It’s no secret that college life can be tricky to navigate. Whether you’re a freshman still learning the ropes or an upperclassman well adjusted to the college lifestyle, there are several skills that every collegiette should check off her bucket list before she graduates and ventures out into thereal world. To help you get started on this quest for practical knowledge, we’ve compiled a list of nine can’t-miss life skills that will make your day-to-day college experience a little less stressful.
1. Mastering the 20-minute nap
Between early-morning psych lectures, club soccer practice, all-night study sessions and sorority dinners, there are simply not enough hours in the day to fit in a full night’s rest. However, a quick 20-minute nap between classes is a great way to recharge and catch up on some much-needed zzz’s.
“Twenty minutes is the ideal length for a power nap,” says Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep expert. “It reduces the amount of sleep drive, so you wake up feeling refreshed.”
If you’re feeling extra sleep-deprived, Breus advises the 90-minute nap. “The ideal nap [beyond 20 minutes] is actually 90 minutes, because it is the length of a full sleep cycle,” he says. “Anything between 25-90 minutes will just leave you feeling more tired than when you started.”
Not only is there an ideal length for napping, but there is an ideal time of day to nap as well. “The best time [for napping] is at 1:00 in the afternoon,” Breus says. “Your body temperature drops, which releases melatonin and helps your brain fall asleep.”
2. Chugging water to avoid a hangover
While it may be tempting to come straight home and crash after a long night out, your Sunday-morning self will thank you if you rehydrate with a bottle of water before bed.
“When you’re dehydrated, your blood thickens, and this affects the supply of oxygen to the brain,” says Dr. Alexander Mauskop, founder and director of the New York Headache Center. “This can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy and even cause fainting.”
Needless to say, sipping water throughout the night and in between drinks is a great way to avoid dehydration, which is the cause of most headaches the morning after drinking.
3. Balancing a checkbook
Nothing says adulthood like managing your own money, right? While the majority of our generation will manage banking online, learning how to balance a checkbook is the best way to ensure you’re consciously keeping track of your spending and monitoring any deposits or withdrawals you make. Not to mention, if your credit or debit card is ever fraudulently used or double-charged, you’ll have tangible financial records to reference. Keeping a folder for receipts with your checkbook isn’t a bad idea, either.
4. Managing stress with tea
With final exam season coming up, it may not be a bad idea to stock up on hot tea, which boasts a surprising amount of health benefits.
“When I’m frustrated, sad or stressed out, I drink vanilla chamomile tea with honey,” says Ashley McDonald, a senior at Central Michigan University. “Chamomile tea helps you sleep better, boosts your immune system and just relaxes you in general. It definitely lowers my anxiety.”
5. Making no-bake cake balls
Because dorm life doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to baking supplies and appliances, no-bake recipes are the easiest way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Follow these easy instructions to make a dozen chocolate-covered cake balls in your dorm!
- One pack of Oreos
- One container of cream cheese
- Two large Hershey’s bars
- Crush the Oreos in a resealable plastic bag.
- Mix crushed Oreos in a bowl with the cream cheese.
- Roll the crushed Oreo/cream cheese mixture into individual balls.
- Place Oreo balls in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Heat the Hershey’s bars in a microwave-safe bowl to the point where they are melted (but not burnt!).
- Dip the refrigerated Oreo balls in the melted chocolate.
While they may not be true “cake” balls, they’re definitely the next best thing!
6. Programming with C++
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a computer science major to learn to program with C++, a general-purpose programming language. There are many free online tutorials available that walk you through the programming process step-by-step.
While knowing how to program may not seem relevant to you right now, it’s a great way to enhance your resume and job prospects for the future—especially if a career in business, information technology or game design interests you. While many college grads seeking employment are familiar with Word, Excel and similar applications, learning how to program can help set you apart.
7. Storing leftovers
Leftovers can be a lifesaver when you’re running low on meal points and feeling too lazy to go grocery shopping. Luckily, there are several tips and tricks for keeping your favorite foods fresh. Check out this set of guidelines outlined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
8. Keeping a first aid kit
There’s no such thing as a predictable college day, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Putting together a homemade first aid kit to keep in your dorm room or car is the best way to ensure you’ll never be caught unprepared. Grab an old shoebox and be sure to include basics like Band-Aids and pain medicine.
“Ibuprofen is great for any pain—menstrual cramps, headaches or even hangovers,” says Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, the executive vice president for clinical strategy and chief doctor at Sharecare. “I recommend alcohol wipes for any cuts or bleeding, as well as the sterile gauze that comes in individually wrapped packs. Cortisone cream can also help an allergic reaction or developing rash.”
Prepare for any medical or emergency situation that could arise, and you’ll thank yourself later!
9. Popping tags
While Macklemore made thrift shopping seem like much less of an art and much more of a joke, it’s one of the best solutions for college students on a tight budget. If you’re willing to search through piles of clothes in your local Goodwill or thrift store, you’ll likely come across a plethora of cool, one-of-a-kind T-shirts, jackets, accessories and more at ridiculously low prices. Thrift and antique shops are also great places to find random dorm or apartment supplies like mugs, picture frames and posters.
When it comes to college life, sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest differences. We hope this list of life hacks and skills empowers you to become the most organized, most creative and savviest version of yourself yet. Best of luck, collegiettes!