sleeping through classes

Dear Alby,

Today I missed my morning classes, sleeping through several alarms. I’m going to get notes from my friends and talk to my professors about the work I missed, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I’m tired all the time and stressed out. What should I do? <Sleeping Through Classes>

Dear STC,

Congratulations on recognizing you have a problem. Some college students believe there’s no harm in skipping classes. However, there is a strong correlation between class attendance and earned grades. Quite simply, if you want to be in college, go to your college classes.

While the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, their study also shows wide variations in how much sleep an individual may need. Some of your peers may be fine with only 6 hours, while you find yourself craving nearly twice as much (11 hours)! Or your roommate may be sleep-deprived, needing much more than you do at this particular moment. The person who needs less may experience peer pressure to stay awake longer, compounding the problem. It’s hard to pay attention when your mind is drifting into dreamland.

If you can’t wake up when you’re supposed to, go to sleep earlier. While obvious, this solution requires examining and arranging your life accordingly. Schedule an appointment for the time you will stop looking at glowing screens. Set an alarm for when you’re going to bed. After a while, you will find yourself naturally waking up early enough. During the quiet hours of the morning, you may find that you can get more done.

My second piece of advice is also simple. Be consistent in your sleep habits. Even if you have a Mon/Wed/Fri class at 8:00am and a Tue/Thu class at 10:30am, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. You’ll throw yourself off balance if you deprive yourself of sleep some nights and try to catch up later.

You would be foolish not to drink water when you’re thirsty, or if you alternated starving and binging on food. So sleep when you’re tired, and keep a steady schedule.

As you become more attuned to your body’s needs for sleep, you might find yourself able to get by with less, either regularly or occasionally. Maybe you can even train yourself to do this. But you need to establish a firm baseline first.

Take care of yourself. <Alby>

first summer in college

Dear Alby,

I just finished my first year in college as a science major and I’m wondering what to do this summer. Many of my friends say it’s important to land an internship or do research, but it’s been hard to find that kind of job because places want upperclass students with more experience. What can I do? <Fear of Missing Out on Summer>

Dear FOMOOS,

I agree with your friends that it’s important to get work experience while you are an undergraduate to complement your classroom knowledge, whether working at a company or in a research lab or (ideally) both. While it would be fine to do this after your first summer of college, it’s also perfectly fine to begin later. Your greater knowledge will prepare you better to land those types of jobs in future summers.

As for this summer, it can be a magical one in your life, because you have a great deal of freedom. You are young enough that many families would be glad to see you come home and stay indefinitely. (This won’t necessarily be the case for you or them in just a few years.) But you have also reached the age of majority, when you can strike out on your own. You can be anywhere.

Yes, you’re limited by finances. For most students it’s necessary to earn money, and the habit of work is an important discipline. But if you can afford some time during the summer, set aside resources to travel: alone, or with a friend, sibling, or cousin. One of life’s great pleasures is puzzling out how to get from Point A to Point B while staying close to the ground. Expensive hotels are all the same, because they insulate you from the very places you’re visiting. Living cheaply allows you to appreciate the unique aspects of your locale. And traveling can refresh your body, mind, and spirit.

Whatever you decide to do this summer, make sure you do at least one thing that you will anticipate, you will enjoy, and you will remember. <Alby>