real-World Life)

Woman In Red Dress Looking Through Her Purple Purse In Chicago Photo : Alanna Bagladi

My sophomore year of college I succumbed to a pattern of four hours of sleep a night, turning in last-minute assignments, spending time with friends poorly, and eating sporadically. It had its consequences. Junior year I combined my more natural tendencies with a few conscious changes which made me functional, hyper-organized, and efficient. Cultivating personal discipline and developing a good reward system made all the difference. As a result, my friends christened me a “Real Human” and promptly began asking how I accomplished such a superhuman feat.

  1. Sleep during normal-person hours. You will work better, be happier, and feel healthier. No, going to bed at 2am on a regular basis does not count even if you sleep until 11am. Think 12am to 8am with the occasional slips every two weeks or so.
  1. Stop making excuses. Rarely do you write a paper until 5am because you were “so busy.” You wrote a paper until 5am because you didn’t plan far enough in advance to make sure you were able to get your work done in time and have fun. Drinking wine until 1am and then writing a paper that’s due tomorrow isn’t “too busy,” it is a result of laziness and a poor work ethic.
    1. Take time to think about what assignments are approaching and do them in increments: write an outline a week before, then write two pages per night. Edit the day before. You’ll sleep better and feel better about the work you turn in.
    2. Set early deadlines so you can ignore them. I tend to set my personal deadlines two days before something actually needs to be done, so that I can be “late” by one day and still get it done a day early. It works magic and I’m always on-schedule.
  1. Make a schedule and try to stick to it. It will make you more reliable, predictable, and in a surprising twist of events, much more available to be spontaneous and relaxed. Base your schedule off of regular obligations like consistent dinner dates, workout times, or what hours you work best at.
  1. Do your homework alone. (Mandatory group work excluded) It sounds boring as hell, but I went from studying for 4 hours a night with friends (when I got nothing done) to waking up at 6am to translate poetry alone, and I finished every single translation in under an hour. Every. Single. Time. Respect the work you’re doing and respect the time you have.
  1. Cook. Eat colorful plates. Lots of fruits and veggies will make you happier. Less bread will make you feel lighter. More proteins and fat is healthier than more carbs. Good food, good body, good mind. Don’t throw away the junk food & Ramen. Just balance it out.
  1. Save money. Keep track of your bank account and not in a “SHIT, I JUST GOT AN OVERDRAFT CALL FROM MY BANK” kind-of-way. Put at least half of your student/summer wages into your savings. When you’re in the real world, and if you have any money left over, make sure you’re saving at least 6% into a 401K or IRA. Plan on increasing that to 10% by the time you’re 25.
  1. Value the time you spend with people. Value the time you spend by yourself. Value the time you spend on your work. Time spent alone is not time spent being selfish; it is important self-care.
  1. Think efficiently. Running back and forth from place to place is tiring and unhelpful on busy days. Consider what will expedite the process; what can you get done in one space before going to another?
  1. When writing resumes & cover letters think critically. Do NOT overshare. Write professionally. Be terse: this is not an essay. Use technical words and direct verbs. Brag without being braggy. Always, always be willing to kill your darlings and revise a thousand times. In a resume be design-conscious: color pops are great; color explosions are awful. Utilize space efficiently by listing instead of bullet-pointing everything. Write an objective statement. Follow up to express your interest. Be determined. Be prepared for disappointment. Ask friends if you need a new pair of eyes. Hint: you always do!
  1. Don’t think, “I can’t do this.” Think, “How can I do this?” You get a lot more creative and considerably less negative. You truly can do most anything, you just have to think outside the box!