When I first started college, I thought “finally!”. Finally I can be an adult, live on my own, make new friends, start my life! Boy, did my first semester knock me off that high horse. So here’s my advice to you, from one (recent) college student to another.
I graduated from Louisiana State University (bachelor’s) in the spring of 2015, then from the University of Dundee (master’s) in fall of 2016. My very first semester was tough, but I’ve learned a lot since then. After a rough first year I finally got the hang of things, and by the time I finished up my master’s degree, I was a pro! So here’s what you should know before you start your freshman year:
1) Start Making Friends Now – You’ll Thank Yourself Later
Seriously. Do it. Take it from someone who didn’t go out of their way to make friends and is now stuck without any! Just kidding (kind of). Being more introverted, I didn’t really venture out of my comfort zone socially speaking. So while I had friends in school, I didn’t have many close friends in school. I just went through the motions of being friendly without actually making friends. I never made it past the “slightly more than acquaintances” phase and into “actual friend” phase. So get in study groups, join clubs, chat with the people in your classes. You’ll end up having people who you can talk to and go out with instead of camping out in you dorm or apartment all weekend.
2) Make School Your Priority
This sounds like it would be obvious, but it’s more complicated than that. You’ll start school, be an example of the perfect student for about a week, and then before you know it you’ll be procrastinating your schoolwork because you want to go out with your friends. I get it. I did the same thing. To avoid this, make sure to schedule time every week to study and stick to it. Actually go to class! Make it a habit to put your school work first. The more you stay on top of studying and homework, the less you have to do later.
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3) Learn How To Manage Your Time
College isn’t like high school. You have to make yourself to go to class, study, do your work, and get assignments done. No one is going to make you or remind you to do it. To keep track of everything, find a system that works for you and keep track of all of your exam dates, assignment due dates, etc. so you can plan accordingly. You have 2 tests this week? Maybe don’t go out with friends and use that time to study instead. Have a paper due the same day as an exam? Get the paper done early so you can study, or juggle both at once. Ether way, it’s your responsibility now. Don’t make it harder for yourself than it has to be.
I had a weekly desk calendar and a small planner where I wrote down all of my exam dates and assignments. This helped me keep track of everything and made sure I planned my weeks accordingly. I still use my planner system now even though I’m not in school!
4) Know How To Balance Work and Play
This is directly related to the above point. School comes first yes, but college is supposed to be fun. Enjoy it, have a good time. Just don’t get out of control and get behind in school. I said it above, and I’ll say it again: schedule your time every week and stick to it. Only go out with your friends if you can. Or have a study party with all of them – order a pizza, binge-watch a show for an hour, do two hours of work. Balance your work and play. Don’t burn yourself out, especially in your first semester!
5) Go Easy Your First Year
On the same note of balancing work and play….
Make it easier on yourself by taking it slow your first year. Don’t make the same mistake as I did! I tried to juggle a full schedule with band, add in trying to figure out college and studying, and I was dealing with crazy roommates by midterms. Let’s just say it didn’t work out so well. I was working on getting my GPA back up the rest of the time I was in college.
You don’t need to take your hardest classes your very first semester. Heck, even your second. Enroll in those easier classes, electives, etc. instead of trying to conquer 12+ hours of crazy-hard courses. Get the feel of it first, ease into it. Your sanity and GPA will thank you!
6) Don’t Stress (too much)
School is tough, but it shouldn’t kill you. Manage your time and stick to a schedule early on, and you’ll be less stressed in the long run. Study a little every day and get assignments done before they are due. This way, come finals week, you’ll be relaxing while everyone pulls all-nighters because they haven’t studied all semester. While it will be stressful at times, you shouldn’t be making it harder for yourself by procrastinating or by not going to class. And if you are freaking out, get help. Schools offer a variety of services – not just for mental health, but also for study tips, tutoring, career advice, etc. You just have to know where to look!
7) Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself can be challenging in college. I get it. But take time every week to “treat yo-self”. Spend a day over the weekend without doing anything school-related. Take a bath, drink some wine, go have lunch with friends. Eat well! Pick up a salad for lunch one day, don’t just eat fast-food. Workout. Just take care of yourself – for both your physical and mental health. And again, if you need help, get it. Most of us will struggle or have struggled with anxiety and depression at some point in college. So if you need someone to talk to or need some help, don’t be afraid to reach out and get it.
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8) Take One From The Upperclassmen…
Don’t buy your books from the bookstore. They are crazy expensive. Instead, rent from Chegg or buy/rent from Amazon! You’ll save a ton of $$$, and won’t end up with expensive paperweights….
Also, when scheduling your classes, check Rate My Professors first. You’re welcome!
9) Enjoy It
College is tough, but it is also supposed to be fun. Figure out who you are, and what you want out of life. Enjoy being with people your age every day. Make new friends. It won’t last forever, so don’t let this time pass you by.
Have any tips to add or some advice to give?
Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!