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The following article, written by Paola Valenzuela, first appeared in The Cogswell Chronicle. It has been lightly edited.

It’s hard to believe that I’m almost in my last year here at Cogswell. For me, this semester has been the most nerve-wracking, yet the most fulfilling at the same time. What might not have been evident to me before is becoming more apparent. I see how much all of us grow, even month to month. As the semester comes to a close, here are six tips that have made a difference for me.

KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING

College is completely different from high school. It is easy to fall behind on assignments, but incredibly difficult to catch up. I find having a physical planner and actually writing down assignments and tasks for the week helps me stay on top of things. I did lose my planner for two months, and this is when I realized my grades were going down. Being organized is also a plus since you may need to go back to your notes and previous assignments – whether by having notebooks and binders, or having a clear and concise folder system on your laptop or desktop. But, I repeat, have a planner.

YOU WILL MEET PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT

Cogswell is a small but extremely diverse campus featuring a community from varied walks of life. Initially, I thought the students who would grace the campus would only be students from the Bay Area, yet I’ve met people from Georgia, New York, Missouri, Texas and many more distant regions. I’ve met people with a range of socio-economic backgrounds, religious and political views, and I think it’s safe to say that I now have both a better understanding of people’s perspectives in life and more appreciation for the diversity at Cogswell.

IT’S OKAY IF YOU’RE UNSURE OF YOUR CHOSEN CAREER PATH

As cheesy as it might sound, college is often the place where you find yourself. I know people who start off as a mechanical engineer and end up in the halls of Cogswell pursuing their dream as a 3D Animator. Personally, I started off as a Software Engineer for my first 3 semesters here, transferred over to Game Design Engineering, and after two years I honestly don’t think this major is the right one for me. I have come to terms with that. I’m okay with it. If you feel completely and utterly lost, there are opportunities to take extra classes, join extracurricular activities and clubs, and talk to the career center or your advisor to find out what it is that YOU want to do in life. Only YOU can control that.

YOUR HEALTH IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

With your newfound freedom, temptation comes easy. Eating that pint of ice cream for breakfast is easy. Skipping that class to go to a concert is easy. Staying up all night playing that new Pokemon game is easy. You know what isn’t? Going to the emergency room from dehydration and stomach ulcers. Being dropped from a class due to attendance and grades. Arriving at class mentally absent due to sleep deprivation. As an adult, you are now responsible for your physical and mental health. And, there are plenty of resources at your disposal here on campus. So take advantage of the free food, tutoring, life skills workshops and counseling services. The inevitable physical and mental stress down the road is not worth making poor life decisions.

IT’S OKAY TO LOSE TOUCH

Personally, I’m an introvert with social anxiety. It took me two semesters to find friends to hang out with on a regular basis, and within two more semesters, I lost touch with some of them. Initially, I was devastated, particularly since they were my first friends at Cogswell. But if I had never gone through this experience, I would have never gone out of my comfort zone to join clubs, join ASB, participate in campus events, and meet people I’d never thought I would become friends with. Friendship isn’t as easy as frolicking in a field of flowers, because arguments, drama, and rumors abound; it’s up to you as an individual to disregard them and focus on what makes YOU happy. Don’t be afraid to cut off the toxicity in your life, and change for the better.

COLLEGE IS AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!

Some days you find yourself extremely stressed out and sleep deprived. Some days you find yourself at a diner at 3 A.M. with the coolest people you’ve ever met, laughing until your cheeks hurt. College is a roller coaster of emotions, positive and negative experiences. Ultimately, you learn about yourself.