So here is my list of lessons and experiences from going back to school:
1. Start off with a bang because it makes the end of the semester soooo much better! What do I mean by a "bang"? Don't slack off at the start of classes when things may seem easier. You know that your classes are only going to get more difficult so try to put in effort from the start, so when the end of the semester rolls around you aren't freaking out over how many points you need to get on a final and you can actually enjoy your Thanksgiving break. Heck, you might not even have to take a final if you're doing well enough.
2. Don't think you're going to be a geezer. This one goes both ways. I think I lamented being an "older student" when I first started, but found that besides some actually annoying 18/19 year olds, there are intelligent and interesting people of all ages attending college classes. While this is not the case everywhere, HPU has a surprisingly good mix of students of a variety of ages. I've become good friends with some people my age and older, as well as some, "ah-hem", a bit younger than myself.
3. Take advantage of outside class opportunities, some of them are totally worth it! Don't worry if you think you're too old for these things, you aren't. Free guest speakers and volunteer events are even applicable to you. My anatomy and physiology professor is a marine biologist and she helps run a program that performs necropsies for research purposes on dead marine animals that get stranded on the Hawaiian islands. This opportunities was presented to our A&P class to observe or volunteer and when an opportunity arose one night to observe a necropsy after our evening class, a couple friends and I jumped on the chance. IT WAS AWESOME! Even though I don't see myself being a marine mammal physical therapist, it was a very valuable experience. It was an incredible opportunity to see what this group of researchers (professors and veterinarians) and students did, to ask questions, and to actually see marine mammal anatomy. Only in Hawaii could I, as a non-major/just taking some classes for graduate school, get this sort of opportunity. Well, we liked it so much that now my friends and I are part of the volunteer team. Looking forward to some more interesting experiences!
4. Sleep. (Maybe this should be number 1!) Don't pull all-nighters, they weren't worth it ten years ago and they still aren't worth it. You actually need sleep/rest after learning something to help store it in your long term memory. You only retain about 5% of the information you learn day to day unless you are able to trick yourself into learning more through mechanisms that positively impact memory transfer, so study more regularly instead of cramming. Which bring me to #5.
5. Stay on top of the homework. Do your readings, the online homework, the study guides. Even if you think they're silly, they are a form of studying and repetition (learning mechanism, hello!) that may make the exams at least a little bit less stressful. While my husband may have been annoyed that I spent time doing each and every one of these annoying little tasks, it helped, and because I do learn by repetition it further imprinted the ideas of lecture into application.
6. Participate. Now this one goes in a couple of directions. A.) Attend all classes (if possible) and B.) Ask questions and be active in discussions. Don't skip classes people, while I was not a saint in undergrad on this principle, it is important to go and it's especially important to me these days because I am footing the bill and sure as heck want to do well. Plus, when you are actually present in mind and body, it can impact your grade in a positive way. If you can get a 100 pts just by showing up, asking some questions, and doing practice problems in a discussion section, I'd say it's worth it to be there.
7. Your grades actually matter. While as an 18 year old, you may or may not realize this. When you go back to school, it is a glaring fact to you. I NEED TO DO WELL OR THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE WORTH IT. While I did hear some people on the teaching side say it more important that you understand than get a good grade, yes, I agree. BUT, if you're going back to school, there's a reason you need to get or try for that "A" because it probably impacts your chance or choice of graduate school...and again, you're probably paying out of pocket for it. Let me just say that I'm not paying this much to get a "C" (and let's be honest, even a "B"). Getting into graduate school these days is truly an admissions game and I sure as heck want to make that game at least a little bit easier on myself with grades that show I understand the material.
8. Last but not least, HAVE FUN. What, why is this on here? Because it is. You still need to have some fun. Don't turn into a hermit or the grinch just because you have to study and can't be social 24/7. Schedule your time, make priorities, and enjoy your friends and family. I love my husband and I love where we live, so I make compromises to not be dead to the world every week just because I need to do school work. There is ALWAYS MORE that you can do, but sometimes it matters to just do what you NEED to. During the week, my priority is school and on the weekend at least one day is time spent doing things for fun and to get outside. This helps your sanity, keeps you healthier, and make sure your non-school friends know that you still exist. Don't be the hermit living in the library, nobody likes that.