Starting or returning to college is a lot to get used to, even if you already know your way around. Here are a few concrete tips to get off on the right foot this year.

Sleep (There Is No Better Fuel)
If you want to be alert through the day, you need eight hours of sleep. With fewer than eight hours, you accumulate a sleep deficit. If you don’t catch up and only get four hours of sleep per day for four or five days, your thinking will be as impaired as if you stayed up for 24 hours. Cognitively, you might as well be drunk. (By the way, going to sleep drunk can cause sleep deficit too, because you won’t get REM sleep during some of those hours.)

Some tips? Try going to bed at the same time every night to get into a good rhythm. Make your bedroom for sleep and sex only. Get some exercise during the day. And avoid looking at your computer screen just before you go to sleep. If you like “power naps,” make sure they’re less than a half-hour long (to keep a rhythm and avoid grogginess). When you’re desperate, sometimes one or two minutes of cadenced breathing, with long exhales, can give you the energy boost you need.

Plan Your Calendar 
Look at all your syllabi as soon as possible. You can only store five to seven pieces of information in your short-term memory, so plan ahead. Put all your major deadlines onto one calendar. For papers, set an early deadline for when you will have all your articles and other references ready. For tests, be sure to note which classes require memorization, and set up a schedule for doing that. Plan specific hours for work and play. If one class looks like enough of a beast that it could cause disasters, drop it and maybe consider a different one.

Have Fun
College can’t be all work and no play; you’ll lose your mind. However, if your release involves sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, make sure you’re mindful of your motivations. If you get hammered because it’s easier to be social, are you really making the connections you’re looking for? Remember that one of the most amazing things about Bozeman is the outdoors. A hike up the M, a ride on the trails, or day at Bridger or Big Sky can be an exhilarating recharge, not to mention the slew of coffee shops, clubs, athletic events, and music (all of which you might enjoy more if you can remember it).