Heading off to college for the first time, while very exciting, can also be very overwhelming! Many freshmen struggle with the lack of structure and stress of the unfamiliar surroundings that is college life. Class schedules change every day, leaving large gaps between some classes or possibly no time at all. There are new faces everywhere and you’re rooming with a (most likely) complete stranger. We want to help you get off on the right track, so without further ado; here are 15 tips for freshmen that we hope will help you survive your first few months of higher education!
Negotiate with Your Roommate
Yes, you and your roommate will need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart in those early days. You’ll need set some ground rules and also…some boundaries. It may not be the most comfortable of conversations, but you’ll be glad you did it! Discuss both of your expectations regarding privacy, personal space, study times, sleep schedule, décor, so on and so forth. Getting along for the next couple of semesters may take a lot of give and take, but it’ll be critical in making your experience a positive one. If you have an issue, grab a tissue! No, just kidding! When an issue does arise, talk it out before it gets out of hand and (hopefully) turn your roommate from a stranger into a lifelong friend!
Explore the Campus
Spend your first few days and weeks exploring and getting to know your campus and new surroundings. Visit the career center. Yes, you’re only a freshman, but it’s never too early to get a jumpstart on the workforce! College (sadly) doesn’t last forever…but we digress. Your exploration of campus is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with and consider different student groups and activities that may push you out of your comfort zone and allow you to expand your horizons; which not to get all deep here, but is the point of college in the first place!
Like right now! No, seriously, we mean at this very moment…after you finish this blog, of course! As we mentioned above, college is not nearly as structured as high school was. It can be a total free for all if you aren’t prepared! You need to get yourself organized and stay that way. College students are responsible for their own time management, which means getting to classes on time, which may often be spread across a sprawling campus; not to mention, fitting enough study time into busy schedules and maintain an active social life. Yeah, it’s a lot! So, what to do? Get yourself a planner, or online calendar and be sure to use them. Your calendar should be detailed (color-coded even…at least, ours was!) and include all commitments, including classes and classwork due dates, as well as social events and other activities. Regarding organizing for classes, do whatever works best for you. Whether it’s one notebook and binder with color-coded tabs or separate items for each class, if it’ll help get (and keep) you organized, you do you!
Make a Real Effort (to Make Friends)
You’re not in Kansas anymore Toto, so you need to step out of your comfort zone and make a real effort to get to know your fellow students. Start with your university’s orientation and the first few days of classes, when many a great college friendship begins! Introduce yourself to the other students in your residence hall or apartment complex, as well as in all of your classes. Join a club, intramural sports league or Greek Life. This is a great opportunity to make not only lifelong friends but college years are truly the best four years of your life!
Get into a Routine (AND Stick to It!)
Have classes from 8AM to 11AM and then a break until 1PM? Don’t waste those two hours! Work on homework before you grab lunch. Getting your homework done right after class, while the information is still fresh in your head, is the best way to stay on track. Getting into that routine will help save you from slaving over the books every night, because for as fun as all-nighters are, they really suck…If your classes end early in the afternoon, get your assignments and studying done before you head out to dinner with friends or to that football game, etc. Your schedule may change from week to week, so when looking at your planner, be sure to schedule this study/work time right in there, so it quickly becomes a top priority and part of your new daily routine! #collegedoneright
(Re)Learn to Study
Studying for tests in college is a whole different ballgame than you likely did in high school! It starts with paying attention in class and taking not good, but great notes. Pro tip: Record the lectures, so you catch everything your professor said. Next, designate a quiet, distraction-free study space. Whether it’s a specific quiet time in your dorm room, the library or at a study group; plan it out in advance, so you’re not scrambling to find a spot at the last second. If you haven’t studied using flashcards, start now! Feeling techy? You can actually use your mobile phone or device to study with a flashcard app, such as Cram or Brainscape. Remember, silence or turn off your mobile phone when you’re studying. It’s all too easy to get distracted or side-tracked by texts or calls from friends. If you’re really having trouble with one particular subject, look into tutoring, as it can be a lifesaver for a struggling student. But most importantly, take a break! You’re most productive when you’re well rested! You know the old saying, “all work and no play…”
Remember, you’re on your own now and you need to act responsibly! Always lock your room when you leave and encourage your roommate to do the same. Lock up valuables, including your wallet, keys, laptop, cellphone and other mobile devices when not in use. If you need to travel through campus alone at night, consider using a campus escort service. Many colleges provide this for the safety of students, so check to see if yours does. If not, plan in advance to walk with friends, so you are not alone. Get yourself a loud whistle and some pepper spray for added protection, if you deem it necessary. Don’t be afraid to use them if you feel threatened in any way either. Check in regularly with family and friends, so they are aware of your schedule and know you’re okay. Finally, be smart with social media! We all love it, let’s be real, it’s literally our job, but it’s not smart to broadcast your every, waking movement. Be sure to set your social media privacy settings. If you’re checking in somewhere, you don’t want just anyone knowing where you will be! Most importantly, trust your instincts. If a situation seems dangerous, it probably is…so, exercise a little caution.
Focus on Your Health
These are our Freshman 15, but we’ve all heard about the other, dreaded “freshman 15.” This is the idea that new college students will gain about 15 pounds that first year. Crazy, right?! But it’s true! Your mom’s not there to tell you to eat your vegetables and limit your sugar intake, so you go hog wild, literally! You, yourself need to make a conscious effort to combat against that. How, you ask? Don’t overdo it with beer and junk food, for starters! The good news is, you’re not even 21 yet, so you clearly aren’t drinking at all, ha! Not drinking all your calories incudes that Iced Caffee Vanilla Frappuccino as well. You’re an adult now, so focus on healthy eating and surrounding yourself with friends who are health conscious too. Be sure to make time to eat three meals a day and stock some healthy snacks in your mini-fridge. Don’t forget, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when your brain will be in overdrive all day long. You’ll need to fuel up! Don’t have time, you say? Your Keurig is great for making hot water for instant oatmeal as it only takes a few seconds, and there are plenty of healthy items you can pick up to eat on the go. The stress of college weighing on you? Stay physically active – walk, jog, bike, hit the gym, join an intramural sport or do whatever you most enjoy! So, try and develop a good fitness routine as well. Lastly, be sure you are getting enough sleep. It’s easy to get sleep deprived in your new environment with the excitement of your first year away from home. When you can’t seem to get a full night’s sleep, there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned nap! We could do with one right now, but, alas…
Go to Class
Yes, you wouldn’t think we’d have to tell you this, but, sadly, we do. With all of the different class schedules, it’s easy to get swayed by someone to go grab lunch when they’re on a break, but you have class. Or to blow off that late afternoon class, because you have a long break right before, etc. You’re paying a lot of money for your education, so make sure you’re making the most of it. After all, you don’t get to not pay back student loans because you never learned anything while at college; so, get to class!
Just Say NO
Yes, we all want to be that social butterfly, but it could result in lower than expected grades. Not saying we’re speaking from experience, but we’re speaking from experience. Learn to say no! Your freshman year of college is your first time out on your own. Sure, it’s okay to have to have fun, but don’t overdo it. Act responsibly and get the education you need and deserve. If you make the most of your study time, you’ll have plenty of time for fun, trust us; it’s all about balance!
Apps Make Life Easier
Here are just a few of our favorites: Dropbox is a great place to store and share files. Google Drive is another good option. Workflowy is a great tool for creating outlines. Evernote or Microsoft OneNote can help you organize and store research notes and documents. Dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster, because everyone needs a handy dictionary. And lastly, Overdrive, which is basically your own digital library! Short, and sweet.
Find Yourself a Mentor
A good mentor can be one of your most trusted advisors throughout your college years and even your future career! They can help you gain confidence through encouragement and support. They can offer guidance, help you with your career goals and better prepare you for a competitive job market after you earn your degree. Whether it’s a professional that’s working in your field of study, a college professor or even an upperclassman, a mentor can be an invaluable asset to any college student, and one not to be overlooked!
Make Time for You
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in class, on classwork, studying, going here and there, etc. It’s important (scratch that, it’s vital!) that you take time to do the things that you enjoy. Take a break from the daily college grind and go to a movie, take a yoga class, get out and enjoy the fresh air with a walk around town or go to a quiet dinner with friends. Just relax, recharge the batteries and have some fun; this is college, man!
Call Your Family!
Your parents raised you for 18+ years and chances are they’re helping you pay for this education. Don’t be a brat, give them a call. They’d love to hear how great you’re doing and as stupid as it may sound, you’ll enjoy hearing the familiar voices on the other end too! #callyomama
Manage Your Money Wisely
Set a budget! If you don’t limit your spending, you can find yourself in trouble, and fast! Think you may need a part-time job to keep up with expenses? Consider finding something related to your major or area of studies or see what type of jobs are available right on campus. Open a checking account if you haven’t already done so and get a credit card, so you can begin to establish your credit. Choice One Community Credit Union can help you with both of these things! Not a member of Choice One yet? It’s the perfect time to join. If you live in Luzerne, Lackawanna or Wyoming Counties, boom, you’re eligible! No matter where you go to college, if this is home, we’re your hometown credit union! Maybe you live elsewhere, but you’re going to college locally, well, we’re here for you as well. We offer just what a college freshman needs – all of the latest in mobile banking, access to a mobile wallet and extensive online banking technology, including online bill pay and person to person payments. No matter where you are, you have access to your accounts and can manage your finances 24/7. We also offer great credit card options as well as checking and savings accounts and loans for every need. Easily download an application right here, and get on it today!
Sure, college can be daunting, frustrating and even scary. But it can also be rewarding, enlightening and one of the greatest investments you’ll ever make in yourself! Don’t let anyone or anything bring you down or hold you back. You’re there to succeed, so stay positive and you’ll do just that! Make the most of these college years, because sadly, they don’t last forever…
Check back next week for another edition of our world-famous blog, Choice Words. And be sure to follow us on social media for even more awesome and exclusive content!