Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Tanvi Bhaskaran, a junior at University of California, Davis, who is majoring in Electrical Engineering. She is the founder of an organization that makes the transition to college easier for high school students by connecting them with college students who can help them figure out what they want to pursue. Aside from that, she loves to play basketball, read, and doodle in her free time. In this article, Tanvi talks about her experiences in college and gives advice to incoming college and high school students.
Q: What is the easiest part about college?
The easiest part about college is that there are so many resources available to help you. So, you have all these things you’re stressing about (paying off your loans, getting good grades, finding internships), but you also have people you can talk to about them. There are workshops and seminars that are held that you can go to, and if you’re worried about pretty much anything college-related, you can talk to your advisor. In my college, there are RAs on every floor of the dorm building, so you can ask them for help. You’ll probably have a huge circle of friends or classmates you usually work with, and chances are, they have had the same questions you do, and they will be happy to help. And even if someone you know doesn’t know the answer to your question, they can help you find someone who does.
Q: What is the hardest part about college?
I would say the hardest part about college is the transition between having your parents there to take care of everything and living on your own. In high school, you have a routine, your classes are easier, and you often don’t have to put aside that much time for homework. I wasn’t working in high school, so I didn’t earn. I used my parents’ money when I needed it, my parents cooked, and I only had to help them with a portion of the chores. At the end of the day, in high school, you’re not responsible for much.
In college, however, your “routine” depends on a number of things. Your classes are all at different times on different days, so one day you might wake up at 8, and the next, at 11. You work longer and sleep less closer to midterms, whereas you can catch more sleep at the beginning of the term. Some days you don’t even get to eat three meals because it’s just work, work, work.
Moreover, you have so many things to take care of. It’s hard to prioritize your work because your grades, chores, and social life all matter. Aside from that, you may also have personal projects you’re working on, or you might be working to pay off your student loans. All these things require time and effort, and that can take a toll on your mental health.
Q: You mentioned that the number of things you have to focus on in college can affect your mental health. How do you manage and avoid stress?
I was extremely stressed in my first year because I was new to the college environment, and the classes were difficult. I remember I had one class that was particularly hard, and I decided I would have to turn all my focus to that class. As a result, I didn’t do well in my other classes, and I became worried and anxious. In hindsight, I should have focused the same amount in every class because even if I messed up in the difficult one, I’d still have good grades in the others.
I think this is the most important thing to remember in college: concentrate in all of your classes, and study for each and every one for the same amount of time. Once you’re done studying for every class, you may find that you’re not confident enough in some material. At that point, you can go back and study more. But don’t study for an overwhelming amount of time in one class because then you won’t have any energy left for the others.
You should also think about de-stressing when you’re tense. I de-stress by doing household chores; I find that cleaning my room is a surefire way to keep my nervousness at bay. Also, your friends in college are your most solid support group because they know what you’re going through. More often than not, they relate to your stress, so hang out with them when you’re feeling tired.
I remember once I got home at around 10 pm, and before I could even enter, my friends dragged me to OnTap. At first, I didn’t want to go, because I had so much work, but honestly, I felt so much better afterwards. Taking a break re-energized me, so I was ready to work again.
In freshman year, I was seriously stressed because I would study 24/7. I thought I would definitely fail if I took even a five-minute break. I mean, the whole reason I came to college was to learn, learn, and learn more, right? As it turns out, I could not have been more wrong. It took me two years to realize, but college is so much more than studying or learning; it’s the whole community that you build.
Q: What should you focus on in high school to ensure colleges pick you?
In high school, you should take part in extracurricular activities that you’re passionate about because when you’re writing your college essays, you can write about them, as they represent your interests. Colleges really want to get to know you, and the only way they will be able to is through this essay. So if you really enjoy something, even if it isn’t related to the career you want to pursue, do it.
When I was in high school, I thought that colleges look for people with specific skills. In reality, they look for transferable skills, so if you did something in school that is completely unrelated to what you want to major in, it would still matter to them. For example, if you played a sport, it would show colleges that you work well with a team. In summary, when it comes to extracurricular activities, you can do absolutely anything, as long as you can describe what you did in that role and what skills you acquired from taking part in that activity.
Q: What advice would you give someone entering their freshman year of college? What do you wish you had known in your freshman year?
My advice to incoming freshmen is really simple: talk to people. You can ask any person in my university, and they will all say, without a doubt, that talking to random people is how you get by. Yes, it is scary, but most people in your class are in the same boat as you; if you don’t know what’s going on, you will find someone else who doesn’t know either. When you do, ask them if they want to study together later. They will probably say yes, and you’ll have made a new friend. When you talk to people, it’s guaranteed that you will always have a support system, and this especially matters in difficult classes. Moreover, the friends you make in classes often become your closest friends in your student-life.